Metastable Systems is the latest collection of poems from Grandmaster David C. Kopaska-Merkel. Science Fiction, fantasy, horror, and pure science: it's all here. Most of these poems were written in the past few years; many appear here for the first time.
How can a water bear (also known as a tardigrade, one remarkably tough micro-animal) be a superhero?
Such questions lie at the heart of David Kopaska-Merkel's speculative verse. He is himself a scientist -- a geologist -- and this is Science turned sideways. Warped in ways only someone with deep, abiding knowledge and love could even consider. Science powering a true poetry of ideas.
Whether he turns his artistic vision to science fiction, fantasy, or the dark fantastic, an unsettling amount of real information seeps in. The femmes fatale of Lovecraft's Innsmouth are scarier for being categorized by species. Suicide by walking on the Sun is analyzed in detail, then found to be impractical. Microscopic aliens lurk everywhere, but they can't eat us.
Or at least digest us after they've tried.
There's a distinctive voice at work here -- a dry, subtle humor that can turn chilling. Science isn't always pretty. It is, however, infinitely inspiring. At least, it seems to be for Kopaska-Merkel, one of the most productive poets around. His name turns up regularly in publications large and small, print and digital. His blog offers readers new works almost daily.
And then there's Dreams and Nightmares, his venerable speculative poetry magazine -- on issue # 106 at the time of this writing. Kopaska-Merkel isn't just concerned with his own outpouring of ideas. He's been curating a home for the ideas of others since 1986.
Many of the poems you're about to encounter are quite short, like showers of sparks. (Or meteors.) Others are extended wry observations: did you ever stop to think about . . .?
How a water bear, scaled up, would actually make an amazing superhero. What happens when a cat goes nova. What might be the result of . . . well, just about any geeky, unlikely, but scientifically detailed event that could only happen in a poem like this.
David Kopaska-Merkel always stops to think about. But never for too long.
There are so many other ideas impatiently waiting to be formed into lines and stanzas. Given disturbingly apt titles, or running silent with none at all.