Bryan Dietrich’s long-form poem referencing Star Trek's "Prime Directive" is an aboslute necessity for the book shelf of every geek.
“Who misses ten? Two / tandem five-year missions in / and still no command?” Prime Directive begins, and then moves through twenty chained segments of poetry, which tell the story of the childhood, and adult growth of Dietrich, of a geeky poet, a sci-fi fan and peripheral trekie.
Of course, the poem is not really about Star Trek. It’s about father and sons, heroes and hero worship. More specifically it’s Dietrich’s own very relatable recollections of childhood and adolescence, and how they affect his adult life, all told through the lens of Star Trek.
Kirk becomes a grand figure in Dietrich’s tale, taking on the role of the archetypal hero, the universal role-model that he takes on the show. By force, he becomes the symbol of manhood, of masculinity that all boys, even the geeks and poets dare aspire to.
As a geek and a sci-fi fan myself, and as another man who spent his childhood watching Star Trek with his father, I found the entire work relatable - as I write this, I’m pulling up the original series on Netflix, so that I can watch it again, and consider its themes anew.
That’s not to say that you will only enjoy the piece if you are cut from this many-colored cloth as well. The lessons about childhood and discovery and the relation to fiction and adventure stories are equally relatable for someone who grew up instead with Battlestar Galactica or Star Wars or John Wayne or even just the classics of mythology and religion - many figures of which are even mentioned herein alongside Kirk, Spock, and Bones, their peers in the story of our culture.
As for the lines themselves, the words flow lyrically and expertly. This isn’t gimmick poetry, as we sometimes see on the shelf, with geek words plugged into poetic forms like a formula designed to appeal to an audience which is susceptible to buy up anything that look like it may fall into their niche. This is skilled and obviously carefully crafted verse. The work manages to be universal in its themes, while at times becoming deeply, beautifully, almost embarrassingly personal.
The book does not stoop to using geekdom as a tool to force you to like it. It instead carries a genuine song of Dietrich’s past and passions, and allows the reader to decide for themselves where to take them. This draws the work away from the pretentious self-consciousness of much of ‘geek’ poetry, and pulls it more squarely into the realm of the human condition; a study of who we are and why.
Prime Directive is a good read for anyone, but is an essential piece of verse for anyone who grew up with heroes of adventure in their hearts or who wants to understand those who did.
Prime Directive is out now from Needfire Poetry.