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American Galactic Paperback – May 19, 2014
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
"Laura Madeline Wiseman's American Galactic is... a delightful collection of verse... It is book that needed to be written. And Laura Madeline Wiseman has done it again." - Morphemic Morphology
"Playfulness and creativity abound in this well-rendered visitation [in American Galactic]...The cleverness in Wiseman's collection is in the essential humanness of these exotic creatures, which leads the reader to wonder: which of us is stranger? They, too, go to museums (for the amphibian and mammoth exhibits) and watch movies, shaking at death scenes and crash landings. They, too, slurp hot chocolate and get tattoos. They, too, play dress-up with boots, hats, and scarves. Even Martians are willing to walk the dog around the block. They, too, miss home." - Weave
"The Martians serve as a lens through which American, or broader human, culture is critiqued and explored...But underneath the Martian trappings and Martian tourists and Martians in the hedgerows, Wiseman's collection is underscored by an intense yearning for the red planet just beyond our own, a planet whose nearness has captured the imagination of humanity for centuries." - Star*Line
From the Back Cover
"Warning: south of the train tracks, a Martian dream. Stranger still, habitable worlds abound. Wander through them, the lunar greenhouse full of NASA-planted lettuce, the fields of genetically modified soybeans, the tips to save your life. Like a Martian, 'ooh and ahh at crescent moons, the meteor showers.' Absorb this motion, before it vanishes. What's staged and what's real? What mechanism clears away panic and fear from a landscape, until it awaits pilgrims? The answers, or not-answers, are within the galaxies of AMERICAN GALACTIC. - Monica Wendel, author of CALL IT A WINDOW and NO APOCALYPSE "Look out, the Martians have landed! And they're having a poetic romp with Laura Madeline Wiseman. Her narrator opens the door 'with a bowl of chocolate, suckers and quarters,' and the little green creatures move right into her house, her garden, her outings, her community... even her mind. By the end of this quirky, imaginative, and well-researched collection, you'll wonder whether we all indeed carry around our own Martians." - Ellaraine Lockie, author of STROKING DAVID'S LEG and COFFEE HOUSE CONFESSIONS "AMERICAN GALACTIC is a reminder that good astronomers and great poets are driven by imagination. These interplanetary poems are rich with it, taking the reader on a trip to new, unexplored landscapes with heart and humor. Playfulness, curiosity and surprise infuse the poems, in which Laura Madeline Wiseman puts the reader right up front in the face of 'the other,' to confront a stranger, strangely familiar." - Sarah J. Sloat, author of HOME BODIES and INKSUITE "The Martians have landed in AMERICAN GALACTIC, and the more Wiseman reveals about those little green aliens and their odd habits, the more we learn about our own human nature. This collection is more fun than a Cold War sci-fi flick plus a bag of buttered popcorn." - Julie Kane, author of RHYTHM AND BOOZE and PAPER BULLETS
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Typically, I think of the Martian-phenomenon as being three-sided, and these three sides tend to be starkly black and white: 1.) those who do not believe in Martians, 2.) those who do believe in Martians and see them as a threat, and 3.) those who believe in a gentler, coexisting type of Martian… and then I read this collection of poems. I am absolutely in love with how this collection is working and how it pushes against our expectations; in particular, what I find so darn compelling about this project is the strangeness it invites in, as well as the blurring of the three-sided lines. For example, here is a set of horribly-haunting lines (I think I’m going to have to check my closets before I can sleep tonight) from Wiseman’s poem, “Creed: The Mission”:
Believe in versions of the truth.
Breathe. Hold hands. Hug. Recycle.
Hope that if there are Martians,
they wouldn’t be interested in you.
In the final stanza of “Creed,” we see a series of typically-normal behaviors—here is how we play human—which is then followed by a pair of lines that function as a warning; it implies, if the Martians take interest, there will be consequences. Keep out of sight, stay low, act normal, you’ll be fine. And what is so compelling about this move, about this warning, is the mixture of positive, negative and foreboding references throughout this collection. Despite the curiosity of Martians, and the depictions of these creatures as potentially-gentle, there is also this looming possibility of danger, of being noticed, and of things happening as a result of being noticed.
And perhaps what exaggerates this possibility even further, and makes it even more creepy (definitely checking the closets, the more I think about it), is Wiseman’s established isolation: whether we are imagining space as a sharp void, or witness a feminine being under the knife, or imagine our neighbors avoiding the observation of the Newcomers, these settings and beings operate as quiet and empty, nonintegrated floating objects—as if there were nothing to hide behind, and certainly no one to save us.
Not to mention my other favorite part of this collection, which integrates perfectly with this concept of isolation—Wiseman’s blurring of what makes a Martian a Martian, what makes us become the other, which places us ever closer to beings that could notice us. There is such an easy blurring that happens that makes us less like us and more like a predator—I’m thinking right now of a really great moment in Wiseman’s poem, “Getting Out of Here,” where, upon ending, we see government involvement, as a means to relocate us from one world to another:
And now I learn, that down the street,
NASA plants lettuce in a lunar greenhouse
to practice gardening in outer-space.
Isn’t that weird? Isn’t that so strange? And yet it makes all the sense in the world—whether or not NASA is involved, whether or not there are lunar plantations, there is still the fact that there is an easily-crossed line between prey and predator, between us and other. One of my favorite poems from the collection (actually, perhaps, my favorite) performs such a careful exploration of what it means to observe, to guess and make assumptions, and to take action, all of which can take on a deeply-ominous feel.
These creatures are living Martians.
—Octavia E. Butler
When the first Martians knock, I open the door
with a bowl of chocolate, suckers, and quarters.
These Martians are typical Martians: green skin,
long, thin limbs, and maybe three-feet-tall.
The Martian eyes glitter. I ask, Who are you?
The Martians stay mute. Then a Fairy, Superman,
and two Military Specialists crowd the porch
holding plastic gourds. I extend the bowl of candy.
Thank you! says the Fairy whose wings shiver.
She dashes down the steps into the night.
Then Superman, the military, they all leave,
but the Martians remain. I ask, Where’s your mom?
I scan the street and note my neighbors
on their lawn pretending to be stuffed dummies.
As the Fairy climbs their driveway, they growl.
I study the Martians, glance up and down the street.
I do what any normal type person might do.
I take the limp hands and pull the Martians inside.
In this poem, which is so swiftly steeped in the other, we are preserved in this extremely isolated moment; it is as if no one is watching, and no one can help lead these children? martians? home. This is largely what I mean when I say isolation: that, while there may be other living things nearby, within sight, within hearing range, actions are not being performed to change the situation or to do anything more than observe.
Laura Madeline Wiseman has truly done something wonderful here; the fact that she’s got me thinking about otherness, isolation and martians on a sleeting day in March, and the fact that her poems are requiring me to check my closets and hallways before I can sleep restfully tonight, are both blessings and compliments—to her writing, and to the fact that I had the opportunity to read her poems. Please sit down and take some times with American Galactic; it really is beautiful.
I don't know about you, but poetry collections that make you laugh are the ones I buy. I like poetry that is accessible, talks to me as a citizen of pop culture, and offers a fresh perspective on icons on sci-fi--Mars, the red planet, and those creatures, the Martians, who live there.