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.
About the Author
Brandon O’Brien is a writer, performance poet, teaching artist and game designer from Trinidad and Tobago. His work has been shortlisted for the 2014 Alice Yard Prize for Art Writing, the 2014 and 2015 Small Axe Literary Competitions, and the inaugural Ignyte Award for Best Speculative Poetry. His work is published in Uncanny Magazine, Strange Horizons, Reckoning, and New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean, among others. He is the former Poetry editor of FIYAH: A Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction.
Average rating from 90 members
The illustration is what caught my eye at first. I know you should not judge a book by its cover but the illustration was eye-catching. Can You Sign My Tentacle? Is really in a genre all its own. It is told through poetic verses inspired by musicians and Horror fiction creations. I definitely want to see if there will be an audiobook accompanying this one on its release.
I’m not sure exactly what I just read, but I am absolutely here for it! Equal parts HP Lovecraft, Childish Gambino, and Emily Dickinson makes for a weird and wild read. Honestly the poems sound like the thoughtful rambling of someone stoned out of their mind, you know where you’re not sure if it’s profound or just seems profound for a moment. The cover artwork is killer and I wish there was more throughout, but alas there is not. Overall 3.5 stars. If you like horror and hip hop, this is definitely worth a read.
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.
A pleasant mix of Lovecraftian horror and hip-hop. I found the poetry very intriguing. I especially loved "the one". I found the author's note at the end of this book to be a good read. I would definitely recommend not skipping over it! The cover art is great as well. The title, cover art, and description of the book really made me want to read it, and the book did not disappoint. If you're a fan of Lovecraftian horror, hip-hop, and poetry I would give this book a read! Thank you to NetGalley and Interstellar Flight Press for the ARC.
The way of Brandon subverts some cosmic horror concepts is a magnificent thing. Making supernatural creatures looking for a autograph of some black celebrities, tensioning the concept of utopia and describing the urban mechanisms even thinking about death makes this book a wonderful lecture.
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.
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.
Ok how can I express my feelings about Can You Sign My Tentacle? As standalone poems I actually really enjoyed quite a number of them. The themes explored within the poems are current, relevant and relatable. I can understand the author relating to the theme of horror - and actually the themes of racism, sexism etc are in themselves horror without the 'horror elements' as metaphor. I found that I couldn't read the book in order so in that sense it was different to other verse novels which have been popular with 'non poetry reading' audiences. I'm not sure if that was because I wasn't gripped by the novel as a complete story, or if I was seeking out verses that I could ponder over a little more deeply. I would definitely like to read more from the author - probably without horror metaphor though.
4 stars. This is a strange one for me, I've tried poetry books in the past and I haven't been able to truly relate or feel very much from them. But this, it hit differently. It was beautifully written and definitely gave me creepy and unsettling vibes, like I was watching something in a fever dream-like fashion. It covers topics of racism among other things. One of my favourites was "time, and time again" I actually teared up. I also really enjoyed the autograph poems. The cover is also very beautiful! Reading the author's notes gave me so much insight too. Thank you, NetGalley for early access to this beautiful collection!
A unique alignment of verse and imagination that represents new worlds that are reflective of our times. As a poetry and science fiction fan, I was intrigued by this title.
4/5 stars Thanks to Netgalley for providing this e-arc! It was a fun quick, yet slow, read! Not too attached but I wouldn't mind reading more poems that are similar
Like the name suggests this is not your normal book of poems. I think that they were good. I don’t normally read or understand poetry but, I felt that these poems were good. I feel like I would read more from this author.
This was a good and fast read. I enjoyed it all and would buy the hardcopy when it comes out. The cover art drew me in and I must say I was not disappointed. I love the writing style as well.
NetGalley ARC Educator 550974 Titillating poetry, confounds the mind and engages the senses. True LoveCraft style. Might confuse you, will lure you in and you'll want more.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
I really enjoyed this poetry. While at times I didn't quite understand what was going on - thats ok. This book wasn't made for me as white reader, but I was able to empathize and understand the author and his heart pouring out onto the pages. I will say, the first section, with Donald Glover, was the section that clicked for me. I loved the intertwining of all things Childish Gambino, Donald Glover, and the character's he's played on screen. Really great book of horror poems, eye opening and relevant pop culture and social impacts mentioned. It was tough to read at times, and other moments left me nodding along.
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.
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".
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/58178182-can-you-sign-my-tentacle
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.
"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.
Can You Sign My Tentacle? by Brandon O'Brien is very cool in a unique way. The concept works for me as I entered blindsided; however, it can work both ways. Some may not enjoy it. It was a jarring experience at first. But, it's a very cool mix of some really cool things!
This mixture of horror, hip-hop, and poetry is super intriguing. Originally the cover is what caught my eye. The colors are extremely eyecatching and the art pulls you into wanting to read and learn more about what is going on. Though some of the pop culture references go over my head which make some of the poems hard for me to really get, there is enough material here to understand the points that O'Brien is making. There is beauty in differences and O'Brien's work demands you look at blackness and see its beauty and uniqueness. Not 100 percent sure what is going on in some of these poems, but the ones that I do I am here for. This might just be one of those poetry books that I go through 2 or more times to truly anylize and understand the works. I would recommend for any fans of horror, hip-hop, and/or poetry. Definitely one of those instances where judging a book by its cover has paid off.
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 :)
A good choice for a new variety of poetry, also good for people seeking poets beyond the typical white feminist popular titles
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]
I've been getting into poetry a bit more, and I really enjoy O'Brien's flow. This is one heck of a collection. O'Brien does an absolutely phenomenal job of blending hip hop culture with Lovecraftian horrors, and not just the tentacled-make believe ones. He hits on racism, sexism, violence, institutions and how they perpetuate such things. I may be an outsider in terms of the perspective given in this collection, but I recognize the greatness underneath. Yeah, some of them didn't hit with me. That's fine. It's a poetry collection, so there's going to be stuff that really hits me and stuff that's less so, but this had a lot more hits than not, and a good portion of those were big hits. Ultimately, if you're in the market for some hard-hitting poetry set in a Lovecraftian-monster x hip-hop mashup, this is a great (and very specific) choice. If you need an overarching narrative in your poetry collections? Keep looking, although the theme is heavily prevalent throughout. As for any favorites of mine, there are a number of poems in the collection where the title is all lower-case. Every single one of these hit hard for me.
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