Speculative Poetry

Marge Simon’s works appear in publications such as Strange Horizons, Niteblade, and others. In addition to her poetry, she has published two prose collections: Christina’s World (Sam’s Dot Publications, 2008) and Like Birds in the Rain (Sam’s Dot, 2007). She won the Bram Stoker Award™ for Superior Work in Poetry for Vectors: A Week in the Death of a Planet (Dark Regions Press, 2008).

Genre (sf/f/h) speculative poetry has been around for decades. True, the small press of the 70’s-90’s was the main stage for presentation, but check out Asimov’s for continuing to feature top poets of the times with marvelous speculative poems by Bruce Boston, G.O. Clark, Ann K. Schwader, Denise Dumars, Robert Frazier and many more. Poetry in SF magazines isn’t just “filler” anymore. That’s where I got my start, in Amazing Stories (Pat Price liked my wit). But the poetry of the 80’s was mostly pretty short in those spots and appropriate “filler” between the fiction or non-fiction.

And you didn’t notice any outstanding contemporary genre poets in the field? Poets with their own collections now, men and women who began with reading the masters such as those you probably studied in college. Poets whose minds took off in different directions, the scope and breadth of which was enhanced by the Space Age. The last century opened up new pathways to poetic speculation on future worlds as well as insights into the past. At any rate, if you didn’t notice, what we have now is poetry by new and amazingly talented voices.

For example, instead of Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Night”, we have Schwader’s marvelous speculative take on a similar theme:

Driving Into Snow

The traffic reporter says it looks
like warp drive & she’s right: time travel
through a past remembered sideways
if lived at all whisks past the windshield
in momentary stars already
melting on the mind

stuck out
to catch a peppermint December
wind past dusk on Christmas Eve
its headlong dash of dogs & cousins
across a vacant park erased
by drifts between synapses strung
among too many years

once bright
with candy-colored bulbs burnt out
in childhood’s loss & journeying
through other storms of frozen stars
on other highway nights stretched far
across this lightless universe.

-Ann K. Schwader, Wild Hunt of the Stars, 2010

As an example of how genre poetry reflects on the past, here’s a science poem I’ve had published several times since I wrote it. An example of another take on history, a statement of the present.

A Hollander’s Secret Weapon: 1609

Invention of a spyglass
sent Galileo off to ponder
a re-invention unintended
for a combat situation.

A twenty power increase
in the lens, he turned it on the sky,
opening up the galaxy
for harmless speculation.

Four centuries have passed,
radar’s replaced the glass,
yet still we war, and still,
we haven’t touched the stars.

-Marge Simon

A prose poem comment on a future holocaust:

Sparrow

You are my sparrow, small and delicately boned. “Artist’s hands,” I touch them and you smile. We stitch our fingers together, walk along the beach. Just before sunset, the skies explode. Was it theirs or ours? We run toward the bunkers.

I don’t see the blood until we’re inside. It covers your blouse, but you don’t notice until you hear me gasp. I cradle your head in my lap. It’s not our war. Why did they bring it to us?

The sea’s afire. It swells to scrape the skies. The moon holds the face of a child with monstrous eyes.

– Marge Simon

For more examples of contemporary speculative poetry, there are many places to look. I suggest special speculative poetry issues of Pedestal Magazine (edited by myself and Bruce Boston), Strange Horizons, and SF Poetry and check out the current Star*Line editor’s choices. Some of these poets’ works (such as those of Bruce Boston) are being used for classroom studies in the U.S. and in other countries.

5 thoughts on “Speculative Poetry

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  • May 25, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    This is wonderful, Marge. I love the examples. You picked delightful ones! Both of yours are wonderful and I had not read them. Ann’s is truly amazing.

    Sometimes I wonder “Why do I so often hear poets defending themselves?” Not that this is defensive, but the fact that we are always and forever trying to explain poetry and its force and even its right to be published in magazines right alongside fiction still dismays me.

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  • May 30, 2012 at 9:50 pm
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    Ah, Marge! I remember well the days when we would get excited to hear that a magazine–in those days, even mainstream magazines one might see at the drugstore newsstand–was looking for poetry as “filler.” It was a good way to get paid for poetry and get some clips!

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  • October 31, 2016 at 4:00 pm
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    After I initially commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify
    me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment.
    Perhaps there is an easy method you are able to remove me from that service?
    Cheers!

    Reply

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