Speculative Poetry

Jun 3, 03:55 by IROSF

What think you of speculative poetry?

Barrette's article can be found here.
Jun 4, 02:43 by nancy brownlee
The reason that "speculative" poetry, or (I'm equating them, here, the poetry of SF, horror, and fantasy) is disregarded or unpopular is that it's almost never very good. It's not very good poetry. Sometimes it's pretty good verse, not too bad, but more often it's doggerel, and boring besides. It's rarely even particulary memorable as verse- not as funny or interesting or compelling as, say, "The Face On the Barroom Floor", or even the latest offerings from the "cowboy poets". I almost always get the same feeling, reading it, as I get from bad sf, fantasy or horror prose- that the writers have not bothered to read much of the best of fiction or poetry, and are therefore unable to reach for a comparable achievment. It's hard to jump the bar when you don't know where the bar IS.
Jun 4, 13:17 by Lois Tilton
Interesting that you should say so, butterdick. Some people have wondered why I don't review the poetry in the zines I do review, and the reason is that I have not studied that particular bar. I could say whether or not I LIKED a given poem, but I would hesitate to claim that it was good or bad, lacking the proper critical vocabulary to say why.
Jun 4, 20:14 by nancy brownlee
I think that whether you like a poem is the very first consideration, just as it is with a story. First I decide if I like (or have other strong feelings), then I try to figure out WHY. Maybe I was a little hard on the current stuff. Neil Gaiman has written some truly terrific poems in the genre - but then, Neil Gaiman does not seem to write bad stuff anytime, anywhere, or in any genre. He is an intelligent, careful, SUBTLE writer. But think about Lovecraft's poems- boy, were they stinkers. And for some unknowable reason, they have inspired dozens of imitators.
I think that if someone wants to write good poetry, they ought to read good poetry. Start with Shakespeare's sonnets, and go on to Keats, and to Browning. Not "speculative" enough for you? Try Keats' La Belle Dame sans Merci, or Lamia, or The Pot of Basil. Read Browning's Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, and Porphyria's Lover. Then, of course, there's Poe...
Jun 5, 02:57 by Eric Marin
butterdick, I found your first post overbroad and lacking in examples, although your last post remedied that a bit in terms of past poets you find worthy of note. Still, your opinion of speculative poetry is just that: an opinion. I am guessing from your two comments that you are not critically trained in analyzing poetry of any sort, not just speculative poetry. I am not critically trained either, but your comment that liking a poem is the very first consideration in determining a poem's worth does not strike me as a particularly useful method of poetic analysis. There are many poems out there in every area of poetry that you may not like (and that I might not like) that are, in fact, excellent poems. Liking is not the same as appreciating, and I think any attempt to evaluate a poem should be begun with an eye toward appreciating what the poem does and how it does it (or what it does not do and why it doesn't, if the poem fails). However, if you're reading poetry for pleasure, rather than analyzing poetry as you read it, what you enjoy is an excellent barometer for your own poetic preferences. It is not useful, though, for others unless they share your taste in poetry. If you were to comment that most speculative poetry isn't to your taste, that would be just fine. Stating that speculative poetry is "almost never very good" based solely on your own taste is not constructive.

All that said, I do agree with you that speculative poets (all sorts of poets, in fact) should read lots of strong examples of poetry. I would suggest, though, that poets not limit themselves to reading works from the 19th Century and before. Failing to read poems written in the 20th and 21st centuries would leave an enormous gap in a poet's toolkit. Important developments in poetic form took place after Poe's death and continue to take place today. I for one, need and want to read more poetry, speculative and otherwise, so I'm off to do so now.
Jun 5, 17:43 by nancy brownlee
Of course it's an opinion; everything posted on this forum is an opinion. As are all reviews and criticisms opinion, by definition. And I did say "like, or have other strong feelings" because strong feelings about a work,or a resounding lack of them, are the basis for artistic analysis- without them, what's to analyze? As for critical training, there are a round damn dozen, maybe more, methods of literary analysis available to anyone who picks up a literary textbook and they all, yes, all, begin with how the analyst "finds" the work - for finds, read feels about. If a reader thinks a poem "makes me feel creepy", or ANY OTHER WAY, that's the point at which analysis begins. Why does it make you feel creepy? Did you feel it was completely original in intent? Does it remind you of something else? Did it make you feel like something horrible or wonderful was going to happen, then poop out at the end? Etcetera. And yes, great, good, mediocre, and dreadful bad poetry has been written daily in each and every human era, and I wouldn't stop anyone reading any of it, or liking it, for that matter. But- just as a kid can eat a burger and fries and, from a lack of a decent basis for comparison, proclaim it the best meal ever made, so may a reader proclaim a mediocre work to be one of greatness, simply from never having read the best. And I've read plenty of prose works in Speculative fiction which, while I recognized the writer's ability and technique, simply left me cold. I think it's smart to seek out the best literature of ANY genre, and therefore have those works as a PART of those that form your taste. I would love to hear some specific recommendations of poetry in SF, fantasy, horror. Maybe I'm just not seeing the good stuff!
Jun 5, 22:46 by Eric Marin
butterdick, here are links to a few online venues that tend to publish, in my opinion, strong speculative poetry:

Goblin Fruit;
Lone Star Stories; and
Strange Horizons.

(I included my own webzine because it reflects my taste in speculative poetry, and a poem I published in Issue No. 19, Sonya Taaffe's "Follow Me Home," has been selected to appear in the forthcoming Year's Best Fantasy and Horror #21 edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link, and Gavin Grant.)

For printed speculative poetry, I can recommend off the top of my head Flytrap, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Mythic Delirium, and Not One of Us.

Happy poetry reading!
Jun 5, 23:04 by Bluejack
Ok butterdick. I have to ask.

Whence the name?

And to all: do you know that you can change your Display Name in the "My Account" section?
Jun 5, 23:22 by nancy brownlee
A single, memorable evning in 1967... when some friends and I invented the Dickens drinking game. You had to come up with a creditably Dickensian name, or be penalized by drinking a shot. If everybody agreed that the name you thought up was suitable, you were also penalized by drinking a shot. What can I say, it was the Summer of Love but we were, basically, cossacks. Okay, Okay, I'll change it.
Jun 6, 03:56 by Eric Marin
Thanks for letting me know about the username change ability, Bluejack. :-)
Jun 6, 18:34 by David Farney
I'm no student of poetry, but I find speculative poetry more pleasurable to read than contemporary "traditional". To my untrained eye, it seems spec poetry still values abstract ideas--contemp seems so concrete and prosaic. For me, speculative poetry tends to resonate--in meaning and imagery and possibility--far longer and more deeply than contemp.

So a big thumbs up, IROSF, for poetry!
Jun 11, 16:19 by D. Nicklin-Dunbar
almostgone: I think that if someone wants to write good poetry, they ought to read good poetry. Start with Shakespeare's sonnets, and go on to Keats, and to Browning. Not "speculative" enough for you? Try Keats' La Belle Dame sans Merci, or Lamia, or The Pot of Basil. Read Browning's Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, and Porphyria's Lover. Then, of course, there's Poe...

...or Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and "Kubla Khan", or Keats "The Eve of St. Agnes" or Wordsworth's "The Thorn"...

The Romantics liked their 'horror' poetry. An argument can be made that much of the prose and poetry of the Romantic era dealt with horror themes, or at least themes we would label as horror or supernatural. Like Shelley's Frankenstein, the Romantics prefigured much of modern 'speculative' poetry.

And, of course, there is Lovecraft...
Jun 12, 22:50 by bob sale
Sorry to have to bust your bubble but Poe is not considered a very good poet. Henry James called him the jingle man. Need I say more?
Jun 13, 07:38 by Bluejack
Poe is one of the most popular poets in the history of the English language.

So, you could say more, beginning with citing your source. In fact, Emerson is usually credited with this "Jingle Man" thing. Of course, Poe was something of an asshole, and had previously pissed off Emerson (citation).

But the history of literature is rife with popular poets (and other artists) who have met with academic snobbery in their own age only to find their critical acclaim rise in later generations. (See, uh, Shakespeare.)

Poe did use rhyme. Whether he overused rhyme is a matter of opinion.

I personally think many poets overuse 'dull' -- but Poe rarely succumbed to that particular temptation.
Jun 13, 18:56 by Lois Tilton
Well, "popular" and "good" tend to have a converse relationship.

I doubt if a new poet today would be well-received by most venues if emulating Poe.
Jun 13, 22:33 by bob sale
Sorry about the misinformation. It was Emerson who called Poe the "jingle man". It does sound like something James would have said though. The problem remains. Poe is not taken seriously by modern critics. His poetry seems lightweight compared to a William Butler Yeats or a Robert Frost. There is enough truth in Emerson's tag to make one reconsider his stature. Does this matter? Perhaps not. However to make speculative poetry the best it can be one needs to read the best poetry available. By the way, Shakespeare was popular in his time as well as ours. There was no time lag such as appeared with the birth of modernism.
Jun 14, 01:19 by Lois Tilton
Here, from The Competition, is a bit of poetry criticism.

Jun 15, 20:22 by Bluejack
And yet, Shakespeare was *not* considered a "serious" playwright in his own age, nor even the century following. It was not for some time that his works began to be thought "great" by the serious crowd. People enjoyed the plays, but Ben Jonson observed that "Shakespeare wanted art." (Hugh Grady, Shakespeare Criticism 1600-1900)

It was only in the Romantic era that Shakespeare clambered onto the throne of "all-time greatest."

Now, I'm not trying to say that Poe was deepest or greatest of all poets, but neither was his work doggerel. To say that Poe is not considered "very good" is unnecessarily dismissive, and in my view unwarranted. Poe was one of the first American poets to influence artistic trends in Europe, his work is at the very least of historical significance. But then, I am also of the opinion that if something is very popular then it is doing *something* right, and that particular *something* is worthy of contemplation.
Jun 16, 21:53 by bob sale
Fair enough. And you are right about his European reputation. Both Baudelaire and Mallarme considered him a master.


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