If we change the face of Mars, what are the odds Mars will shape(shift) us right back?
In “Terrunform” by Tori Truslow, a team of women-identified architects, mechanics and Mars-mappers arrives on the Red Planet, trained to temper the place to their specifications. When they land, they seem clear about the scope of their ambitions: “It wasn’t new Earth we wanted, but to be / double-mooned, double-dreamed, multiformed in / mix-matched parts; to put our bodies on / each day, in shapes to fit our hearts”. Surely Mars demands a difference in living: the reasoning of these women seems plain, and preferable, to inhabiting only one form. The more you excavate and mine, the more you find that you, yourself, must survey – and fill – your new hollows.
Give me any good poem about female, womyn and nonbinary ambition, and watch me run with it to a carmine star of my own choosing, to pet and ponder its meanings. So it is with “Terrunform”, a poem that percusses its diction carefully, solidly — see the uses of ‘red’, how solid and sure each one spreads over your visual canvas — to maximum effect. I mean ‘maximum’ deliberately: Truslow has made here a Mars in which multiplicity, and devation from the prototype, is lauded, cherished, reached for and replicated. The expeditionary architecture on display, and referred to deftly in concealment, is what will keep me awake, thinking, when I turn the lights off. Look, I love anything in a poem that cuts the thick armour of human hubris off me, denuding me to some humility of awe and transformation I haven’t previously imagined. This poem has that in its spine.
The best question to ask when you land on Mars, isn’t what have you done to the planet? It’s, what has this red earth made of you?
This is the fifteenth installment of Other Kinds of Men, a speculative poetry reader in honour of Ursula K. Le Guin. Speculative writing, which encompasses the major genres of mythology, fantasy and science fiction, has often given voice to the most relentless and ungovernable urgencies of this age, and any other. Le Guin understood this: that to write about dragons, ice worlds and other seeming oddities was, in fact, to write into the messy, riotous complexity of ourselves. Here’s to dragons, and here’s to Ursula.