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A Woman of Mars by Helen Patrice

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A Woman of Mars is a slim volume of 34 poems told in chronological order about the first colony on Mars. The covers are Mars red augmented with drawings by Bob Eggleton. Upon opening the front cover, is found a gem of a watercolour painting acting as ‘Red Mars’ end papers. Inside the back cover is another, different painting depicting ‘Green Mars’ after the beginning of terra-forming.
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It is rare for single-author poetry collections to have such a strong theme throughout them, let alone a single narrative strand, when the poems were originally published individually; that each of Patrice’s poems can be seen as a section of the short story that the whole volume forms is one of the beauties of A Woman of Mars. Not only is there a narrative consistency but Patrice has also achieved a consistency of voice, an impressive achievement in poetry especially if combined with the growth across the course of the volume with the putative-poet; coming to terms with her own self, with Mars, and with the reality of life imposed by Mars, Patrice has really captured a fascinating journey in these poems for the protagonist-narrator-poet.

She is one of a small cast we get to know in any detail, but that compactness is incredibly impactful in the context of A Woman of Mars; it drives home the claustrophobia the narrator feels, and emphasises the smallness of the group. Patrice uses every poem to tell a different part of the story, some following directly from others, sometimes seeing a wait of a few poems for something to be picked up again; that interlacing works really effectively in picking up strands and continuing them across the collection, a beautiful touch.

It would be remiss to review Patrice’s work without also mentioning Eggleton’s. The first time I read A Woman of Mars I had eyes only for the text, but then I went back through and looked at the use of his artwork, especially the endpapers, and was rather blown away. They perfectly encapsulate the narrative, between one endpaper and the other, between the illustrations throughout the book; they perfectly augment the narrative of Mars that Patrice has given us in her poems.

A Woman of Mars is hardly alone in being a collection of SF poetry, but it is a beautiful collection; both physically and in its poetry. I commend it to you all.


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