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Cthulhu meets hip-hop in this book of horror poems that flips the eldritch genre upside down. Lovecraftian-inspired nightmares are reversed as O'Brien asks readers to see Blackness as radically significant. Can You Sign My Tentacle? explores the monsters we know and the ones that hide behind racism, sexism, and violence, resulting in poems that are both comic and cosmic. Cthulhu meets hip-hop in this book of horror poems that flips the eldritch genre upside down. Lovecraftian-inspired nightmares are reversed as O'Brien asks readers to see Blackness as radically significant. Can You Sign My Tentacle? explores the monsters we know and the ones that hide behind racism, sexism, and violence, resulting in poems that are both comic and cosmic.


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Cthulhu meets hip-hop in this book of horror poems that flips the eldritch genre upside down. Lovecraftian-inspired nightmares are reversed as O'Brien asks readers to see Blackness as radically significant. Can You Sign My Tentacle? explores the monsters we know and the ones that hide behind racism, sexism, and violence, resulting in poems that are both comic and cosmic. Cthulhu meets hip-hop in this book of horror poems that flips the eldritch genre upside down. Lovecraftian-inspired nightmares are reversed as O'Brien asks readers to see Blackness as radically significant. Can You Sign My Tentacle? explores the monsters we know and the ones that hide behind racism, sexism, and violence, resulting in poems that are both comic and cosmic.

30 review for Can You Sign My Tentacle?

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alexis Hall

    Okay, so this collection is brilliant and fascinating, and I am going to flail through trying to talk about it because I’m not great at talking about poetry anyway. And there’s always this slightly complicated dynamic when you’re talking about work by Black creators, in that you want to support and celebrate the work and meet it where it’s at, without appropriating it or trying to make where it’s at all about you and your whiteness. I guess a good place to start with this is that SFF has long had Okay, so this collection is brilliant and fascinating, and I am going to flail through trying to talk about it because I’m not great at talking about poetry anyway. And there’s always this slightly complicated dynamic when you’re talking about work by Black creators, in that you want to support and celebrate the work and meet it where it’s at, without appropriating it or trying to make where it’s at all about you and your whiteness. I guess a good place to start with this is that SFF has long had a Lovecraft problem: in the sense that his writing is seen as fundamental to our understanding of horror and has shaped the genre inescapably. (My favourite goddamn boardgame is Lovecraft-inspired) But he’s also, and there’s no way of saying this sensitively, like … racist. Like next level racist. Which I’m not saying to demonstrate my amazing sensitive allyness: it’s just kind of … a fact that, while we’ve got better at pretending it isn’t there, or it doesn’t matter, must be all kinds of fucked up to navigate around if you’re a Black SFF writer. Though, of course, there’s an also a burgeoning collection of work that exists directly to address this (The Ballad of Black Tom, She Walks in Shadows both spring to mind) and I think it is to these texts (as well as to Black art and culture more generally, for example in its hip hop influences), over and above Problematic Uncle Howie, that Can You Sign My Tentacle is most explicitly in dialogue. There’s a lot going on, both whimsical and serious, in Can You Sign My Tentacle but its central conceit is this: what if these unspeakable monstrosities that exist primarily as manifestations of some white guy’s fear of the known were just, like, super fans of Black artists? The opening poem is called ‘Hastur Asks for Donald Glover’s Autograph’. Which, y’know, if that amuses the hell out of you, then this collection will not disappoint. For all the significance of its themes, essentially positing Black significance as both defense against and answer to Lovecraft’s terror of cosmic insignificance, these poems are deliciously playful. Unabashedly weird. It is rare, I think, to find something that engages so uniquely—so transformatively—with the mythos (and I say this as someone who often digs through Lovecraft’s pockets when I’m writing). I think the other thing that this collection serves to highlight—and the author discusses this in the note at the end (something that white readers will probably find illuminating to read first)—is, like, just how fucking privileged do you have to be for “fear of the unknown” to have such an overwhelming effect on you. I mean, the rest of us have plenty to fear from the shit we do know. Couple this with the idea that insignificance in the face of arbitrarily powerful ‘others’ that aren’t like you and don’t care about is, when you get right down it, what living with a marginalised identity is like. And so what you get here are a collection of poems that speak far more to human nature, identity and the monsters we create for ourselves than Lovecraft ever could. It’s always really difficult to play favourites with a poetry collection because I feel if a collection is put together carefully enough the placement becomes, well, kind of its own poem really: there’s another journey here, with its own rise and fall, and its emotional resonances. And this is definitely true of Can You Sign My Tentacle. There is such precision here, not just in the construction of each poem individually, but in how the poem is placed among its fellows. But, for me, some of the highlights include: because who she is matters more than her words; the lagahoo speaks for itself; That Business They Call Utopia, Part Two; time and time again; Young Poet Just Misses Getting MF DOOM’s Autograph. Really, this is just a stunning piece of art. While every poem is unlikely to work for every reader—and if you’re white then they’re explicitly written within and speaking to a cultural framework that doesn’t include you (and, y’know, that’s okay, we’ve apparently got Lovecraft)—there’s still something really bold, charming and very much worth experiencing here. It will take me a while, I think, to fully understand the depth and breadth of these poems. But given how much Lovecraft shit I’ve consumed down the years? That feels fair enough.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gerhard

    Turns out that goodness is often light-sensitive. Turns out that darkness leaves all of its windows open and makes lullaby out of everything. Turns out there’s a duality in everything I would definitely recommend reading the ‘Author’s Note’ first, as Brandon O’Brien gives a very moving and well-considered account of how he came to ‘embrace’ the work of generally-not-a-nice person HP Lovecraft, whose numerous endearing qualities included having a cat named ‘Nigger-Man’ (catnip for meme makers on s Turns out that goodness is often light-sensitive. Turns out that darkness leaves all of its windows open and makes lullaby out of everything. Turns out there’s a duality in everything I would definitely recommend reading the ‘Author’s Note’ first, as Brandon O’Brien gives a very moving and well-considered account of how he came to ‘embrace’ the work of generally-not-a-nice person HP Lovecraft, whose numerous endearing qualities included having a cat named ‘Nigger-Man’ (catnip for meme makers on social media, of course). Still, O’Brien notes that Lovecraft is “one of science fiction’s most well-known authors”, “an otherwise talented and creative hand in the genre, and we credit him on the expansion of an entire subgenre mythos that science fiction and horror still reveres to this day.” He points out: “The conversation is a challenging, bitter thing.” Instead of erasing Lovecraft from the genre’s collective memory, O’Brien points to the highly potent “deliberate reimaginings” of Victor LaValle (‘The Ballad of Black Tom’) and Matt Ruff (‘Lovecraft Country’). It is clear that ‘Can You Sign My Tentacle?’ falls into this category of contemporarising and re-energising Lovecraft for the ‘new world’. But just as we have monuments like the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem as a cautionary reminder of the depravity of humanity, O’Brien’s poems also indicate that Lovecraft should be both a reminder and a warning. He states that “Science fiction is a radical genre, but that fact is a neutral one.” One just has to recall the Rose Tico backlash sparked by The Last Jedi and the Sad Puppies right-wing anti-diversity voting campaign at the Hugos to realise how the spirit of Lovecraft, unrepentant and unreformed, is very much alive in our supposedly enlightened genre and world. Live long and prosper my ass, especially if you’re black or gay in the wrong part of the planet. The wonderful title and cover art made me think that this would be some Rocky Horror Picture Show ‘Monster Mash’, but this is a surprisingly diverse, quite dark and often really lovely collection of poems that will stay with you for a long time. I suspect not all of them will speak to everybody’s lived experience, but anything that manages to combine Cthulhu with hip hop has to be pretty fucking fantastic in my book. My personal favourites: because who she is matters more than words The Metaphysics of a Wine, in Theory and Practice time, and time again drop some amens

  3. 4 out of 5

    Reading_ Tamishly

    This is such a read which is quite short yet you might get crazy visions while reading it. The writing in a poetry format, you might feel the stories are quiet chaotic and confusing. I did feel it too. I wish the writing have something to deliver as I felt confused with most lines and had little to no idea what they were talking about. I like the vivid descriptions of the gory and horror elements. Other than this, I feel this book might be a little too confusing for nonpoetry readers. Thank you, aut This is such a read which is quite short yet you might get crazy visions while reading it. The writing in a poetry format, you might feel the stories are quiet chaotic and confusing. I did feel it too. I wish the writing have something to deliver as I felt confused with most lines and had little to no idea what they were talking about. I like the vivid descriptions of the gory and horror elements. Other than this, I feel this book might be a little too confusing for nonpoetry readers. Thank you, author and the publisher, for the advance reading copy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Woc Reader

    I don't read poetry often and I don't know anything about Lovecraft horror which would probably helped me out here. I do know he was a racist and that some Black writers have been doing interesting things using the types of monsters he's created. I'll admit I did not understand many of these stories. However there were lines throughout that I highlighted because they stood out to me. There were passages dealing with racism in America despite portraying the "right" kind of image. I really liked w I don't read poetry often and I don't know anything about Lovecraft horror which would probably helped me out here. I do know he was a racist and that some Black writers have been doing interesting things using the types of monsters he's created. I'll admit I did not understand many of these stories. However there were lines throughout that I highlighted because they stood out to me. There were passages dealing with racism in America despite portraying the "right" kind of image. I really liked what Brandon O'Brien wrote about growing old and leaving a legacy. There were also some parts about losing control that stood out as well as stories about grief and death. So I feel like it touched on various topics. The horror part really didn't come through enough in this collection for me. But for a collection of stories reflecting on life this was a good book. Standout stories were That Business they Call Utopia Part Two, The Lagahoo Speaks for Itself, Birth Place, Time and Time Again and Love Craft Thesis #3.

  5. 5 out of 5

    N.G. Peltier

    ARC review. I'm not generally a poetry reader, but the author is a trini like me so I wanted to check out his work. Not going to lie I was confused by some of these but that's a me thing, poetry is hard for me but I have my faves from this collection! Ones that resonated or stood out to me: Because who she is matters more than her words: I liked this one, think it was one of the easier ones for me to read and understand The lagahoo speaks for itself: Another one that I enjoyed. Anything to do w ARC review. I'm not generally a poetry reader, but the author is a trini like me so I wanted to check out his work. Not going to lie I was confused by some of these but that's a me thing, poetry is hard for me but I have my faves from this collection! Ones that resonated or stood out to me: Because who she is matters more than her words: I liked this one, think it was one of the easier ones for me to read and understand The lagahoo speaks for itself: Another one that I enjoyed. Anything to do with our folklore characters intrigues me The metaphysics of a wine, in theory and practice: This one was just genius! The brilliance of its construction! The way wining is described differently here but each one was so relatable and true having given many wines and being a recipient of a good few 😉 Time and time again: This one stuck with me alot too. It was beautifully written! I'm not sure if the meaning I took away from it was what the author intended but it felt like a commentary on a queer relationship? I could be way off but open to interpretation right?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Moon

    Really interesting collection, and one I was definitely looking forward to reading. The humorous title gives way to a collection of poems in which the Lovecraftian eldritch horrors ask well known hip hop artists to sign them an autograph. A witty way to defuse the cosmic-horror and the magnitude and lower them to the ground, at the poem level it works, but I'm not really sure if it does conceptually or thematically. Perhaps my main gripe is that there are already pop-culture reclaimed cosmic monst Really interesting collection, and one I was definitely looking forward to reading. The humorous title gives way to a collection of poems in which the Lovecraftian eldritch horrors ask well known hip hop artists to sign them an autograph. A witty way to defuse the cosmic-horror and the magnitude and lower them to the ground, at the poem level it works, but I'm not really sure if it does conceptually or thematically. Perhaps my main gripe is that there are already pop-culture reclaimed cosmic monsters, (for example, all the flavors of kaijū, that even did appear as an Easter Egg in a recent Magic: The Gathering collection), and repeating the theme, changing the monster and the rapper made me detach myself a little bit, like watching different kaijū films in order with their different flavors. Separatedly, they can bear a powerful social commentary, but together they feel like any of these Japanese films marathon. But perhaps that was intended. Outstanding for me was the MF Doom poem, perhaps because it's a very powerful elegy in which we can see MF Doom elevated, instead of having the theme downgraded. It definitely stood out, with the rhythmic repetition that Brandon O'Brien skillfully uses throughout the collection. Thanks to NetGalley and Insterstellar Flight Press for providing me an eARC for this review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Raymond Rugg

    Because I am not as well-read in SpecPo as I would like to be, I fell into a trap when I agreed to read Can You Sign My Tentacle?, the poetry collection by Brandon O’Brien. I was seduced by the cover art, a delightful piece by Trevor Fraley. The colors, the line art, the title font (in conjunction with the whimsical title) lulled me into the expectation of wry, lighthearted poems that would juxtapose Lovecraftian mythology with contemporary popular culture. I made the horribly cliché mistake of Because I am not as well-read in SpecPo as I would like to be, I fell into a trap when I agreed to read Can You Sign My Tentacle?, the poetry collection by Brandon O’Brien. I was seduced by the cover art, a delightful piece by Trevor Fraley. The colors, the line art, the title font (in conjunction with the whimsical title) lulled me into the expectation of wry, lighthearted poems that would juxtapose Lovecraftian mythology with contemporary popular culture. I made the horribly cliché mistake of associating Fraley’s comic-style cover illustration with material that was perhaps not so important as other, more serious endeavors. I, who should most definitely know better, confused comic with comedic. Based on the cover, I lazily assumed the content to be Less Stuff, More Fluff, as it were. But please let me assure you, this collection is as serious as it gets. Oh, it does definitely blend the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft with the media-driven existence of today’s hip-hop artists. Among other topics. It does so wryly. There are whimsical moments. I’m sure there is some lightheartedness within these pages, for those who know how to find it, for those readers for whom these poems are written. I, however, am not such a reader. I am an outsider to these poems, one who has been granted the honor of reading/listening to O’Brien’s work. His culture is not my culture and thus, many of his references are from outside of my sphere of experience. Make no mistake, the fact of this is not a criticism of the work. Who am I to say that a poet must speak to me, for me? No. As O’Brien notes in his “Lovecraft Thesis #1,” “if you can’t make sense of what / the rhythm of time seeks to say / then it wasn’t for you”. To be clear, however, nor should you make the mistake of thinking that if the words are not meant for me, they have no message for me. Quite the contrary. A non-Native native of the American West, I have spent most of my life living within an hour’s travel from one Indian Boarding School or another, and the recent news (disturbing, yet to those of us who are familiar with the system, not particularly surprising) of mass unmarked graves of Native children, victims of these schools, weighs heavily on me these days. “Birth, Place” is about the experiences of an altogether different people, and yet the lines “Shade will one day grow / in the place where your father’s / bones once called me low.” bring to my mind the resistance and resilience of my Native friends and neighbors. A father of two daughters, I have spent my life as a parent seeing and fearing and cringing at the casual and explicit misogyny they must face every day. I know there are sub-texts that pass me by in “Cthylla Asks For J. Cole’s Autograph,” but it reminds me that my daughters are strong, that they are ‘girl-gods’ and that they, I pray, will “need rescue last.” More than two-dozen poems are included in the collection. Some, such as those noted above, evoked scenes and situations from my own life. More drew me closer to O’Brien’s world. All gave me pause. These are serious works. This collection is an event. These poems are, as we used to say, the Real Deal. If they are written for you, you should clasp them to you and read them. If they are not written for you, you may want to begin with the Author’s Note at the back of the book in order to gain some context, and then you should clasp them to you and read them. Now. ARC from Interstellar Flight Press via NetGalley Review posted to GoodReads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Frida

    I received an eARC copy from Interstellar Flight Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Lovecraft Thesis #5 .......Ever notice how they huddle around warped symbols, pledge fealty to idols long since dust, march on wearing capsized ideas on their heads to hide from sight? The philosophical aspect of placing words one after the other in a specific order exists for one and one purpose only, and that is to elaborate a higher transcendental objective that aims to transmit a deeper mean I received an eARC copy from Interstellar Flight Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Lovecraft Thesis #5 .......Ever notice how they huddle around warped symbols, pledge fealty to idols long since dust, march on wearing capsized ideas on their heads to hide from sight? The philosophical aspect of placing words one after the other in a specific order exists for one and one purpose only, and that is to elaborate a higher transcendental objective that aims to transmit a deeper meaning of simple communication. Furthermore, one must ensure that the precise word is placed in an unerring place to emphasize a specific momentum the message wants to highlight. In simple words, my expectations were not met. If this collection was supposed to be a horror novel-in-verse, it did not hit the spot; there was no connection with H. P. Lovecraft's tones whatsoever, although the reference was there. When it comes to the sci-fi explosion of motives, there were no cohesion of thoughts and no relation with the previous nor the following verse. Most of the poems felt like badly put-together odd words from an ancient dictionary that make no sense. The writing was confusing most of the time, the relation between words and thoughts not there, the expression overpowered with an abundance of extravagant phrases and sentences that failed in transmitting a, what I believe was, simple message. The blurb said that "Can You Sign My Tentacle? explores the monsters we know and the ones that hide behind racism, sexism, and violence, resulting in poems that are both comic and cosmic." None of these emotions, feelings, deep meanings and hidden messages came through; none of them screamed at my face. That is what was expected; that is what I came here for. The struggle is real when I have to reread a few verses and poems and still come through blank, without finding anything new about what I have just read. One great thing that caught my attention was the cover artwork. It is fascinating, inviting, intriguing; the colour palette is gorgeous. I just wish this collection considered including illustrations that would represent the words and messages the poetry bears; that would have been a perfect combination.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    this was...... not my thing. at all. listen, i like horror as much as the next person, but in poetry form? that's harder to pull off in my opinion. a full length novel has more of a chance to build suspense and create an atmosphere. a poem has to do that much more quickly. and here, it didn't pull it off. i didn't feel like i was reading a horror collection of poems, i just felt like i was reading something boring that didn't make much sense. this was...... not my thing. at all. listen, i like horror as much as the next person, but in poetry form? that's harder to pull off in my opinion. a full length novel has more of a chance to build suspense and create an atmosphere. a poem has to do that much more quickly. and here, it didn't pull it off. i didn't feel like i was reading a horror collection of poems, i just felt like i was reading something boring that didn't make much sense.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Unruly Cats

    You know the first sign of a great book is when you are reading the advance copy and ten pages in, set your device down to find out if your local book store can order you a physical copy because you -need- it on your shelf. The premise does an amazing job of grabbing you from the start. The intersection of the mythos spun out in the writings of a dead racist and a talented young Black poet writing odes to hip hop stars and monsters is fascinating in both its contradiction and how well it works. You know the first sign of a great book is when you are reading the advance copy and ten pages in, set your device down to find out if your local book store can order you a physical copy because you -need- it on your shelf. The premise does an amazing job of grabbing you from the start. The intersection of the mythos spun out in the writings of a dead racist and a talented young Black poet writing odes to hip hop stars and monsters is fascinating in both its contradiction and how well it works. Brandon O'Brien is sometimes listed as a performance poet and that is clear from the cadence of the first poem in the book and is continued throughout. Its hard to not find yourself reading them outloud, testing patterns and beats that would bring them to life. I'm hardly the first reviewer who would love to hear this collection in audio from the artist as well. The biggest selling point for me is the way the horror (both in the cosmic sense and as social commentary) are interwoven with a sense of humor and charm. It disarms you as you read it and also gets through your defenses, making some of the poems land all the harder for it. If you are familiar with Brandon from his time as Poetry Editor for FIYAH (a literary magazine that I feel like is going to continue giving the world gifts for years), you won't be too surprised at his deft hand in tying in allusions to cultural touchstones and literary work. If this is your first time coming across the author, you are in for a treat as you watch a talented poet spin tales that are nuanced and real even as they deal with thousand foot monsters from beyond the stars. Its the first verse of the second poem in the book that grabbed me and kept me reading through the entire collection in one go. The poem is entitled 'because who she is matters more than her words' and if you follow any Black femme presenting authors on twitter its going to ring all too true to the daily struggle that these talented women go through. This book is the perfect take for people who enjoy the cosmic horror genre but want to see it be more than just tired old stories. This is a fictional genre that's always been more for what has been added and this continues a rich tradition of making it more. Mr. O'Brien mentions in his author's note the concept of Black Significance in the face of the cosmic and its an idea I look forward to being more explored.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    This was an adventure that I went into blindly! I’m glad that I did because it took me by surprise and I didn’t want to put it down. I felt like I was in another world while I was reading it. The writing was written beautifully and definitely kept my attention all the way through and I wanted more! I would recommend this to anyone.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    2.5 rounded up. O'Brien writes poetry mixed with the sci-fi genre to highlight black voices and black lives The poetry was good, and it had some really interesting concepts. My only issue was that I didnt really understand it (which is always a risk with poetry but usually I can figure it out in a broad sense), but that could be because I'm not the target audience. 2.5 rounded up. O'Brien writes poetry mixed with the sci-fi genre to highlight black voices and black lives The poetry was good, and it had some really interesting concepts. My only issue was that I didnt really understand it (which is always a risk with poetry but usually I can figure it out in a broad sense), but that could be because I'm not the target audience.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Raymond Rugg

    Because I am not as well-read in SpecPo as I would like to be, I fell into a trap when I agreed to read Can You Sign My Tentacle?, the poetry collection by Brandon O’Brien. I was seduced by the cover art, a delightful piece by Trevor Fraley. The colors, the line art, the title font (in conjunction with the whimsical title) lulled me into the expectation of wry, lighthearted poems that would juxtapose Lovecraftian mythology with contemporary popular culture. I made the horribly cliché mistake of Because I am not as well-read in SpecPo as I would like to be, I fell into a trap when I agreed to read Can You Sign My Tentacle?, the poetry collection by Brandon O’Brien. I was seduced by the cover art, a delightful piece by Trevor Fraley. The colors, the line art, the title font (in conjunction with the whimsical title) lulled me into the expectation of wry, lighthearted poems that would juxtapose Lovecraftian mythology with contemporary popular culture. I made the horribly cliché mistake of associating Fraley’s comic-style cover illustration with material that was perhaps not so important as other, more serious endeavors. I, who should most definitely know better, confused comic with comedic. Based on the cover, I lazily assumed the content to be Less Stuff, More Fluff, as it were. But please let me assure you, this collection is as serious as it gets. Oh, it does definitely blend the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft with the media-driven existence of today’s hip-hop artists. Among other topics. It does so wryly. There are whimsical moments. I’m sure there is some lightheartedness within these pages, for those who know how to find it, for those readers for whom these poems are written. I, however, am not such a reader. I am an outsider to these poems, one who has been granted the honor of reading/listening to O’Brien’s work. His culture is not my culture and thus, many of his references are from outside of my sphere of experience. Make no mistake, the fact of this is not a criticism of the work. Who am I to say that a poet must speak to me, for me? No. As O’Brien notes in his “Lovecraft Thesis #1,” “if you can’t make sense of what / the rhythm of time seeks to say / then it wasn’t for you”. To be clear, however, nor should you make the mistake of thinking that if the words are not meant for me, they have no message for me. Quite the contrary. A non-Native native of the American West, I have spent most of my life living within an hour’s travel from one Indian Boarding School or another, and the recent news (disturbing, yet to those of us who are familiar with the system, not particularly surprising) of mass unmarked graves of Native children, victims of these schools, weighs heavily on me these days. “Birth, Place” is about the experiences of an altogether different people, and yet the lines “Shade will one day grow / in the place where your father’s / bones once called me low.” bring to my mind the resistance and resilience of my Native friends and neighbors. A father of two daughters, I have spent my life as a parent seeing and fearing and cringing at the casual and explicit misogyny they must face every day. I know there are sub-texts that pass me by in “Cthylla Asks For J. Cole’s Autograph,” but it reminds me that my daughters are strong, that they are ‘girl-gods’ and that they, I pray, will “need rescue last.” More than two-dozen poems are included in the collection. Some, such as those noted above, evoked scenes and situations from my own life. More drew me closer to O’Brien’s world. All gave me pause. These are serious works. This collection is an event. These poems are, as we used to say, the Real Deal. If they are written for you, you should clasp them to you and read them. If they are not written for you, you may want to begin with the Author’s Note at the back of the book in order to gain some context, and then you should clasp them to you and read them. Now. ARC from Interstellar Flight Press via NetGalley

  14. 4 out of 5

    Pelden Wangchuk

    "The foxes wanted something to eat, after all. To roast it all and grin, to live rich at the summit. But the smoke rose to meet them. The tar baby never stopped hungering. It already ate all of the poor. That was just its job. Its salary was the flesh of everything else. " I enjoyed some poems but some doesn't make sense to me(sorry) and some are so good and meaningful. "The foxes wanted something to eat, after all. To roast it all and grin, to live rich at the summit. But the smoke rose to meet them. The tar baby never stopped hungering. It already ate all of the poor. That was just its job. Its salary was the flesh of everything else. " I enjoyed some poems but some doesn't make sense to me(sorry) and some are so good and meaningful.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Therin

    Can You Sign My Tentacle? is a book of cosmic horror poems that takes the genre and its racist roots and flips it. The description reads “Lovecraftian-inspired nightmares are reversed as O’Brien asks readers to see Blackness as radically significant.” This refers to the significance of continuing to struggle and survive against huge structures of power trying to destroy them. The idea seems to be that the horrors aren’t nearly as awe-inspiring as the struggle. Imagine, if you will, a human stand Can You Sign My Tentacle? is a book of cosmic horror poems that takes the genre and its racist roots and flips it. The description reads “Lovecraftian-inspired nightmares are reversed as O’Brien asks readers to see Blackness as radically significant.” This refers to the significance of continuing to struggle and survive against huge structures of power trying to destroy them. The idea seems to be that the horrors aren’t nearly as awe-inspiring as the struggle. Imagine, if you will, a human standing before Cthulhu shouting “I’m still here, you big slimy fuck!” A lot of the poems are dark, but they’re funny, as well. The entire concept demands it, on some level! You have poems on topics like “Hastur asks for Donald Glover’s Autograph,” in which Hastur, the unspeakable one, the peacock king, a creature of nameless aeons and inconceivable dimensions, just… in awe of Childish Gambino. Which is fair, you know? In the autograph series of poems, O’Brien is really successful in making the monsters small and the humans big. Every poetry book I’ve ever read has one standout poem, one that maybe isn’t the best poem for everyone, or the most eye-catching or the one with the deepest meaning or most radical ideas, but that really gets in my head. Here, that was “time, and time again.” The imagery is what hooked me here, sweet and simple and aware of it. Give me simple words that sink into my bones, give me a love story, make it gay and bittersweet, and you have me. And that’s the poem! A pair of lovers, separated by death and brought back together in an alternate universe. It was beautiful and a little disorienting and exactly my jam. There are a lot of things I didn’t understand, in this book, in the way of poetry. It’s the sort of thing that I will need to ponder and return to a few times. Doing so will be a pleasure! Can You Sign My Tentacle? is coming out August 2021 from Interstellar Flight Press.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This is a really interesting collection, almost like a series of mini-collections spliced together. There's a series of poems wherein entities of the Cthulhu Mythos interact with famous Black musicians; a series of "Lovecraft Theses," wherein the author speaks to Lovecraft; a series about building Utopia and how damn dystopic Utopia is; and a smattering of other poems about colonization, chattel slavery, and Blackness. My favorites were, I think, "Birth, Place," "Kanye West's Internet Bodyguard A This is a really interesting collection, almost like a series of mini-collections spliced together. There's a series of poems wherein entities of the Cthulhu Mythos interact with famous Black musicians; a series of "Lovecraft Theses," wherein the author speaks to Lovecraft; a series about building Utopia and how damn dystopic Utopia is; and a smattering of other poems about colonization, chattel slavery, and Blackness. My favorites were, I think, "Birth, Place," "Kanye West's Internet Bodyguard Asks Hastur to Put Away the Phone," "tar baby," and "drop some amens." But every poem in this collection is doing something interesting, and almost every one has at least a couple of phrases that made me go back and reread and think. I loved lines like "light takes its own life before it can be food," "violence makes good background noise / for anything," "know that my landlords are / greater than yours." I think that inverting the Lovecraft mythos to confront and deal with its own racism is a natural thing to do. I've seen this done plenty of times in prose (see: the works of Victor LaValle and Matt Ruff, both of which O'Brien mentions in his Author's Note), but never before in poetry, and O'Brien does it very cleverly here, mixing themes and imagery in a way that poetry lends itself to. O'Brien's Author's Note is also really key, contextualizing the poems and providing a kind of critical and emotional lens through which to view them. I'd recommend this book of poems, and I'll probably find myself rereading a few of them later on. I received an e-ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Can You Sign My Tentacle? by Brandon O'Brien. This collection of poems really intrigued me, and the fantastic cover art by Trevor Frayley was what had me clicking to find out more about this book. I will not pretend to be an expert in poetry. In fact, I don't often read it. But Can You Sign My Tentacle? just had that draw that made me want to read it... and I'm glad I did. I am going to insert the author's blurb here as it honestly is the best way to explain e Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Can You Sign My Tentacle? by Brandon O'Brien. This collection of poems really intrigued me, and the fantastic cover art by Trevor Frayley was what had me clicking to find out more about this book. I will not pretend to be an expert in poetry. In fact, I don't often read it. But Can You Sign My Tentacle? just had that draw that made me want to read it... and I'm glad I did. I am going to insert the author's blurb here as it honestly is the best way to explain exactly what this book of poerty is: "Cthulhu meets hip-hop in this book of horror poems that flips the eldritch genre upside down. Lovecraftian-inspired nightmares are reversed as O'Brien asks readers to see Blackness as radically significant. Can You Sign My Tentacle? explores the monsters we know and the ones that hide behind racism, sexism, and violence, resulting in poems that are both comic and cosmic." Can You Sign My Tentacle? is eye opening, beautiful and heartbreaking all at once, and so very well written. Some of my favourites included: - -Lovecraft Thesis #2 -Birth, Place -Kanye West's Internet Bodyguard Asks Hastur to Put Away the Phone -Cthylla Asks for J. Cole's Autograph Tloto Tsamaase put their praise of this book into words far better than I could: "Dreamlike, visceral, and emotionally moving. An intoxicating poetic journey and a heartbreaking ode casting your fave hip-hop artists juxtaposed with chilling and beautiful imagery through the haunting lens of tangible pain, loss, grief and love" Overall, a really, really good book of poems that will get you thinking, and hopefully, acting and using your own voice.

  18. 5 out of 5

    M. A. Blanchard

    5/5 The sheer artistry evident in every line of this poetry collection is breathtaking. O’Brien’s level of craft and polish easily balances razor-sharp wit and whimsy with moving commentary on art, race, Blackness, the complexity of admiring and being influenced by artists who are imperfect humans, and so much more. Every poem in the set is a highlight, though the one about MF Doom and the ones about iconic Calypso singers were particular standouts for me. All of the poems in the book are thought 5/5 The sheer artistry evident in every line of this poetry collection is breathtaking. O’Brien’s level of craft and polish easily balances razor-sharp wit and whimsy with moving commentary on art, race, Blackness, the complexity of admiring and being influenced by artists who are imperfect humans, and so much more. Every poem in the set is a highlight, though the one about MF Doom and the ones about iconic Calypso singers were particular standouts for me. All of the poems in the book are thoughtful, musical, hilarious and tragic in equal measure—and, most of all, they are brilliant. I went into this book expecting to be entertained—after all, the title! The Lovecraft mythos references! —and came away amazed. This collection is a joy to read. I would very much recommend it—and I plan to purchase a hard copy to share with friends and family. I received an e-ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Raven

    This review is based on NetGalley ARC provided in exchange for an honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher! This poetry collection was everything that I didn’t know I needed. Part Lovecraftian horror, part hip-hop, and part social reform, ‘Can You Sign My Tentacle?’ is a ride, and one that you won’t soon forget. It felt like a fever dream wrapped up in a poetry collection, and I mean that in the best way possible. The way that it not only manages to do exactly what it sa This review is based on NetGalley ARC provided in exchange for an honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher! This poetry collection was everything that I didn’t know I needed. Part Lovecraftian horror, part hip-hop, and part social reform, ‘Can You Sign My Tentacle?’ is a ride, and one that you won’t soon forget. It felt like a fever dream wrapped up in a poetry collection, and I mean that in the best way possible. The way that it not only manages to do exactly what it says on the tin, but also cover important social issues is spectacular. I thoroughly enjoyed this read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Larissa Lee

    I've never read a collection of sci-fi poetry before, so this book was an interesting change of pace. The imagery and language used reminded me of a high fantasy novel, where some of the passages take a few rereads to really sink in. As with high fantasy, this poetry collection wasn't my cup of tea, but I'm glad I had the experience of reading it. I've never read a collection of sci-fi poetry before, so this book was an interesting change of pace. The imagery and language used reminded me of a high fantasy novel, where some of the passages take a few rereads to really sink in. As with high fantasy, this poetry collection wasn't my cup of tea, but I'm glad I had the experience of reading it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nita (ecobookworm)

    *I received an advance reader copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley and the publishers.* It's kind of challenging to review a poetry book, because poetry is meant to be read and processed so differently than the novels or even non-fiction that I usually read. I didn't fully understand all of the poems - there are a lot of references to mythology, horror and pop culture that I didn't understand, but that will make these poems much more delightful and add a lot mo *I received an advance reader copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley and the publishers.* It's kind of challenging to review a poetry book, because poetry is meant to be read and processed so differently than the novels or even non-fiction that I usually read. I didn't fully understand all of the poems - there are a lot of references to mythology, horror and pop culture that I didn't understand, but that will make these poems much more delightful and add a lot more depth for those who do get them. From my perspective, if I love and am touched by a few poems from a collection, that's enough for me to give it a high rating, because I don't expect every single poem to work for me. And this collection certainly did that. I'm also writing from the perspective of a Trinidadian woman familiar with Trini history, culture and spaces, and I definitely connected with these works on that level. This collection is written from a playful but also subversive and radical place, as the author's note explains (I read it after reading most of the poems, but I would recommend reading it first, as it gives a better understanding of what the poet is trying to achieve). The perspective of mythological/horror monsters interacting with pop culture, and specifically Black, icons is such an interesting premise. But many poems are also deeply Trinbagonian in the way they incorporate folklore, history, and the local crime situation. It's not a light read, as it also deals with racism, colonialism, violence and murder. There were many poems that touched me: Hunting Dog was a poignant look at the murder rate through the lens of folklore, referencing murder victims Sean Luke, Keyana Cumberbatch and Dana Seetahal. I was absolutely floored by Birth, Place, which left me staring into the distance while contemplating the country's legacy of slavery and suffering and the hope and faith and hard work that went into building a better future. Lines like "make my children potters / of a planet, give them / farmers' hands", and "shade will one day grow / in the place where your father's / bones once called me low." are so deeply evocative. "I will plant a time I cannot see/ for children I will not know" had me thinking of my own work on the climate crisis, and the hope we need to have for a better future for generations to come. This is definitely my favourite poem in the collection. The Metaphysics of a Wine, in Theory and in Practice was an incredible read, with an almost academic look at something so rooted in our culture. I loved the references - I want to know what each of those songs are. Time, and Time Again brought me to tears, this look at queer love and loss and grief. Anyone who has lost or faces the loss of a loved one will relate to the line "I have tried to find / the space and time / when you still are." Lovecraft Thesis #5 is relevant to anywhere with a legacy of colonialism, "a land already bought in / blood" I'm so grateful to Interstellar Press for this ARC, it's a truly relevant read and a valuable addition to any collection of poetry books and to any collection of Caribbean writing. I will probably be buying a hard copy of this for my own shelf.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Vivienne

    My thanks to Interstellar Flight Press for a review copy via NetGalley of ‘Can You Sign My Tentacle?: Poems’ by Brandon O'Brien in exchange for an honest review. The colourful cover art by Trevor Fraley and quirky title first caught my eye and then the description ‘Cthulhu meets hip-hop’ intrigued me and ensured that this collection of horror/SF poetry was going on my shelf. I quickly purchased my own copy. The publishers write that O’Brien is seeking to flip “the eldritch genre upside down.” The My thanks to Interstellar Flight Press for a review copy via NetGalley of ‘Can You Sign My Tentacle?: Poems’ by Brandon O'Brien in exchange for an honest review. The colourful cover art by Trevor Fraley and quirky title first caught my eye and then the description ‘Cthulhu meets hip-hop’ intrigued me and ensured that this collection of horror/SF poetry was going on my shelf. I quickly purchased my own copy. The publishers write that O’Brien is seeking to flip “the eldritch genre upside down.” These poems not only explore the nightmares inspired by the Cthulhu mythos but examines the monsters that “hide behind racism, sexism, and violence, resulting in poems that are both comic and cosmic.” I read the poems aloud though I am certain that as their creator is a performance poet, Brandon O’Brien would do a much better job than me. I was happy to find a YouTube video of his reading one. His Author’s Note was illuminating and highlights his intention to not seek to erase Lovecraft but to reimagine his writings in a way that challenges the legacy of racism, sexism, and xenophobia that had dominated Lovecraft’s worldview. Whether that is possible may be open to debate though I applaud the work of creators like O’Brien who are seeking to do so. Therefore, I have obtained two such works that he cites in his Note. As for the poems, they are very dream-like and visually rich. As the cover indicates there is a comic element to many of the poems and I loved the idea of the Old Ones collecting autographs from Black celebrities. After a quick initial read through these are poems that I plan to revisit and reflect upon over time.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lizz DiCesare

    CAN YOU SIGN MY TENTACLE? is the type of poetry book I wished I could have read and studied in university. It flips the horror genre upside down and uses other-worldly monsters to create a landscape where very real issues and themes of racism and sexism are explored through an entirely new lens. Here, the "horror" isn't so much monsters and mayhem, but the situations people find themselves in. I truly wish I could discuss this one with other readers to share thoughts on it! I admit that some of CAN YOU SIGN MY TENTACLE? is the type of poetry book I wished I could have read and studied in university. It flips the horror genre upside down and uses other-worldly monsters to create a landscape where very real issues and themes of racism and sexism are explored through an entirely new lens. Here, the "horror" isn't so much monsters and mayhem, but the situations people find themselves in. I truly wish I could discuss this one with other readers to share thoughts on it! I admit that some of the poems went right over my head, but others sparked so much emotion and gave my brain a workout. Some stayed with me well after finishing, and I found myself venturing back to certain lines and sections, reading them over again. This was my first time reading horror poetry, and while some parts were a bit confusing, others were completely enthralling. I loved this collection, and can't wait to read more. Thank you to the publisher, Interstellar Flight Press, for providing me with a digital ARC via NetGalley.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tilly (The Biblioshelf)

    What initially drew me to read Can You Sign My Tentacle? Well first off, the title alone piqued my curiosity; then to discover that this was the work of a Caribbean author who has composed a strange blend of SFF, horror and poetry, I just had to open that cover and dive straight in. Despite being a self-proclaimed SFF fan, I’ve never read any Lovecraft so I had no idea of the meaning behind the Cthulhu references until much later on. That being said, I feel this enabled me to approach O’Brien’s co What initially drew me to read Can You Sign My Tentacle? Well first off, the title alone piqued my curiosity; then to discover that this was the work of a Caribbean author who has composed a strange blend of SFF, horror and poetry, I just had to open that cover and dive straight in. Despite being a self-proclaimed SFF fan, I’ve never read any Lovecraft so I had no idea of the meaning behind the Cthulhu references until much later on. That being said, I feel this enabled me to approach O’Brien’s collection with a wholly open-mind. O’Brien does not shy away from tackling some of the big themes of racism, sexism and violence, but through this unusual mix of varying genres, his messages tend to pop out and command your attention in a way that may be much less fun or remarkable in traditional prose. There are some wonderful phrases and language. As a bit of a logophile, I was struck by the beautiful and bizarre range of vocabulary that Brandon utilised across his writing. Notably in The Metaphysics of a Wine, In Theory and Practice, the concoction of academia-style concepts mixed with the celestial, paranormal-esque commentary of being lost in the throes of dancing captivated me. Other poems such as The One, Lovecraft Thesis #3 and Time, and Time Again were particular favourites. The Author’s Note at the end (along with a little help from Google) helped me to understand how O’Brien’s use of the eldritch genre brought Can You Sign My Tentacle? to life. It tied together some of the loose connections that I hadn’t grasped from my initial reading and clarified the Lovecraft references along with the author’s influences and inspiration for writing this collection of poems. I really, really like this book. It’s different, it’s highly entertaining yet meaningful at the same time. The poems are curious and provocative. The whole theme of the collection and ideas behind the Cthulhu/Lovecraft mix are totally original and have taught me something new; not just about the medley of Science-Fiction and Poetry as genres, but about the over-inflated concept of self-importance and that nobody or nothing is infallible. In a world where cancel culture seems to be increasingly (somewhat shockingly) normalised, O’Brien’s narrative seems to challenge this notion and turn it on its head. Just as Lovecraft was undoubtedly a talented writer who has done much to shape the SFF genre, O’Brien shows that rather than ‘cancelling’ or criticising his creative legacy, we can turn his prejudices into a weapon and opportunity for education. He shows that we can learn from past denigrations and champions how today’s society can shift away from the attitudes, mistakes and short-sightedness of those who came before us. I went into Can You Sign My Tentacle? looking for something a bit on the offbeat, peculiar side – I came out of it with something much more meaningful. O’Brien is truly a voice to be celebrated. He has written such a thought-provoking, original masterpiece with a trailblazing message that will stay in my mind for a long time to come. [Review to be published on blog August 11th]

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

    *thank you netgally for the E arc* I really wanted to like this but unfortunately it fell flat for me. It sounded great, its horror poetry which I haven’t seen done before and its by a small black author. unfortunately some of the poems just didn’t hit for me. I think part of the problem is that I dont like or read horror however I think overall some of the stories just dont work. I dont think anyone has ever done horror poetry before so I think he’s really talented and creative for coming up wit *thank you netgally for the E arc* I really wanted to like this but unfortunately it fell flat for me. It sounded great, its horror poetry which I haven’t seen done before and its by a small black author. unfortunately some of the poems just didn’t hit for me. I think part of the problem is that I dont like or read horror however I think overall some of the stories just dont work. I dont think anyone has ever done horror poetry before so I think he’s really talented and creative for coming up with this. Even though I didn’t like the poems I still think the writing is strong and wonderful. So to sum all my feelings up I think this authors writing is great but im going to have to look into his previous work to enjoy him. I defintly think if you want a quick read and your into horror and poetry you’ll adore this piece.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Eshwarya Andy

    I'm gonna be honest - I was super excited to read this collection but it just wasn't for me. The description was very enticing - I'd never heard of horror poetry before. The setting was surreal undoubtedly but few of the poems really conveyed any terror/dread, which I would've expected given the supposed horror theme. What did come through were the allusions to racism and violence - there was an undercurrent of that running throughout the whole book. There were a number of poems which stuck with I'm gonna be honest - I was super excited to read this collection but it just wasn't for me. The description was very enticing - I'd never heard of horror poetry before. The setting was surreal undoubtedly but few of the poems really conveyed any terror/dread, which I would've expected given the supposed horror theme. What did come through were the allusions to racism and violence - there was an undercurrent of that running throughout the whole book. There were a number of poems which stuck with me, and its clear that the author is a brilliant writer. Many of them were beyond my comprehension, however. I do enjoy poetry that's not immediately revealing, work that requires some musing for its true meaning to be gleaned. But no matter how many times I read some of these poems, they were just too obscure to make any sense to me. I ended up having to force my way through them.

  27. 4 out of 5

    E.D.E. Bell

    Glorious words and flow. Clever, humorous, pointed, beautiful. Fresh, while ancestral. If you need to understand everything to appreciate poetic writing, then I can quote the poet with, "if you can't make sense of what / the rhythm of time seeks to say / then it wasn't for you". If you're willing to zoom out and feel the scene, or zoom in to mull, and experience Blackness as radically significant, please read this collection. For my own readers who know my content sensitivities, I would not be put Glorious words and flow. Clever, humorous, pointed, beautiful. Fresh, while ancestral. If you need to understand everything to appreciate poetic writing, then I can quote the poet with, "if you can't make sense of what / the rhythm of time seeks to say / then it wasn't for you". If you're willing to zoom out and feel the scene, or zoom in to mull, and experience Blackness as radically significant, please read this collection. For my own readers who know my content sensitivities, I would not be put off by associations with horror. There are visceral images and references, but for me, they had a cathartic, not upsetting quality. (It also goes back to the debate of what horror is; I can say, from my perspective, this collection is loaded with hope.)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maryam

    thank you netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review !! first of all, the cover is absolutely stunning. i spent more time admiring it than i ever have in my entire life. just please please A D M I R E the cover y'all. the poetry was average. as a student who took literature, i was able to identify language devices throughout (which i have to say was really good a times), otherwise this book was normal- i've read poetry collections. i think this is a children's book s thank you netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review !! first of all, the cover is absolutely stunning. i spent more time admiring it than i ever have in my entire life. just please please A D M I R E the cover y'all. the poetry was average. as a student who took literature, i was able to identify language devices throughout (which i have to say was really good a times), otherwise this book was normal- i've read poetry collections. i think this is a children's book so like i can't be one to judge too harshly because the poet had written this with an audience in mind and i admire that very much. i didnt make sense i need sleep bye

  29. 5 out of 5

    Zenne

    the cover is absolutely stunning! omy- i am definitely new to poetry, but this sounded very interesting. it did however not meet up to my expectations. i didn't really understand a lot of things so i missed a lot of the actual plot, that is on me because am extremely new to poetry, but the atmosphere some of the poems created was good. i would have liked this more if it was not written in actual poems. i am interested in picking up other (future) books by this author. *thanks to netgalley and the the cover is absolutely stunning! omy- i am definitely new to poetry, but this sounded very interesting. it did however not meet up to my expectations. i didn't really understand a lot of things so i missed a lot of the actual plot, that is on me because am extremely new to poetry, but the atmosphere some of the poems created was good. i would have liked this more if it was not written in actual poems. i am interested in picking up other (future) books by this author. *thanks to netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange of an honest review*

  30. 4 out of 5

    anastasia

    the cover and title were what grabbed my interest and i can say that i would have liked to had these poems analyzed at literature class. i really liked them, even though i didn't fully understand anything. the author's note at the end explained a lot, so i appreciated it. overall this talks about how blackness should be important, and the author embraces the works of lovecraft ( great world building etc, sadly very racist person ) and reinstalls then in his poems. i would recommend!! ( received t the cover and title were what grabbed my interest and i can say that i would have liked to had these poems analyzed at literature class. i really liked them, even though i didn't fully understand anything. the author's note at the end explained a lot, so i appreciated it. overall this talks about how blackness should be important, and the author embraces the works of lovecraft ( great world building etc, sadly very racist person ) and reinstalls then in his poems. i would recommend!! ( received this through netgalley! thank you! )

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