Review of Aidan Doyle, Rachael K. Jones, and E. Catherine Tobler, Sword and Sonnet (Ate Bit Bear, 2018) — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.
It is said that the pen is mightier than the sword, but in this collection of twenty-three stories, pen and sword come together in a glorious celebration of female and non-binary battle poets. Some of the poets eulogise — or problematise — battles after they happen; others fight battles through their poetry, with the very fact that they write a weapon in a greater war. Not all of the poets are in fact writers; some only need the spoken or thought word. Some fight for revolution. Some fight for peace. Some fight for a sense of self; some, to protect others. The diversity of topics and plots is both broad and deep.
In the editor’s introduction, they note that one of the editors “once received a rejection for a story featuring a battle poet with the comment that ‘unsympathetic protagonists were a difficult sell'”. Maybe that’s true: But I couldn’t tell you because there were no unsympathetic protagonists in these stories. Even the protagonists who have, whether rightly or wrongly, ended up on the wrong side of history are still poets that one can feel something for.
Each story is accompanied with an author’s note of how the story came to be, or what the author hoped to do via the story. These little “biographies” of the story I really enjoyed, particularly how many of them went along the lines of “I intended to write an entirely different story altogether, but ended up writing this one instead.”
As is usual, we’ll review each story individually and link the posts back here as they are published:
- “Words in an Unfinished Poem” by A. C. Wise
- “A Subtle Fire Beneath the Skin” by Hayley Stone
- “As For Peace, Call It Murder” by C. S. E. Cooney
- “She Calls Down the Future in the Footprints Left Behind” by Setsu Uzumé
- “Candied Sweets, Cornbread, and Black-eyed Peas” by Malon Edwards
- “El Cantar de la Reina Bruja” by Victoria Sandbrook
- “The Other Foot” by Margo Lanagan
- “Eight-Step Kōan” by Anya Ow
- “The Firefly Beast” by Tony Pi
- “Her Poems Are Inked in Fears and Blood” by Kira Lees
- “The Words of Our Enemies, The Words Of Our Hearts” by A. Merc Rustad
- “Labyrinth, Sanctuary” by A.E. Prevost
- “Heartwood, Sapwood, Spring” by Suzanne J. Willis
- “The Bone Poet and God” by Matt Dovey
- “And The Ghosts Sang With Her: A Tale of The Lyrist” by Spencer Ellsworth
- “Dulce et Decorum” by S. L. Huang
- “The Fiddler at the Heart of the World” by Samantha Henderson
- “She Searches for God in the Storm Within” by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali
- “A Voice in Many Different Forms” by Osahon Ize-Iyamu
- “Recite Her the Names of Pain” by Cassandra Khaw
- “Siren” by Alex Acks
- “This Lexicon of Bone and Feathers” by Carlie St. George
- “Dark Clouds & Silver Linings” by Ingrid Garcia
These stories reward both reading and rereading, both to oneself and to others.