Poetry Editorial by Trent Walters
An editor can’t project well the kind of tone or vision he’d like to establish in a magazine. He has to work with what is submitted, so in a very real sense, the writers also set the tone.
That said, I wanted to break somewhat with the traditional purview of speculative poetry. I wanted to hear different voices—old and new. I solicited work from William Trowbridge, a Midwestern poet who has edited major poetry journals such as The Laurel Review and Georgia Review. I own much of his work because he approaches poetry with a sense of play. If you share an interest in speculative fiction and poetry, you should probably investigate Trowbridge, especially The Book of Kong, but also his Fool series, whenever that may appear.
In a similar vein, I was pleased to receive Pam McNew’s poem “Twelve Dancing Daughters”: It has such joy and verve in its language. I am grateful to the editors who turned this down before me. Also, Kaori Praschak’s “Partial–Birth Revolution” has a densely energetic prose reminiscent of Bruce Boston’s work. If Praschak continues down this path and if there’s any justice in the SFPA, I suspect that P’s name will regularly haunt the nominee lists.
Though I may be wishing to break away from the tones that other editors set, I received two absolutely gorgeous poems that would have fit well in either Strange Horizons or Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet— my favorite two venues for speculative poetry: Kyle Hemmings’ “The Japanese Businessman” and Alveraz Ricardez’s “Dreams of Sinaloa.” They both make me want to weep at their pain and longing.
Marie Vibbert’s has its own allure—playing with the notion of an in–box. I’m a sucker for a gimmick that works well.
I am not immune to the charms of the traditional SF poetry set. Elizabeth Barrette, I thought, had the right attitude toward what she perceived as a challenge from Greg Beatty. John Fyffe’s expresses an old–school enthusiasm for space, but there’s also an underlying subtlety that gave it an oomph worthy of publication. If you submit something along these lines, it will have to stretch for something more—perhaps responding to a challenge or raising the work out of the straight–ahead reiteration of SF. If speculative poetry doesn’t do what it can do through poetry, relying too heavily on fictional effects that have already been done better, why would we need such a genre?.
] Most of these poems all achieved something more than the mere words themselves. Upon rereading, some will reveal more of what it has to say. If a poem is to obtain longevity, it should probably aim for the head, heart, or gut. That’s what I hope to gather: Works with the potential to be reread—both as words and as experience that unravel in new ways. Look again at the lines of the poems. Break them off from the rest of the poem. Are they interesting in and of themselves? See the first stanza of “Dreams of Sinaloa.” The third line is as interesting as the first two more concrete lines simply by its construction.
One type of poem I sought but I didn’t get any examples of, was the difficult poem—difficult not because it is obscure but because of density or complex connections. I hope to nab some for future issues.
A refrain for poets that cannot be too often repeated is that they ought to examine the history of poetry. The field can be too small and insular, so it behooves us to be semi–knowledgeable of the last hundred and fifty years. Maybe you’re bored by contemporary poetry. That’s fine. Much of it is pretty dull, but a general sense of what has shaped poetry since Whitman and Dickinson will not only advance your work, but will also help legitimize the field itself.
Enjoy the offerings here, and if you write yourself, I look forward to seeing your work.
—Trent Walters, Poetry Editor, Abyss&Apex
Editorial © 2007 Trent Walters.
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