Alyson Miller is a prize-winning prose poet and academic who teaches writing and literature at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. Her critical and creative work, which focuses on a literature of extremities, has appeared in both national and international publications, and includes three books of prose poetry, Dream Animals, Pika-Don and Strange Creatures as well as a critical monograph, Haunted by Words: Scandalous Texts, and an edited collection, The Unfinished Atomic Bomb: Shadows and Reflections.

Writing the Otherworld Revolution

The transgressive imaginings of speculative poetics

Following the conventions of speculative fiction, the poetry of Nin Andrews, Franny Choi, and Susan Slaverio imagines alternative realities which provoke challenging intersections of cyborg technologies, gender, sexuality, and identity. In doing so, their works destabilise the boundaries of language, ‘otherness’, and power, highlighting the inherently subversive nature of poetry by playing upon its marginality, its transformative possibilities, and its insistence upon difference. In its explication of poems by Andrews, Choi, and Slaverio via Darko Suvin’s theory of cognitive estrangement and Donna Haraway’s posthuman vision of the cyborg, this paper argues that speculative poetry works within a tension of the familiar and the strange to challenge the gendered and racial myths of hetero-patriarchy. By proposing alternate, abject, and often monstrous realities inhabited by winged boys and cyborg cephalopods, these speculative poets parodically scramble conventional binary systems and social codes. In doing so, their works ‘rejoice in the illegitimate’ (Haraway 1991: 176), embrace plurality and difference, and disrupt regulatory cultural narratives.

Keywords: speculative poetry; cognitive estrangement; cyborgs; gender; language