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SF Poetry Workshop: ReaderCon 19 by Mike Allen
Review by Mike Allen
Readercon19 Event  ISBN/ITEM#: SFPWSR19
Date: 28 July 2008

Links: Science Fiction Poetry Website / Show Official Info /

Mike Allen, former Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) President, took time out from MCing the The Rhysling Award Poetry Slan to hold a Speculative Poetry Workshop that drew a number of folks hoping to find their inner poet, including myself (Ern) and about fifteen other folks. The workshop ended with excerpts in SciFiku that generated enough good pieces that I asked the authors to send them along for publication with a few words from Mike on the form and workshop.

Here are some short poems written at my poetry workshop held Friday, July 18 at ReaderCon in Burlington, Mass, which I hope you'll enjoy. To be a good sport, I'll begin with a ditty I scribbled out as we were doing the exercise.

Visitor by Mike Allen
    The alien world
    is the alien itself:
    new moon hunts our sky
Reborn by M.M.Buckner
    Whose tangled tube is
    knotted to my belly hole?
    Some diety? Cut it.
Schrodinger Parasol Inc. by Marian Moore
    This umbrella frame
    defends against nearly all
    rain wielding kittens.
Why I read SF/F by Maren C. Tirabassi
    Not starships but stars,
    not a quest for dragon's lair,
    but the inner elf.
untitled by Elissa Malcohn
    water into wine --
    alien microbe works a miracle --
    rosé rain dances
Derelict by Ernest Lilley
    Ice rimes on stilled skin.
    Stars blocked out reappear
    Silence between stars.

At the great Exhibition Faire of SF and fantasy, poetry exists on its own small stage in a tent alongside the Big Events that constitute fiction. Though it's a stage that doesn't attract huge audiences or big name reviewers, it's still quite lively, with its own triumphs and controversies.

As with all poetry in this day and age, science fiction poetry or speculative poetry or whichever you want to call it gets perpetuated because of the authors and editors who love it as a form of writing, who enjoy both science fiction and poetry and aren't afraid to let them mix. The still-growing Science Fiction Poetry Association now boasts more than 250 members. Hundreds of poems appear every year in print and online venues, from Asimov's Science Fiction to Strange Horizons to Weird Tales to Goblin Fruit.

As with speculative fiction, with its this-punk and that-punk, SF poetry even has its own unique camps and subdivisions -- recently, one of the most intensely active schools has centered around a quaint little creature called a "scifaiku" --- which is, as you can probably guess, a haiku written about an SF or fantasy-related subject. Poets such as Deborah P Kolodji, Ann K. Schwader, Teri Santitoro, Geoffrey A. Landis and others have made serious studies as to how haiku can be used in this way, and could tell you better than I about things like the use of kigo words to signify seasons, or how the standard 5-7-5 syllable pattern you learn in school doesn't really translate the spirit of Japanese haiku into English, or how the unsaid things evoked by haiku matter at least as much as the things said. If these things pique your interest, you can explore further by starting here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scifaiku

My own connection to Scifaiku is less philosophical and more pragmatic. When I conduct one of my quick-and-dirty poetry workshops at a convention, I pledge to make all the workshopees produce poems, and a haiku-sized poem tends to be about the longest thing a participant can reasonably be expected to produce from scratch in under an hour. I aim my workshops at introducing the folks who attend to the concept of speculative poetry, rather than more rigorously refined writing exercises, because of time constraints; but I often enjoy how the workshop attendees will startle and entertain me (and each other) with their spur-of-the-moment creativity and off-the-cuff cleverness.

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