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Amal El-Mohtar
Posted on Monday, December 12, 2005 - 06:43 pm:   

Dear Theodora Goss,

Having had the pleasure of reading some of the threads on this forum, I was rather delighted to see the one about the dearth of publications dedicated to fantasy poetry. Not delighted because of the dearth, of course, but because my friend Jessica Wick and I have decided to start our own online fantasy poetry 'zine in response to what we feel is the lack of paying venues for the kind of poetry we like.

I was recently introduced to your poetry, and I have to say, without exaggeration, that it awes me. The poems I've had the pleasure of reading so far are in the "Coffeehouse" section of the Endicott Studio (I love "The Bear's Daughter" in particular), and I look forward to reading The Rose in Twelve Petals. All to say, we'd love for you to submit to our 'zine, Goblin Fruit, which will be launching at the end of April 2006.

We're interested in all forms of poetry (having no prejudice against set rhyme or meter), but are looking particularly for poems engaging with some aspect of myth, folklore, fantasy, and the surreal. Without stating any hard and fast preferences, we're interested in poetry that we can call "of the fantastical," poetry that has fantastical elements -- and by "fantastical" we mean the out of the ordinary, we mean the imaginative, we mean tapping into stories people have imagined over the ages. We add the caveat that we define ourselves against science fiction poetry, because while it's obviously imaginative, we feel there are many more markets interested in catering specifically to it, while our own preference lies with more numinous rather than science-based myths -- it's the anti-industrialist Romantic in us speaking, but there it is.

We pay $5.00 a poem, and buy first North American serial rights as well as First Electronic Rights. Our deadline for submissions is March 1st, 2006. Should you be interested in submitting, please contact us at goblin.fruit@gmail.com .

And as an addendum: anyone else who may be reading this and is interested in submitting, please do! And don't hesitate to query should you have any questions. We'll be launching the website itself (prior to the first issue of the 'zine), with guidelines and preferred submission formats, in February 2006. As it is, poems submitted in the body of the e-mail will be fine.

Thank you very much,

Sincerely,

Amal El-Mohtar
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 10:58 pm:   

Dear Amal,

Thank you so much for the kind words! Jennifer emailed me about a million years ago, I think, and I've been horrible about answering. I've been trying and trying to get under a hundred messages in my inbox, but the messages keep on coming, like snow in Massachusetts, and some of them are urgent, so the ones that aren't just sit there. Arg. (Mostly the ones from my students are urgent. Now that I no longer have students for a whole month, I may actually be able to tackle the emails that have gone unanswered. It's just so tiring to have to start every email with "Dear X, I'm so sorry I haven't answered your email. I know I'm scum. Now, what were we talking about anyway?") Sorry, that was a digression. I'm just a little stressed at the moment about the amount of work I've neglected over the last few months.

But I'm so glad that you're working on a fantasy poetry site! Honestly, the only things I've written recently are comments on student papers, but if I write or remember anything that I think you may be interested in, I may be able to send it your way. And I'm glad you've posted the submission information here.

". . . it's the anti-industrialist Romantic in us speaking, but there it is."

Ha! That's the New Romanticism. The New Romanticism has to do with the way in which our culture seems to be turning back to the sorts of things that were important to the original Romantic movement. Like fantasy of various sorts. And other things I could name if I weren't so tired and my brain were actually functioning.

And by the by, I'd love to have a conversation at some point, if anyone's interested, about the term science fiction poetry. I don't know why it bothers me so much, except that it seems incredibly narrow. For me, science fiction poetry is specifically poetry that deals with the same themes science fiction deals with. It's not an inclusive term that includes fantasy poetry. And fantasy poetry seems to include some science fiction poetry but not all of it. So, for me, the two terms are quite different. I know I'm being persnickety, but all of my training tells me that terms are important.

And now I've really gone astray. But thanks, Amal, and please post any links to your website here once it's up! :-)

Best,
Dora
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Jason D. Wittman
Posted on Friday, December 16, 2005 - 08:09 am:   

"Science Fiction Poetry" almost sounds like a contradiction in terms, doesn't it? Of course, I did write those three nanotechnology haikus back in Clarion...

Jason
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Amal El-Mohtar
Posted on Thursday, December 22, 2005 - 05:19 am:   

"...but the messages keep on coming, like snow in Massachusetts"

I can relate to that on so many levels, but chiefly the one involving snow. I'm from Ottawa, Canada, and last Friday we got some forty centimetres dumped on us in the course of half a day. It made things very surreal for a while! 'Course right now I'm in Dubai, and the whole concept of snow is becoming vaguely unfamiliar. ; )

All to say, though, thanks for getting back to me so quickly, Dora! I'll be glad to post links to the site once it's up, and look forward to anything you can send.

As to science fiction poetry... I think it is quite different from fantasy poetry. I think the main difference for me, though, is a question of how invested the poetry is in representations of technology versus all the other things poetry can accomplish. I'd like to read poetry that changes my mind about this, but I feel that the moment a "speculative" poem slips into a "science fiction" poem is the moment where the technocological jargon sets in, in a way that makes it impossible to be enjoyed by someone who doesn't usually enjoy science fiction literature. And really, consider the term itself: "science fiction poetry." Why the appeal to fiction, there? If we took that out, could we legitimately call it "science poetry"? Would "fantastical science poetry" work as well? Anyway, all to say, it seems like the focus on technology/futurism/invention/space seems most important in alot of the science fiction poetry I've read.
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Friday, December 30, 2005 - 10:43 pm:   

I dunno about the "contradiction in terms" point. I think poetry can do a lot of things, and one of them is include the same sorts of themes and images that appear in science fiction. Oh, I see--a contradiction between poetry and the term "fiction." Yeah, that is a little strange. But Mike Allen was right, I think, when he pointed to "The Button and What You Know" as a science fiction poem. Sorry, I don't have a link right now or the author's name, I just remember the poem (which I liked a lot). And I once wrote a science fiction poem, all about the period before you run out of oxygen in space. (My first and last such attempt.)

I like Amal's definition, but I would go toward the latter part of it, the focus on certain themes, rather than on specific technological language, simply because the sf poems I've seen don't strike me as particularly focused on scientific terms, as much as on science fictional concepts. But sorry, I'm not being too specific myself, it being late at night and my brain being tired.
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Friday, December 30, 2005 - 10:44 pm:   

And it's stopped snowing! Just lots of rain.
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Robert Burke Richardson
Posted on Saturday, December 31, 2005 - 12:46 am:   

Here's the link to "The Button and What You Know" (author is W. Gregory Stewart).

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Mike Allen
Posted on Monday, January 02, 2006 - 08:45 pm:   

Hi, Dora! I got recruited for Goblin Fruit early on as well, and would love to see you in it. I see some folks are still chewing over the awkwardness of the "science fiction poetry" moniker. I guess I can't really blame them; maybe we need another word for "science fiction"? It's kind of an awkward term in and of itself.

While I'm at it, you know, you really shouldn't forget Mythic Delirium....
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Amal
Posted on Monday, January 02, 2006 - 10:26 pm:   

We're glad to have you on board, Mike!

About "science fiction poetry": I just prefer the term "speculative" as a rule, because it seems to include so much more. I have to confess, Mike, I was a little disappointed at seeing the results in Star*Line a few months back (well -- in the June/July issue, I think it was?) about the SFPA's name change vote; I just didn't see what it could hurt to call it the Speculative Fiction Poetry Association, since that wouldn't exclude the science-y aspect, but would reflect the broader range of themes it already seems to include.

That being said, could anyone recommend other examples of science fiction poetry they've enjoyed? I'd like to read alot more of it while seeing what other people consider as fitting the term. I really liked "The Button and What You Know," and it sort of makes the "fiction" part of the moniker more valid to me, because I think that poem would have made an equally good (I thought, at first, better, but "equally good" is more just) short story. Any suggestions?
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Monday, January 02, 2006 - 11:42 pm:   

Just a quick note, since I'm checking this board late, late at night (I've had to stay up to finish my spring syllabus, which is due). Honestly, I'd vote for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. Just as in SFWA, the F in SFPA could serve for both Fiction and Fantasy.

And I promise I won't forget any publications :-), just as soon as I can get time to write . . . (The time thing has been really, really difficult this year.)

I really liked "The Button and What You Know," and it sort of makes the "fiction" part of the moniker more valid to me, because I think that poem would have made an equally good (I thought, at first, better, but "equally good" is more just) short story.

Is this a problem? I ask theoretically, because I like "The Button and What You Know" as a poem and I'm not sure it would work as a short story. But theoretically, if something would work just as well or better as a short story, should it be a poem in the first place? I was always taught (well, in college poetry seminars) that the poetic quality of poetry is the part of it that can't be translated into prose. Just a late-night thought.
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Amal
Posted on Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - 01:54 am:   

Well, I think it has to do with how we consider narrative poetry, or to what extent a good poem is an untranslatable one, even an indescribable one. Narrative poetry -- something like Elizabeth Browning's Aurora Leigh, or The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, or any other poem that tells a story -- will often operate on a fictional premise. There are absolutely qualities that can't be translated -- but could they perhaps be compensated for by those qualities of prose that don't work in poetry?

I think there's a difference of emphasis and degree to be considered. In the case of "The Button and What You Know," I could see the elements used in the poem -- the button, the cylinder, essentially the situation described -- becoming the central idea of a neat science fiction short story (I'd have qualms about writing it myself, mind) mainly because as I was reading it, I was more interested in the plot of the poem than in the language or the style or anything else. They were there to be appreciated, but I just wasn't as interested. So I could see it becoming a short story sort of like Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" -- it's what I was reminded of while reading, anyway -- emphasising the idea instead of characters or dialogue or whatnot.

I have no excuse if the above made little to no sense; it's early afternoon here, and I've just had lunch. ; ) My only possible excuse is that some eight tenths of my consciousness are being eaten up by an impending essay on Marvell, and if you want to experience untranslateable incomprehensibility, read The Rehearsal Transpros'd. ...Not that I'm bitter...
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Mike Allen
Posted on Saturday, January 07, 2006 - 12:17 pm:   

Honestly, I'd vote for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association.

Well, Dora, if you'd been a member, you could have done just that. *ahem* ;-p But no, at least a plurality of members made has made it clear that the "Science Fiction Poetry" in SFPA will remain as is. And so we embrace the awkwardness like a longtime, slightly socially inept friend. (I personally advocated making the change, but I think it's fair to say that it's my ability to make the trains run more or less on time, not necessarily my personal opinions, that SFPA members appreciate. And that's fine.)

By the way, Dora, I sent you a note; will watch for response.

Amal, I think the problem that was discussed with "Speculative Fiction Poetry Association" was that, if you change science to speculative, the "fiction" part becomes completely superfluous. So you toss it out, and we become "SPA." We didn't want to change the acronym, regardless of how the name itself changed.

The problem with the idea of "the button and what you know" as a short story was that form was just as important to Greg as content. Separate the content from the form, from the poem's physical appearance (much more obvious on the printed page than on that bootleg internet page) and the poem's loopy momentum would vanish. Also, Greg's deliberate anti-climax I think is better suited for the poem form.

I can certainly mention other poems with sf elements that I think are masterful (in this case using sf in a specific rather than general way). Phyllis Gotlieb's "Mrs. and Mr. Frankenstein," reprinted in The Stars as Seen from This Particular Angle of Night, is a show-stopper, and hilarious to boot. Joe Haldeman's "DX" is heartbreaking (although if you want to get technical, it's a poem that uses an sf trope as a metaphor, rather than describing an sftnal situation, as Stewart's poem does.) Joe's "Saul's Death," while not as powerful as "DX," is quite haunting, and is unquestionably stfnal. Joe likes to work in traditional forms, and I don't think there's anyone better at tackling sf that way ("Fire, Ice" is another good example.) Continuing further will probably require me to start flipping through various anthologies or magazines that I own or have published, but I'm not going to do that unless it's called for.

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Mike Allen
Posted on Saturday, January 07, 2006 - 12:22 pm:   

An afterthought: I think a lot of the best sf/genre/speculative poems cross the boundaries: so I suppose you could call them "interstitial."

Ann Schwader's sonnet about the ghosts of astronauts, "Reflections in a Fading Mir," which is always going to be a dear poem to me, announces itself loudly in my head as an example of this.
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Tuesday, February 14, 2006 - 04:47 pm:   

Interesting. Delia and I were just discussing whether poetry can be interstitial, because so much poetry nowadays is experimental anyway. So, good to have your perspective. :-)

And hey, I have a poem in an upcoming Mythic Delirium!

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