Special Powers and Abilities takes its inspiration from a long (and still!) running comic series about super-powered teenagers in a distant future. Through the intricate use of assorted poetic structures or devices, McDaniels investigates everything from teenage love triangles and last stands to mythological parallels and the limits of poetry and comics.
The character Brainiac 5 stands in as both a model of “adolescent geek romanticism” and the figure of the poet; 30th century utopia becomes a counterpoint to our own time, and all the while music runs through the poems with as much spunk as the young heroes themselves.
Ben Pease Special Powers and Abilities has been a constant companion these past few weeks, and it has come at a serendipitous time when I find myself almost exclusively reading poetry and comics. Crisis of Infinite Words! Alright, so my first set of questions has to do with structural elements of the book—in terms of both form and content. When beginning the book, I found the arrangement of poems both magnanimous and exciting: each super-hero gets an introduction (more on these later), and the poems that follow directly involve the characters we just learned about. As the book progresses, a widening variety of types of poems enters the fray: the “What to Expect” poems, the Superhero X Loves/Does Not Love Superhero Y poems, poems that take their titles directly from issues like “Computo the Conqueror!” or “The Doomed Legionnaire!” and so on. What was the impetus behind these many types of poems?
Raymond McDaniel I’m glad the book is good company! I don’t know if anything I’ve ever done has been characterized as magnanimous before but you can bet I’ll be using that in the future. “I found this poem difficult . . . ” “Are you sure? It’s actually magnanimous!”
I think the number of types of poems increases to distribute the burden of the Legion’s unwieldy narrative. In terms of plot and tone, following the chronology ends up both arithmetic and asymptotic. So the types manage that complexity. Rather than throw readers in the deep end immediately, I try to help them acclimate by signaling, via repetition, what kind of thing they are getting. As the book progresses, readers can then accommodate more and more types. I hope.
Of course, the repetition of types also reflects the redundancy of serial comics. Someone will always be falling in love with someone else; members will die; new members will join; the Time Trapper will show up in his purple hooded monk’s robe and cause serious epistemic trouble.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read one poem by Ben Pease, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
from Chateau Wichman
Darkness embraced The Wichman a black nylon flesh covered his own the symbiote suit however maliciously it fed off Spiderman’s adrenaline when he slept at least provided the webslinger breathability and a fashionable wardrobe not so for the Wichman his sauna suit kept him in the dark a claustrophobic but all too familiar lack of light maintained itself for some time just as impatient as The Wichman the darkness began expanding as one imagines pasta unfolding from a pasta machine luckily for The Wichman’s sanity the darkness didn’t go on for eternity or make The Wichman feel like a ribosome in the first cellular organism to make its own food