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The Other Side of the Lens
G.O. Clark
Dark Regions Press, 44 pages

Art: Marge Simon
The Other Side of the Lens
G.O. Clark
G.O. Clark has appeared in magazines such as Asimov's, Talebones, Space & Time, Dreams & Nightmares. His poems have been anthologized in 2001: A Science Fiction Poetry Anthology, the Rhysling Award Anthology, and Star Trek -- The Poems. In 2001, he was the recipient of the Asimov's Readers' Award for best poem, and in the same year he came in 2nd in the Rhysling Award competition, short poem category, sponsored by the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Also in the spring of 2001, he joined the staff of Dark Regions magazine as an assistant fiction editor. He resides in Davis, California.

G.O. Clark Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: A Box Full of Alien Skies
SF Site Interview: G.O. Clark

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Chris Przybyszewski

The work of G.O. Clark has appeared in multiple publications, most notably Asimov's SF, Space and Time, and the Rhysling Anthology. The Other Side of the Lens, from Dark Regions Press, is his fourth chapbook.

In easy, open language, Clark starts the collection with a symbolic bang in "Audience of One." The evening's first star appears on the horizon and is observed by a single person, settling down for the night. "[A]s I settle in for the night,/audience of one,/to take in another incredible show."

Here, Clark plays with multiple levels of meaning. On one hand, he offers that the voice of the poem observes the star. At the same time, the star can well be observing the observer in a never-ending, mutually voyeuristic relationship. One only has to switch to to read about NASA's recent Spirit and Opportunity rovers and wonder what Mars terrestrials watch from afar at man's attempts to look for them.

On another level, I think that Clark might also play with the idea of reader and writer with this first poem. The reader the "audience of one," could be the one who will "settle in for the night" with the book, as Clark, the author, is the one who sheds his singular, distinct light, "a single note announcing the/billion billion more about to follow." On the other side of the lens, indeed.

Clark continues his theme of celestial observation later in the chapbook, with the tenderly written "At the Tech Museum." In this poem, an elderly, crippled woman sits in her wheelchair as "she watches the Apollo astronauts/jumping and skipping around on the/surface of the Moon." The old woman wonders "what it would be like to be/weightless, unconstrained by the forces/of gravity."

Such a sentiment is -- at best -- trite and typical. However, Clark twists the whole concept with his imagery at the end of the poem with "the cloudy face of Earth/sternly observing her antics." Clark's particular turn here is to make Earth and its gravity an opposing and jealous force which humans must conquer, adding an element of natural conflict to spaceflight and to exploration.

Another poem that plays with the idea of observation and what that means is "The Light of Dead Stars." In an abrupt voice, Clark writes "By the light of dead stars,/sailors still ply the seven seas… Upon the light of dead stars,/I gaze perplexedly, come each night." Here, Clark wonders fully about the nature of observation and about man's dependence on observation. Whether he feels it's a good thing or a bad thing is unclear rather than his mystification about the process of observation itself.

To end the chapbook, Clark reminds the reader that there is life out there, "Somewhere." In this poem, "there are constellations/that suit another/mythology." And while humans struggle to look beyond our universe, "Earth [is] but/a postulation, marked/by a pointer, in one corner of/their starry dome." As with his other poems in The Other Side of the Lens, Clark challenges the reader to consider that the observer might be watched and that the explorer might be the subject of exploration.

Why is this important when these worlds are so far away? The reason is that these worlds are not always so far away at all. Even if the alien world is a thousand miles away or just your next door neighbor's backyard, it still serves as somebody's home. Tread carefully and treat it well.

Copyright © 2004 Chris Przybyszewski

Chris learned to read from books of fantasy and science fiction, in that order. And any time he can find a graphic novel that inspires, that's good too.

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