“Climbing Lightly Through Forests” is out today! It’s a tribute anthology in honor of Ursula K. LeGuin, and the poems are by an incredible collection of speculative poetry luminaries from around the world. Also me. I’m in it.
RB Lemberg and Lisa M. Bradley did the brilliant work of reaching out to poets and curating poems for this antho. RB solicited me directly, saying that they had collected a great deal of wonderful work for this book already but still felt they were missing my voice.
I was hesitant. I had read and liked some of LeGuin’s work before and understood how important she was to speculative fiction, but surely the work of writing meaningful tribute to her should be done by others? LeGuin scholars? Superfans? I didn’t know what to say.
RB listed some works of LeGuin’s that they did not have poems about yet for the book. One was “The Lathe of Heaven.”
“I think I didn’t like that one,” I said.
“Why not?” said RB. We talked.
Eventually RB, in their wisdom, suggested I read it again.
I got “The Lathe of Heaven” from my university library, read it again, and was immediately captivated. It was a very different book from the one I remembered reading in high school – or, more accurately, I am now a very different person. What I thought I’d read in high school was a treatise on why we shouldn’t try to change the world because nothing will get better. What I found myself reading, in my 30s, was something quite different – a story about abuse of power, about the control and the nature of power. A story about a man who experiences something he can’t control, and about the man who tries to bend that experience forcefully to his own will, under the guise of helping. Of course it all gets fucked up immediately. In my 30s, now that I’ve lived, these are rich themes for me.
So I found myself writing a poem in response to “The Lathe of Heaven” quite easily, and with gratitude to RB for guiding me to look at it again. My poem is called “Dream Logic.” I hope you’ll read it, and I hope it fits in among the work of these countless other amazing poets.
As an addendum, I also want to say that I’ve worked with RB before, and that the kind of process I’ve just described is something that is often missing from discussions about how to edit and curate work diversely. Even with a friendly banner in the submission guidelines saying that marginalized people’s work is welcome, marginalized people are often more hesitant to include themselves than others, quicker to conclude that they don’t belong, or that this particular project isn’t “theirs.” I would never have written this poem that fits into RB and Lisa’s anthology if RB hadn’t taken the time to talk with me, if they hadn’t known both me and the work well enough to patiently make the suggestions they did.
To do this kind of thing as an editor requires not only a welcoming attitude and willingness to do emotional labor – it requires *connectedness.* It requires a deep knowledge of who is in the field that others might overlook and what those individuals might need from you. It’s privilege that I’ve been able to stick around in this field long enough to make these kinds of connections. But it’s also deliberate work on the part of RB and many others who have worked to include me and others like me. RB and Lisa are very good at this work, and I’m *really* excited to read the collection in its final form with all the work from all these different wonderful poets.