Into the Dark, Singing

Ann K. Schwader’s most recent speculative poetry collection is Twisted in Dream (Hippocampus Press, 2011). Her previous collection, Wild Hunt of the Stars (Sam’s Dot, 2010) was a 2010 Bram Stoker Award Finalist.

I’m a member of both SFWA and SFPA, the Science Fiction Poetry Association. I have read both science fiction and poetry most of my life, and started writing science fiction poems in high school. Something about combining SF with rhyme and meter just feels right.

But why?

Science fiction is often perceived as “left brain” literature. Big Ideas, complex worldbuilding, bleeding-edge technology, and writers with Ph.D.s abound. Poetry, conversely, is a “right brain” poster child. Emotion, memory, free association, and verbal music for its own sweet sake reign here. Plenty of Ph.D.s are poets, too, but they’re more likely to inhabit MFA programs than labs.

Both sides of this brain, however, are found in the same species: Homo sapiens sapiens.

Which is where science fiction poetry comes in.

Fitting words together to make them sing is a deeply human impulse. The ancient Egyptians and Sumerians may have supplied the earliest written evidence, but it is likely that people were crafting poems long before they were writing them down. Carried in the trained minds of skalds or bards, or simply passed down from parent to child, poems go wherever humans go.

They travel across land masses and oceans. Into love or battle or despair. Even – as documented by elaborate tomb inscriptions – into realms beyond death. The future is a very far and often frightening place. On the road there, it seems only natural that humans would continue to make poems about the experience – or what they imagine/hope/fear the experience will be like. Applying the literary tools of the poet to the concerns of the scientist, they might produce sonnets about starflight, military epics of First Contact gone wrong, or haiku celebrating the shifting seasons of a planet that Kepler has yet to find.

Such poems already exist. Sharing space with the fiction in both print magazines like Asimov’s Science Fiction and e-zines like Strange Horizons, they affirm our continuing, human need to build word-structures against the unknown.

To go into the dark singing.

5 thoughts on “Into the Dark, Singing

  • May 11, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    This is right on the mark. When anyone says “why poetry” my reply is “why not poetry?” Because it is everywhere we go, even in advertising. We are crooned constantly in restaurants and stores by singing poets. It’s a state of being human and being observant and feeling life and then wanting to express that.

    And if some other writer says “why would you even want to write poetry?” I would be somewhat aghast at their ignorance because it’s not really about “want” and it’s never about money. It’s about what is inside me that yearns to be expressed. Any artist, no matter what they do, ought to relate to that.

  • May 11, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Wonderful & wondrous commentary, Ann. Poetry becomes you, who know it innately. I loved that you touched on how stories began, with the lyrics of traveling minstrels long before the written word became common for all. Thank you, too, Wendy, for your wise comments. As you say, any artist ought to relate to your response. It’s not about money, it’s not about “want to”.

  • May 19, 2012 at 5:28 am

    How many poems, I wonder, have already been written in space? Oftentimes a poem expresses what’s needful more concisely & powerfully than any other mode of expression.


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