September 7th, 2006

ozarque figure

Writing science fiction poetry; clarification....

My post yesterday was even less well put together than I thought, although it did accomplish what I hoped to accomplish. [Back to that in a minute.] There were some justifiably startled observations from people wondering why I was such a frail little old reed that I'd let objections to one poem deter me from a project. For example:

From beckyzoole:
"First, why in the world would you have doubts about the entire project of putting together a book of SF poetry, simply because one poem you wrote doesn't work for many readers? If you come to agree that it doesn't work, then leave it out of the anthology. Or include it -- there are plenty of anthologies with one or two clinkers."

And from dteleki:
"If only 1 poem out of 4 provokes such strong objections, I don't see where that's a fatal problem that dooms the entire project. Either you leave that 25% of the total out, or else your readers simply accept that they won't like everything. It's rare for anyone to completely adore every item in a collection."

Well said; well put; valid in every way. But based on a misunderstanding created by my fretful disorganized post. I'd like to try to clarify this a tad.

The problem for me was not whether I should go ahead with the project. I've just about decided that I will do it -- despite the fact that doing fifty or so of those poems is a huge undertaking and finding a publisher for the collection is likely to be almost impossible. If I did manage to get it done, and if I did it well enough, and if I did manage to find a publisher, and if I did the right sort of launch and promotion -- four huge ifs -- the book might be a respectable step toward getting the kind of attention for science fiction poetry that I believe the genre should be (but isn't) getting. That makes it very important to me, and makes it very important that I do it right. Better not to do it at all than to do it badly.

I therefore urgently needed to find out why that one poem about people not voting evoked so negative a reaction. Without knowing that, I could have written a dozen poems -- or more than a dozen -- that would have had the same negative effect; that would have been a great waste of time and effort.

Thanks to your help, and with special thanks to redbird, I think I do understand now what the problem was. As I said to redbird, it hadn't occurred to me that what I was proposing would actually involve people In The Here And Almost-Now; it should have occurred to me, but it didn't.


[On my way out the door: I'm wondering about something else. Poems, when they work, induce an intense emotional experience; in the case of this particular form of poem (for which I badly need a name), it's an emotional experience based on a fiction, which leaves the poet more free than a "realist" poem would. I find myself wondering if exactly the same mechanism that was the cause of the negative reaction -- setting up a poem-scenario that dumps readers into The Here And Almost-Now -- could be used to create an equally dramatic positive reaction. That's a whole different discussion, and for all I know may have already been hashed out and settled by the professionals in esthetics and poetics.... still, I'm wondering.]


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