A Review of Alan Ira Gordon’s Planet Hunter

Hi Everyone:

Here’s my review of Alan Ira Gordon’s Planet Hunterwhich appears in the summer 2020 issue of Illumen! You can purchase the issue here.


Alan Ira Gordon’s poetry brings me down memory lane in so many ways. In addition to being a wonderfully quirky and humorous poet, he also has several fingers on the lingering (and resonate) pulse of cartoons and television shows, monsters and superheroes, cosmology, physics, and technology, and yes—good ‘ol rock-and-roll! And there’s more! This collection is a definite tribute to socio-cultural icons past and present, which will likely prevail into the future. Gordon’s poems also invite the reader to ponder and wonder, which is, after all, the stuff of good speculative poetry.

Planet Hunter is divided into six thematic sections: “To Boldly Go,” Robots & Artificials,” “Alternate Realities, Histories & Pocket Universes,” Of Heroes & Villains,” “Fables & Such,” and “Odds ‘N Ends.” While each poem is worthy of commentary, I’ve selected five poems to discuss, the first of which is the title poem, “Planet Hunter.”

The first poem in the “To Boldly Go” section is “Planet Hunter.” Here, the narrator bemoans the use and convenience of apps, and states “That’s not for me . . . there’s/something to be said, a sense of/satisfaction, validation and worthwhile/when applying time/and length/
and the steady hand of patience until/ the breached crest of anticipation reveals/ a well-earned galactic discovery” (11).


The second poem I wanted to discuss is “The Television Stars, My Destination . . .” Since Gordon’s introduction acknowledges Marge Simon’s mentorship (among others) and includes that Bruce Boston told her to tell him that it was “hilarious,” I thought it fitting to include a discussion of this poem. I concur that it is definitely hilarious. This is a must-read for Battlestar Galactica fans, as well as fans of other serial space opera television programs and films. While making note of cosmological events, the narrator wonders whether or not ” . . .Battlestar Galactica/Is a repeat this evening?” (15) This quandary and its ramifications with “The basis of all life/A unified field theory” (15) leads to “Who could be the twelfth Cylon?/
Kara Thrace . . . Adama . . . /someday we’ll learn the truth. .”(15) And as the poem’s narrator says, “All space and time will at last end/with a bang, whimper or whatnot/When Season Four ends. . .” The narrator then proceeds to wonder whether to expect a sequel or a spinoff. I’m sure many viewers pondered the universe thusly (and may continue to do so), our lives structured around favorite television shows that actually made us wonder. Furthermore, I admit to binging on this show’s reruns.

“Interstellar Starship Bumper Stickers
(As Seen On Actual Starships)” was also hysterical, and I couldn’t help wondering if Gordon’s proverbial “other vehicle” is a starship. Here are a few of my favorites: “I Brake For Event Horizons” (15); “A Woman’s Place is on the Starship Command Deck” (15); and “I’d Rather Be Teleporting” (15).

In case you haven’t noticed, the first section has some of my favorite poems. . . The last one in this section that I want to discuss is ” . . . And They Wrote Among The Stars.” Imagine alien visitors coming to Earth and its people asking what they want. Amid offering natural resources and Earth’s obvious inferior tech, they are, of course, worried about being invaded and enslaved. But it is the poets, they want—yes! It is definitely Earth’s poets. The narrator then states: “And so we breathed/a collective sigh of relief/ the clouds moved anew/the bugs did again chirp/
as we gathered-up our poets/ and shooed them onto ships/
(a few even seemed eager to go)” (26-27). The result? Initially, relief, until . . .”But at the end of the day/when the bugs calm down/
and the night comes up/
that’s when we notice that they’re gone/ and something just ain’t . . .right./I think they took us good” (27). A planet without poets would be barren indeed.

One of my favorite poems in the “Alternate Realities, Histories & Pocket Universes” section is “Pocket Universe #8: Lucy, The Monster Hunter.” As a child, I told everyone my name was Charlie Brown, and my father was a cartoonist among other accolades. Peanuts was a household staple and continues to be part of our family culture to this day. So, of course I had to write about this one, as Lucy gave me so much grief! Lucy is indeed “The Madwoman of the Seas” (44) in this poem as she uses her little brother (and his ever-present blanket) as bait for the Kraken that killed her parents. . . Yes, as Charlie admits earlier in the poem: “Why do I let her boss me around?/he asks himself First, the thing with the football/ and now this./She’s right . . . I am a blockhead” (42). Poor Charlie Brown . . . sigh. Poor Linus. . . I hope that Kraken eats her next!

In the “Fables & Such” section there is quite the selection of poems. “Me and Cinderella” (65-66) made me laugh out loud! This retold fairy tale portrays Cinderella as an obsessive-compulsive castle cleaner and suicidal (and yes, she uses shards from that glass slipper). Whatever will become of Cinderella? The prince sends her to rehab with high hopes . . . “I’m a positive Prince/
with faith in the Royal/ Physician, who assures me that/ with a good twelve-step/ program, she’ll be just fine./I can’t wait to have my/ huggy-bunny Princess back” (66).

The final poem in the collection, “White Ops (Or How I Spent My Summer Vacation in Roswell, New Mexico)” sums this collection up for me in that it addresses not only the search for truth, but how it’s the journey that’s the goal. When offered the truth about a long list of quandaries by mysterious men at Roswell, the vacationers say: “By all means, No! We countered back/our hearts embrace dark fiction/we long to ponder earnestly/
on stuff that remains hidden” (79). The “Open Men” (or whomever they really are . . . which will be revealed at the poem’s end) are “muddled” by this response and proceed to share their perspective. The collective narrator then sums it up: “For while The Men meant well to give/straight facts both real and freeing/ Strange Mystery is more fun for all/ than learning plain True Meaning” (80).

Isn’t this at the heart of why we read and write poetry?