Hybrid Landscapes in ‘The Adrift of Samus Aran’

Samus Aran, the female protagonist of Nintendo’s Metroid series, has known and encountered countless deaths on the alien planet Zebes. In Owen Vince’s chapbook, The Adrift of Samus Aran, planet and body meet in the formlessness of death, and something entirely new emerges.

ZEBES has entered

our bodies

as Dirt                    Enters

our bodies


i want to be nothing more

than Dirt, entering

a body

[ as ] myriad ways beneath

the planet’s

arm ;

In a series of fifteen sparse poems that flit across the page like half-remembered meditations, Vince’s speaker visits the psychic remnants of their life, the intersections and edges of their experience within a landscape that has turned them into “a / Body rounded / to Zero.” The speaker comes to understand their body as a sort of aftershock of trauma, that “i am carrying what / remains / of sense, deft logic” and questioning: “What of skin that fills an entire sub-subterranean / cavern   What of that?”

The problem of the mutated and cumulative body seems a critical thread in this short collection, as Vince’s speaker grapples as a scientist would with the realities and mysteries of their physical and spiritual existence. The Metroid games (pre-Prime series) take place in a 2D space, with the world laid out in four directions (up, down, left, right). Samus Aran, however, is able to move diagonally through the world as well, thus expanding her navigational possibilities to eight directions. Vince seems to take this game mechanic and explore its affective implications—this human aberration on an alien planet. In one poem, the speaker steps into an observational role to wonder at “the manner in which you under / penetrate the coherence of this – corpus, pale golden / hair under your arm.” As a glitch in the logic of Zebes, the speaker is able to conclude:

on Zebes i would die

in Eight directions – on

Zebes i would ascertain

that death is a program


to complete the program

it describes ;

Perhaps the glitch is the human body itself and its desires. Though the body suffuses the text, it is mostly in strange amalgamations of terrain (“the smashed / oesophagus / of the Glacier”). Perhaps the most purely human anatomy within the text is the speaker’s hands, which can be traced in stages of being clasped, unclasped, “unbound, and so careless they just hang there.” If the hands can function as a stand-in for the body, then it is not until the speaker has psychically removed themselves (“the undersides of the hands / are far below me”) that they are able to become “lost in the highways / of the Landscape” and reach a point “where you will say, ‘I am done.’”

In The Adrift of Samus Aran, Vince’s speaker slowly dissolves into the landscape where they have met with death and the multiplicities of self. By the end of the chapbook, the “I” has nearly disappeared and this reader is left with an image:


the woman will climb

into the window

until her body is no longer

framed by it ;

Here is an artist who disassembles the framework of the video game and organically mixes virtual landscape, character, and body to explore death as a means of dispersal and contamination in line with a necropastoral poetics. Owen Vince’s collection can easily be read in one sitting, yet I found myself coming back to it again and again, wanting to float with its speaker through their strange world and sift through the ruined intersections between poetry and video game.