Cover Image: Can You Sign My Tentacle?

Can You Sign My Tentacle?

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Member Reviews

As a lover of speculative poetry, I was very excited about this collection.

The Good:
This collection does a fantastic job of handling tone throughout the reader’s journey. A perfect blend of horror and humor lies at the core fo the appeal of this collection. The project is fascinating and I think would be better served by the sprawl of a full-length collection.

The Bad: 
It gets very repetitive. Some of the poems, which were evidently meant to be a series, do not have enough difference to be considered distinct works. They seem more like different iterations of the same symphony. In a collection this short, I would not want to see series at all because there isn’t’t enough space to fully flesh out the potential and that is what’s happening here. It’s cramped with series of poems with little development of the overall arch.

The Conclusion:
It was a fantastic concept and idea which wasn’t given the time to fully cook and develop before publication.
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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.
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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.
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You should never judge a book by its cover, but this one is definitely eye-catching.  And well worth the read, too.  A perfect meld of sci-fi and poetry, this collection is something I haven't come across before.  My favorite was "Birth, Place".
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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.
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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
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Absolutely loved this collection of poetry! It was very different and refreshing from what I've read before. I was transported and highly immersed in this one. Kudos to the author and thank you to Netgalley for my very first ARC :)
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As can often be the case in both horror and poetry, not everyone will understand the messages or how the author(s) decide to place the words together. When combining these genres, O'Brien doesn't fulfill on both, and as such the poems can come across as too convoluted. That is not to say this collection isn't enjoyable; it was more of an experience and an exercise in accepting rather than understanding. The cover art is arguably my favorite part of this book.
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Most of these poems I would love to hear read aloud or performed at a poetry reading, but in my opinion the impact doesn’t hit when reading silently. I was really excited for the concept, but it ended up not really being my thing.
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Again, while I do enjoy poetry, these simply did not click with me in style, although I did enjoy the flow of them. However, the artistry and care that went into each poem is clear.
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I found so much to admire here - the gorgeous cover, the quirky title, the mix of Black culture and sci-fi/horror tropes. It’s great to read something different in the genre, and horror poetry is something I’m enjoying exploring. I didn’t connect with most of the poems, but I still admired them.
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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 better poetry collections. i think this is a children's book so 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
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I'm not normally a fan of poetry but this collection was really good! I love a lot of Lovecraft's stories and it was super cool reading this knowing the inspiration. The author's note is also really impactful and goes deeper into why the author wrote this collection. I would definitely check out anything he writes in the future!
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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.
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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.

This book is an eclectic assemblage and collection of poems designed to twist the very fabric of reality. Nightmares we see and nightmares we can't all blend together in disturbing and colourful scenario's.
There was a lot to like about some of the poems in the book. But as much as I tried, I failed to see the Lovecraftian-inspired nightmares in reverse. Perhaps not being a poet myself, I missed the subtle nuances.
Some of the poems were indeed comical and cosmic. And some needed reading several times to get the full gist of the idea.
There are your usual 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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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 so some of his poetry just fell flat.
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"Can You Sign My Tentacle?" felt like a collection of essays written in verse. That was not what I thought I would get, but I was pleased with the message that was portrayed. It felt very impactful, as all media about racism written by those who suffer from it; however, poetry, being such an emotive genre, full of passion and truth, gives it an extra push, I was struck with Brandon O'Brien's words. I also think the idea is really interesting, mixing Lovecraft and blackness, but I didn't feel like it was perfectly accomplished, namely because the poetry was confusing at times and because I didn't understand the connections that were being made until I read the Author's Note in the end. My rating for the book is 3,5/5, since I really was let down by the lack of connection between Lovecraft and blackness, as I said, but it still hits like a punch and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the #OwnVoices movement.
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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.
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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?
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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.
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