Tagged: Theme

Before about 1965 – although much earlier Lilith Lorraine had published Wine of Wonder (coll 1951 chap), which she advertised as being the first volume of poetry devoted to sf – only isolated examples of sf poetry appeared in magazines like Unknown and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Yet now poetry appears regularly in SF Magazines, anthologies and author collections. This change can be attributed to two separate periods of activity. The first centred on New Worlds (New Worlds) and the New-Wave writers in the UK during the late 1960s. One classic poem published during this period is "The Head-Rape" (March 1968 New Worlds) by D M Thomas. In 1969 Edward Lucie-Smith anthologized this and other excellent poems like Edwin Morgan's "In Sobieski's Shield" and Thomas M Disch's "A Vacation on Earth" in Holding Your Eight Hands (anth 1969), the first anthology of sf poetry. Holding Your Eight Hands was followed closely by two other all-poetry anthologies, Frontier of Going (anth 1969) edited by John Fairfax and Inside Outer Space (anth 1970) edited by Robert Vas Dias. These were not sf per se but celebrations of Space Flight and the Universe inspired by the Soviet/US space race and the unique lexicon of terms, and dreams, it engendered. Also notable were the infusion of a quantity of poetry into the text of Brian W Aldiss's novel Barefoot in the Head (1969) and the book-length poem Aniara (1956 Sweden; trans 1963) by the Swedish poet and later Nobel Prize laureate Harry Martinson.

A decade after Holding Your Eight Hands, intense poetic activity in the USA centred on the founding in 1978 of the Rhysling Awards for best sf poetry and their parent association, the Science Fiction Poetry Association, which was founded by Suzette Haden Elgin. From the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, poets emerged who wrote a large body of their work within the genre, including in the USA Andrew Joron, Peter Dillingham, Kathy Rantala, Bruce Boston, Sonya Dorman, Gene Van Troyer, Duane Ackerson, Terry A Garey and Robert Frazier, as well as the UK's Steve Sneyd and Andrew Darlington. Established sf writers published a good deal of poetry – Michael Bishop, James Blish, Ray Bradbury, Joe Haldeman, Ursula K Le Guin, James Tiptree Jr (posthumously), Gene Wolfe, Jane Yolen and others – and poets from the mainstream crossed over: Dick Allen, Marge Piercy, William Stafford, Tom Whalen and Marilyn Hacker. During this time, many magazines started to feature the growing genre on a regular basis. Night Cry used horror poetry, while the science magazine Science prominently featured one factual poem per issue. Amazing Stories and Asimov's Science Fiction have often used two or more poems an issue. Asimov's featured excellent sf poetry, like the Rhysling Award winners "The Migration of Darkness" (August 1979 Asimov's) by Peter Payack and "For Spacers Snarled in the Hair of Comets" (April 1984 Asimov's) by Bruce Boston; while literary magazines like Speculative Poetry Review, Velocities, Uranus, Ice River, Umbral, Star*Line, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry and the UK's Star Wine devoted themselves to fantastic poetry of all kinds.

Fantastic poetry generally falls into four types: sf, as in Susan Palwick's "The Neighbor's Wife" (July 1985 Amazing) (Rhysling winner), wherein a widowed man nurses a very Alien woman to health and accepts her for a wife; science fact, as in Diane Ackerman's "Saturn" from her book The Planets: A Cosmic Pastoral (1976), a long work often quoted by Carl Sagan in his science books; macabre, as in Lucius Shepard's "White Trains" (Spring 1987 Night Cry) (Rhysling winner), about mirage-like trains that pass certain towns on the outskirts of their private mythologies; and speculative poetry, a catchall term for poems on the periphery of the fantastic, as in Joe Haldeman's almost otherworldly vision of Vietnam in "DX" (in In the Field of Fire, anth 1987, ed Jeanne Van Buren Dann & Jack M Dann) or the surreal poetry of Ivan Arguelles.

Other classic works include: "The Sonic Flowerfall of Primes" (September 1979 New Worlds) (Rhysling winner) and "Antenna" (in Synergy 4, anth 1989, ed George Zebrowski) by Andrew Joron, with their hard-science surrealism; "The Nightmare Collector" (Spring 1987 Night Cry) (Rhysling winner) by Bruce Boston; "The Well of Baln" (in Hard Words & Other Poems, coll 1981) by Ursula K Le Guin; "Corruption of Metals" (in 2076: The American Tricentennial, anth 1977, ed Edward Bryant) (Rhysling winner) by Sonya Dorman; "Two Sonnets" (1983 Science) by Helen Ehrlich; "Your Time and You" (1982 Velocities) (Rhysling winner) by Adam Cornford; "The Still Point" (April 1984 Asimov's) by David Lunde; "Ybba" (1983 Star*Line) by Elissa Malcohn; "Lady Faustus" (1982 Umbral) by Diane Ackerman; and the World Fantasy Award-winning "Winter Solstice, Camelot Station" by John M Ford (in Invitation to Camelot, anth 1988, ed Parke Godwin). Many of these works are anthologized in The Umbral Anthology (anth 1982) edited by Steve Rasnic Tem, Burning with a Vision (anth 1984) edited by Robert Frazier and Songs of Unsung Worlds (anth 1985) edited by Bonnie Gordon. Also of great importance are two book-length narratives by Frederick Turner: The New World: An Epic Poem (1985) and Genesis: An Epic Poem (1988).

Several anthologies of mostly original poetry made impressions around the cusp of the 1990s: the award-winning Poly: New Speculative Writing (anth 1989) edited by Lee Ballentine (1954-    ), Narcopolis & Other Poems (anth 1989 chap) edited by Peggy Nadramia and Time Frames (anth 1991) edited by Terry A Garey. The poet Scott Green has compiled an invaluable guide, Contemporary Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Poetry: A Resource Guide and Biographical Dictionary (1989).

Star*Line (1978-current) – the official publication of the Science Fiction Poetry Association – The Magazine of Speculative Poetry (1984-current) and Dreams & Nightmares (1986-current) continue as strong poetry magazines. Ocean View Press, publisher of Poly, produces poetry collections by many of the authors mentioned here. And a large wave of fresh poets emerged in the 1990s – people like Denise Dumars, Michael R Collings, W Gregory Stewart, David Kopaska-Merkel, t (not T) Winter-Damon, Ann K Schwader, Roger Dutcher, Wendy Rathbone, Tom Wiloch, Terry McGarry, Sandra Lindow, Tony Daniel and Wayne Allen Sallee. [RF]

see also: Lord Byron; Josephine Young Case; Albert Goldbarth; Ace G Pilkington; Peter Porter; Ruins and Futurity; Martyn Skinner; Slingshot Ending; James Thomson; Frederick Winsor.

further reading


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