Denise Dumars is an experienced writer of spirituality, horror and poetry, an editor, and a teacher and tutor of English at the college level. She has published two collections of short stories; two non-fiction books, including The Dark Archetype (with Lori Nyx), and numerous chapbooks of poetry, the most recent of which is Letting in the Dark (Yellow Bat Press).
It’s been said that Great Britain and the United States are two countries divided by a common language. I’m going to posit the idea that the same ironic relationship occurs between writers of SF/F/H poetry and fiction. Whether we write poetry or fiction, we all love the same genres, and we all write in those genres. But as Sfnal poets, we are the pariahs of the genre. Why?
First, let’s look at our history: the U.S. is an anti-intellectual society which finds anything even remotely intellectual suspect, if not outright evil. Too strongly stated? Have you seen the news lately? In the U.S., poetry is thought of as something from and for the ivory tower, not the common individual, as is the fiction of the imaginative genres. This would not compute in many other societies, in which there are popular poets and poetry is just as much a genre for the people as popular fiction. So, the first mistake many genre fiction writers make is in thinking that, since poetry is of the ivory tower, it cannot be part of popular literature, unless it exists at the extreme opposite of the spectrum as fan poetry.
My fellow members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) find it extremely hard to get SF conventions to take us seriously; in fact, at Loscon in Los Angeles, we were rebuffed as “professionals” by people who felt that the ONLY poetry appropriate at an SF convention is fan poetry. Again, why? Can no one fathom the idea of the poetic form in the genres that we share as anything other than fannish? Can no one fathom that poetry can be popular as well as high falutin’?
Professional fiction writers find it hard to believe that we actually write real genre poetry because they don’t understand why someone would want to write something that doesn’t pay. Well, kids, let me tell you something: Sfnal poetry pays much better, in many cases, than so-called “literary” poetry. Finally, the San Diego Convention ConDor embraced the SFPA and I cannot even tell you how healing it has been to gather there and not only read with other Sfnal poets but teach the writing of genre poetry as well.
I ran a poetry reading series in Hermosa Beach, CA for five years with fellow SF poet Nancy Ellis Taylor. No one kicked us out of town because we like genre poetry as well as other types. No one called us snooty because we get paid for our poetry, and no one treated us as though we were not “literary” enough.
I would like to invite some genre fiction writers to read our poetry and see if they enjoy it. I’d like to show them the poetry market listings on the SFPA website, so they can see that poetry does pay. And increasingly, I see that writers of genre poetry—like myself and many other members of the SFPA—write genre fiction, too. I’d like to invite genre fiction writers to read my columns in Star*Line, titled “Stealth SF.” The column is built around the idea that even in today’s literary journals, genre poetry is embraced.
In today’s multimedia society isn’t it about time that we embraced genre poetry as part of the larger spectrum of the genre, a genre that exists in pretty much every other form of popular entertainment and art forms? Who knows? We might even convince some people that poetry can be popular, too.