Cover Image: Can You Sign My Tentacle?

Can You Sign My Tentacle?

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Member Reviews

This collection of poems is based on a super interesting premise which is how to take on Lovecraft, an absurdly racist yet influential sci fi author and insert influential black artists into his stories about these classic monsters. Turning stereotypes on their head and making you think while also being funny and entertaining. The more familiar you are with Lovecraft’s work the more you will probably enjoy this collection but even as someone who has not read a lot of his work I really enjoyed this collection. It’s extremely well-written and the stories really draw you in. 
The author’s note at the end is great and puts the whole collection in a new light. I read it first and I would suggest doing that. I didn’t expect this collection to be this deep when I first started to read it but all the layers only add to the experience of reading. I’m more of a casual poetry reader so I’m sure this would be even better for people who are more familiar with the style of symbolism but I still found it really enjoyable! 
My favorite poem was “Time, and Time Again”. It was a little unexpected in the best way.
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This poem collection was rather unusual, with its chaotic and weirdness , each poem was still very beautifully written and I would love to explore more works by Brandon o'Brien in the future
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Can You Sign My Tentacle? is one of the most beautiful poems collection I’ve ever read. I didn’t start it with high expectations to be honest, I thought it to be about something entirely different. But my mind was blown away by the criticism of climate change, racism, sexism and classism. It was so well and deeply written, our society’s worst problems summed up in a few short lines, yet they hit home. O’Brien has a great talent and I can’t wait to read more poems by him. 
My top five poems were 
the repossession of skin; it haunted me, it had mayor Among Us vibes and really freaked me out
the lagahoo speaks for itself; humanity from a monster’s point of view. SO interesting and well written 
Birth, Place; an exploration of home - what is home and why do we feel attached to a mark on a landscape? I loved it, it was spiritual and gave me the chills 
time, and time again; it broke my heart, no poem ever touched my soul like this one 
Cthylla asks for J.Cole’s Autograph; it made me feel so empowered and strong 

All in all, this perfect mixture of horror, imagination and bitter truth was an incredible read. I’m pretty sure I’ll reread this collection at least ten times in my life and I encourage everyone else to give it a chance.
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This is a great combination of interaction with the canon of speculative fiction, the black experience, and pop culture all intersecting to say something new and amazingly well written. Definitely interested in future works from this poet. Keep an eye out for him.
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*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.
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It is a poetry collection of sci-fi and horror poems.

It's truly bizarre, interesting and kind of crazy. My imagination ran wild whole reading the book and there were a lot interesting lines that captured my attention.

Although I'll admit that I was a bit confused too and sometimes I couldn't comprehend what was going on.

But overall, a great collection and very refreshing to read. Also the title and cover is just perfect!
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This is a delight and a trip and full of joy and angst and passion and fear and amazing, original language. I want  everyone to read it and talk about the author's descriptions and constructions and flair. An excellent read for anyone who enjoys poetry and SFF.
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When I requested this, I knew liiterally nothing about this other than the fact it was a poetry collection (which I enjoy reading). But I also thought it was going to be this weird and abstract collection. Alas it was neither weird or abstract, in terms of content. 

The style of how this collection was written was in fact chaotic and confusing. I didn't understand the majority of this as a lot of it went over my head completely. However, one that I was able to understand was the poem "Time and Time Again." It was beautfully written. 

All in all, I went into this with low expectations and it somehow still disappointed me. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
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"The vines will think they are veins. They will try to eat the alabaster pillars."

What a wonderful collection! I loved the continuity, attention to form, and humor of O'Brien's poems. This is definitely a collection I will be rereading. I loved so many of the poems that it's hard to pick my favorites but, ‘time, and time again,’ ‘ that business we call utopia, part three," and, ‘drop some amens,’ are stand outs.
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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.
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I can't help but feel out of my depth reviewing Can You Sign My Tentacle?.  I know almost nothing about Lovecraftian horror and rap music which I've learned can be an obstacle when reading a poetry collection billed as "Cthulhu meets hip-hop". But it's a testament to Brandon O'Brien's skill as a poet that even with my blind spots I found this collection to be an enjoyable read.

The most arresting aspect of O'Brien's work is his visceral use of language. His poems are rich with imagery and often have a guttural, rhythmic fluidity that was amazing to read. This tone works perfectly with the subject matter of a lot of his poetry. This collection frequently touches on identity, racism, imperialism and sexism and the imagery evoked to discuss those themes was stunning. O'Brien was at his best when discussing his connection to the earth and his culture and the ways systems of power have attempted to rip him from it.

If I were to pick a handful of favourites from this collection I would say "Time, and Time Again" a tragic poem exploring the grief of losing a lover was a standout. The poem was the perfect blend of tragedy and hope and the cosmic framework of the narrative only added to the beautiful storytelling. ​I can see myself revisiting that one frequently.

​I also surprisingly adored the poem “The Lagahoo Speaks For Itself". This poem evokes Trinidadian mythos rather than the Lovecraftian and goes to show that being unfamiliar with certain elements of myology didn’t necessarily take away from my reading experience. The bitting imagery and gripping descriptions of this poem hooked me in and I loved it.

In the end, Can You Sign My Tentacle? is a difficult collection to recommend. There were moments I felt lost while reading it because of my lack of familiarity with its subject matter. If you know more about Lovecraft and hip-hop than me you'll probably get more out of it. But my lack of familiarity with the subject matter didn’t hinder my enjoyment all that much and that could be the same for others. Brandon O’Brien is a skilled poet whose work I’m definitely willing to seek out after reading this collection.
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A total role reversal of Lovecraftian dread, expressed through the pain, outrage, and perseverence of Blackness. Here, the Old Ones are White institutions and atitudes: omnipresent, omnipotent, and always seeking to own and control. Here, the incomprehensible is the hypocrisy of white attitudes to black artists, glorifying the few while oppressing the many (and the few, too). 

And yet here, the insignificant is not maddened and destroyed. Instead, the insignificance breeds resilience and pride. 

These poems are often a stark reflection of modern events, but they are also a cheeky, unique way of diving into and opening up about the racist origins of Lovecraft's ideas.
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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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Very interesting collection of poems, a mix of hip-hop, pop culture and eldritch horrors that flips the genre upside down. 

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. Nightmares we see and nightmares we can't all blend together in disturbing and colourful scenario's..

There are also traditional style poems interspersed between the more diverse ones.
All in all, it is a thought-provoking read full of emotion and power.
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The delightfully sinister Can You Sign My Tentacle is a collection of horror poetry, inspired by the stories of H. P. Lovecraft. Poet Brandon O’Brien has an agile, fast-paced and witty writing style that lends itself particularly well to the combination of Victorian horror motifs with contemporary social mores. Poems like because who she is matters more than her words, Kanye West’s Internet Bodyguard Asks Hastur to Put Away The Phone and Cthylla Asks for J.Cole’s Autograph are standouts. Overall it’s a really interesting, intelligent collection that has the power to move the heart and fire up the brain.
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Enjoyed the collection. It was marketed as horror poetry, but it's not about terror or gore as much as feelings of unease and dread and the monstrous. The poems are free verse, and about 1/3 are relevant to the title. These poems involve various eldritch beings from the Lovecraft Universe interacting with popular male rappers. The rappers have various levels of supernatural abilities. I didn't know how to interpret most of the poems. One was about racist fantasy fans harassing N. K. Jemisin over her Hugo win/ the general mistreatment of authors of color, tar baby as allegory for imperialism, and another was about cultural appropriation with a body snatcher allegory. I didn't know what to make of the rest of them. I enjoyed the ones about canine monsters. There were a couple more poems about Lovecraft universe (minus the rappers) and a discontinuous poetry series about utopia. Good for poetry fans who really want to mull over what they're reading.
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Some of the best speculative poetry often reexamines traditional aspects of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror through a modern lens. Linda D. Addison’s How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend? has monsters, tech, and magic in an urban fantasy setting, while Tracy K. Smith’s Life On Mars examines David Bowie and outer space through a personal and wide examination of grief and Blackness. Now, Brandon O’ Brien’s debut poetry chapbook Can You Sign My Tentacle?, follows suit by reimagining the Lovecraftian monsters through the lens of the Black experience, specifically Black pop culture.

One facet of Black pop culture that is predominantly featured is hip-hop music. Given that hip-hop culture has both been praised and shamed as an eclectic and vulgar beast, the Cthulhu mythos works together with this like coffee and cream. Out of all the hip-hop Cthulhu poems, a particularly noteworthy one is titled “Kanye West’s Internet Bodyguard Ask Hastur To Put Away The Phone”, which examines how social media can bring out the worst of celebrities in the form of literal monsters. Notable lines from the poem are: “When I see it, I remember nearly passing out with my own desire to disappear/I remember the sidewalk of my own timeline rising up to meet my nose.”

Speaking of social media, another poem that tackles how social media turns some people into monsters is “Because Who She Is Matters More Than Her Words” which features a Black woman on Twitter mounting a defense against “wolves” aiming to rip her to shreds. The poem turns her Twitter profile and her followers into a suburb with fences and barbed wire, especially with the lines, “Her neighbor puts up/ a warning: the residents here ain’t the ones./the next HOA meeting makes a fence of bodies/gathers its own nets/ immunizes its own from fatal ideas.”

Not only does the chapbook discuss how Black people are often seen as monsters, but it also portrays racism and misogynoir as the monsters they are as well. Two poems that evoke this especially well are the poems “The Repossession of Skin” and “The Lagahoo Speaks For Itself”. The former poem is a no-nonsense poem that snaps at the reader, starting with the very first lines, “You’re glad to have a uniform right?/Cool/Find another one/Some of us live in this one.” The latter evokes the poet’s Afro-Caribbean roots with the initial lines, “You think I is the monster?/nah- I is just a funeral procession/with canine teeth.”

Despite all the teeth and tentacles, there are moments of humanity as well, especially love, rebirth, and resilience. One poem titled “The One” literally counts all the times that the subject has found “the one” throughout time and space through beautiful lines such as, “She is briefly/the only thing that makes sense/One whole thing or/a collection of points in space.” Another poem, “Birth, Place” evokes a reclamation of land and personal roots stolen by colonization, especially through lines such as, “Your legacy’s already drowned me/you dragged me along water not/fit for baptism and my brothers/ swam anyway”.

Even if you aren’t familiar with anything related to Cthulhu, Black and other marginalized readers of color will find at least one poem that resonates with them. Every Black person has a few moments in their life when they have been Othered by forces within and without. Since these poems magnify that too literal monstrous proportions, they will make the reader examine themselves in all their glory and flaws.
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Fist off, I want to say that the cover is stunning! Sadly, the praise ends there. I did not find this book to be engaging. It gave mixed messages regarding the word choice, the overall feeling it was trying to evoke, and the type of poetry it wanted to be recognized at. The end result was very underwhelming, forgettable read. A couple of weeks after reading it, I'm finding it hard to evoke even one image from this collection.
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"Sound darks, sounds cool. Sign me up!" This poetry is having that vibes but as much as I want to dwell in the writing style, it didn't hit me that much. But everything in this poetry is so enigmatic and I truly appreciate this one because of it's straightforwardness. I love this kind of poetry but this one is not for me, love the title though! 


(Thanks to Interstellar Flight Press for my digital copy!)
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This is a collection of poetry by Brandon O’Brien. The collection covers several different topics, including multiple pieces where a Lovecraft monster requests an autograph from a popular hip hop artist. There are 29 pieces in total. There are a few recurring themes, such as discrimination, conflict, regret and admiration.

Overall, I liked these creative pieces; although I realize that poetry is very personal and subjective, so I don't expect that everyone will necessarily enjoy this collection as much as I did. It probably helps if you are familiar with both the hip hop artists and the Lovecraft characters. (Kendrick Lamar, Cthulhu, etc)
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