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Goblin Fruit, Issue No. 1
Jessica Wick & Amal El-Mohtar

Goblin Fruit, Issue No. 1
Jessica Wick
Jessica P. Wick is an irritable lump, often found lurking in the dingy aisles of a chain bookstore where she earns her bread. When she's not at the bookstore, she's serving time at a local college; when she's not there, she's invariably found squinting at a book. She lives just outside Los Angeles, where, if she climbs high enough, she can enjoy the sunset bouncing off the dome of smog, and has been known to mistake falling snow for seeds. Anybody could have made the mistake. Anybody!

ISFDB Bibliography

Amal El-Mohtar
Amal El-Mohtar is a Canadian-born child of the Mediterranean, and would have you believe that her longing for fruit in all seasons is in no way the result of her having compromised her virtue with goblin men. She can sometimes be spotted masterfully restraining herself from throttling first-year students in the University of Ottawa's Writing Centre, shoring fragments of academia against her ruin, and speaking in quotes from The Waste Land. She drinks tea, plays harp, and reads books. She reads lots of books.

Goblin Fruit Website
Goblin Fruit Blog
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Neil Walsh

I harbour a cheerful dislike of web zines -- and many an eyebrow will be cocked at the irony of that statement, in view of my involvement with the SF Site since 1997. My prejudice against the medium is the same as I have against e-books; I merely prefer the tactile experience of print on paper. I like the smell, the feel, the look, the heft or elegant slimness of a book or magazine I can hold in my hands. I spend far too much of my working day looking at a computer screen; it's almost the last thing I want to look at in my leisure hours.

So how did I find Goblin Fruit, a web zine "devoted to poetry of the fantastical"? In fact, I know three of the creators behind the project, one of whom is a close friend. She sent me the link and suggested I might enjoy it. If you're cynical enough to believe that this review will be biased because of my friendship with one of the editors, perhaps you will be charitable enough to consider any such bias cancelled out by my aversion to Internet zines. In any case, I assure you that I am not one to praise where no praise is due. I'm writing this review because, after visiting the site, I was so inspired by the quality of both the content and the design that I started to write an e-mail of congratulations to my friend. Then I realized I had far too much to say and decided instead to say it here.

To enter the realm of Goblin Fruit is a brief but wonderful journey. The stated intent is to publish quarterly, with each issue offering at least one of the poems in both text and downloadable sound file of the author's reading of the poem -- a laudable idea, to be sure. The first issue, which has been up and running since April, has only ten original short poems, of which you may hear four being read by their respective authors. Regrettably, I only found one of those readings added to my enjoyment of the poetry, and that was Mike Allen's reading of his excellent poem "Sisyphus Walks." Still, it's a good idea and I'd like to hear more readings from authors (or perhaps professional readers).

The site design is quite handsome, liberally spiced with evocative illustrations. Of course, as the site is "best viewed at" some resolution that differed from my current settings, and being disinclined to fiddle with my such things, I had to suffer the annoyance of scrolling vertically and horizontally on almost every page. I never have to worry about that sort of thing in print medium.

The first poem in the issue, "Delphi" by Elizabeth Gross, is a fairly strong beginning. It's a powerfully mythic subject and draws the reader into the headspace of the Delphic Oracle, who, it should be remembered, was generally considered to be other than sane. This poem offers an insight into why that may have been.

Next is "Usurper Dreams" by Eric Marin, which definitely fits the mandate of poetry of the fantastical. In 16 short lines, Marin offers an entire narrative captured in one hesitating instant of time. The repetition of form in each stanza heightens the sense of waiting, of held breath, of fate hovering on the razor's edge.

I'm not sure what to make of Bruce Boston's "All of the Lady in Sly Concoction." A not inconsiderable portion of the art of poetry is the sound of the words, and the images and feelings they conjure. I quite like the way this one sounds, and there are some fabulous images here, but I still don't really know what this poem is about. Perhaps that's my failing, rather than the poet's.

"Inquisitor's Villanelle" by E. Sedia is one of my favourites in this issue. It tells the story of a witch-burning from the perspective of the one who leads her to the flames. I picture the narrator as a 17th century puritan, but there's nothing in the poem to clearly indicate who the narrator is, merely how he (or she?) feels. The repeated lines of the villanelle form invoke here a sense of the ritual of the experience, while the repeated words in subtly changing context reveal the guilt of my puritan witch-burner. The real cleverness, however, comes in the play of the rhythm. The meter stumbles as the narrator's faith falters, resumes as the narrator speaks again of the trappings of faith, and then loses entire feet, reflecting something lost in the narrator which perhaps even good Christian faith is incapable of restoring.

"Dragon Lust" by Marge Simon is a frivolous fantasy, with an amusing twist. Ultimately, I found it one of the weaker contributions, but not entirely unworthy. Simon also provides several of the illustrations scattered throughout the zine, which would make even a lesser poem pardonable.

"Devouring Muse" by Thomas Zimmerman is probably best appreciated by anyone who has ever written poetry. It's an exceedingly clever sonnet (a challenging enough form) about the creative process. The conceit of the personified muse fits the zine's theme nicely. This one is a delightful demonstration of wit and skill.

"Pin Doll" by Patricia A. Boutilier is one that didn't conjure much empathy with me, although I liked some of the imagery. For example: "Embracing all between the swaddling and the shroud, / I wash the newborn, and wash the dead." Nicely balanced images of beginnings and endings, but coldly delivered.

Jennifer Crow's "Bramblefruit" is lusciously sensual, both in imagery and in its delicious sound. This one absolutely must be read aloud. It's the kind of poem that would have had Victorian readers writhing in outrage at its implicit sexuality. It's been a long time since I read Rossetti's "Goblin Market" but I bet this is precisely the sort of poem the editors of Goblin Fruit were hoping for when they conceived of this little zine.

"Women of the Resurrection" by Emily Gaskin is a potent feminist poem. Listen to this:

"Immaculate conceptions
are for those
who cannot conceive
of what we do,
cannot believe
that a woman with wings
will beat the air until she bleeds..."
Powerful stuff, is it not? It makes me think of that old line about Ginger Rogers having had to do everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in high heels. It's true, it's impressive, and you probably never really gave it much thought until someone pointed it out.

The final poem in the inaugural issue is Mike Allen's "Sisyphus Walks" which I mentioned earlier. I generally like Mike Allen's poetry, and this one is a real treat. Allen's reading of the poem is definitely worth a listen. It's the longest poem in the zine and damn is it cool. Here's Sisyphus, forgotten and abandoned in his eternal torment, now that all the gods have died. Presumably he's grown weary of heaving rocks up hills for no purpose at all, but he seems to be in something of a rut, as he's now hauling cyclopean bones only this time with an aim in mind. My overall favourite piece here.

The first issue of Goblin Fruit is on the whole quite impressive. Issue two is scheduled to go up in July, and I'm very much looking forward to it. But check out issue one while you can -- it will be worth your time. If this zine were in print format, with CD attached for the audio readings, I would be first in line for a subscription.

Copyright © 2006 by Neil Walsh

Neil Walsh has several great passions in his life: reading, and...uh, some other things that are, no doubt, equally interesting.

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