By: Irma Valeria
September 29, 2023

A (pro- or anti-) science-, mathematics-, technology-, space-, apocalypse-, dehumanization-, disenchantment-, and/or future-oriented poem published during sf’s emergent Radium Age (c. 1900–1935). Research and selection by Joshua Glenn.

The Disquieting Muses (Le Muse inquietanti, 1916, 1917 or 1918) is a painting by Giorgio de Chirico


Let’s dismantle this absurd problematic convention, woven from the slime of millions of wise snails — let’s sound its sardonic depths, titillating our hearts with the finest peacock feather, and let’s throw our sidereal souls, which bounce from star to star with childish cries of joy, at its feet, like a great bundle of bloodless perfumed flowers.
    And the clouds, materialized expectation in the darkened sky, will disperse like the draperies of an imaginary stage set, making way for the life of infinite horizons that will finally smother us with all the softnesses that lie in wait.

—  Irma Valeria, “Ridicolizziamo l’Universo,” in Morbidezze in agguato (Softnesses Lie in Wait) (1917). The cosmic imagery in this prose poem, typical of Valeria’s work, becomes ever more predominant in Futurism after 1922-23.


RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF POETRY: Stephen Spender’s THE PYLONS | George Sterling’s THE TESTIMONY OF THE SUNS | Archibald MacLeish’s EINSTEIN | Thomas Thornely’s THE ATOM | C.S. Lewis’s DYMER | Stephen Vincent Benét’s METROPOLITAN NIGHTMARE | Robert Frost’s FIRE AND ICE | Aldous Huxley’s FIFTH PHILOSOPHER’S SONG | Sara Teasdale’s “THERE WILL COME SOFT RAINS” | Edith Södergran’s ON FOOT I HAD TO… | Robert Graves’s WELSH INCIDENT | Nancy Cunard’s ZEPPELINS | D.H. Lawrence’s WELLSIAN FUTURES | & many more.


Poetry, Radium Age SF