Roundtable on Poetry

Kathleen Ann Goonan

Blake, for his visionary transcendence and Chaucer, for his lovely Middle English that challenged and delighted my sense of Word and Meaning (much as Herriman/Krazy Kat does), were some of my early loves, but back then, when I was purely a poet, Levertov (for lyricism and politics), Stafford (for his resonance with nature), before-drumbeat-Bly (“leaping poetry”), Dickinson for revelation and surprise at sudden turning-inside-out of what I thought she’d been a-building . . . poets, ancient, modern, and latter-day gave me cadence, compactness, the pure power of Word.

Gary K. Wolfe

These discussions always seem to be several fathoms deep before I get a chance to weigh into them, but I finally got a chance to read the earlier posts, and it does occur to me, for the first time, that when I’m trying to find interesting ways to put words together, even in a review, I do find myself thinking about Emily Dickinson or Gerard Manley Hopkins or sometimes John Ashbery, and when I’m thinking of ways to avoid putting words together in a certain way, I think of Swinburne.

Guy Gavriel Kay

The books of spring are on Locus’ pages,
A mother of a month to share my pain …

We get it, Gary!

Cecelia Holland

Come down and redeem us from virtue? Sounds like WFC to me.

Peter Straub

I’m not going to let either one of those guys come down and redeem me.

Guy Gavriel Kay

Don’t get me started, I can do this all day:

When the books of spring are on Locus’ pages,
A mother of a month to share my pain –
Fill the pages and cyber spaces
With encomiums and pearls of praise.
And the Australian editor valiant
Is half-assuaged for Alitalia,
For the daylong flight to foreign faces
And the luggage lost vigil in the USA…

(I sort of apologize for putting Strahan on an Italian airline, this done in a rush and the parody from memory, but I don’t apologize a lot, given the original marrying amorous with Itylus.)

But now I will quietly slip downstairs and have a drink, as in ‘exit, pursued by a bear’….

Cecelia Holland

If you marry amorous with Itylus I think you get amaretto, Guy, not Antilochus.

Delmore Schwartz. Or Egil Skallagrimsson, another unique voice.

Michael Dirda

Did I just miss a reference to Egil’s Saga? A wonderful book. (Took a class on the Icelandic saga in grad school.)

Cecelia Holland

I love Egil. The poet murderer. Avatar for us all.

Peter Straub

Oh, that darn Egil. He was great, but no Miles Davis.

5 thoughts on “Roundtable on Poetry

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  • March 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    The original poster’s choice of “useful/inspirational” as a standard for desirable poetry gives me the willies. Literature functions on many levels, of course—but I am saddened to see speculative fiction writers (whose work would generally not be primarily intended as either “useful” or “inspirational” applying these narrow strictures to poetry appreciation. And I am even more grieved to see, with few exceptions, tastes restricted to the ancient, non-living, or geriatric poets (I will grant you that Russell Edson, despite his codgerliness, is way cool). The real outrage, though, is the apparent lack of any awareness of science-fiction poets. While any decent writer should be reading a broad spectrum of work outside their field, to exhibit a complete lack of interest in and awareness of a whole subset of active writers within one’s own genre when discussing poetry is pathetic. Not a single poet mentioned identifies as a speculative poet.

    The Science Fiction Poetry Association, which encompasses SF, fantasy, and horror, has existed since 1978. Its members have been widely published in mainstream as well as SF venues. SFPA publishes a quarterly journal, Star*Line, as well as annual anthologies. The winners of its annual Rhysling Award appear regularly in the Nebula winners anthology—but somehow, it would seem, fly completely below the radar of those who have posted here. Many, if not most, venues that publish short SF also publish SF poetry—do none of you read the other works in the periodicals where you are published?

    We write—and read—speculative poetry for the same reasons that apply to the reading and writing of speculative fiction: to entertain, evoke, and stimulate, and to present new ideas (as well as old ideas made new), using original ways of looking at the world. Those are appropriate standards for poetry, not the dreary utilitarianism that would define poetry as having only didactic and motivational purposes.

    F.J. Bergmann
    Star*Line Editor
    Science Fiction Poetry Association

  • March 27, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    I’d like to apologize for the “useful/inspirational” language. That was very sloppy, as I tossed it off in a rush. I agree that there is some very fine spec fic poetry out there that deserves to be better known.

  • March 27, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Kenneth Burke called literature “equipment for living,” and I found that view a, um, useful corrective to the art-for-art’s-sake aesthetic that dominated my early education–and also an alternative to the flatter moral-critical approaches of, say Marxist theorists. So thinking of poetry as useful or even inspirational isn’t a big deal, even if neither of those terms exhausts our relationship to the art. As for which poets one reads for whatever reason–when you start putting words on paper, you’re playing with the big boys and girls, and if you have to be prepared to be compared to two or three millennia’s worth of news that has managed to stay news. If you want to know who the great poets of the twenty-first century are, ask me in a hundred years or two. (Though you shall find me a grave man.)

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