February 26, 2020

Review- The 2015 Rhysling Anthology edited by Rich Ristow

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Did you know: science fiction poetry is a thing? We’ll make the confession that we barely knew that the sub-genre (and the sub-sub genres within) existed before we got into the reviewing and writing game of the modern web.

And sci-fi poetry has its own modern flagship organization, by way of the Science Fiction Poetry Association and its periodic Star*Line publication. The easiest way to get a copy of this exciting tome is to subscribe and become a member, and a great sampling of all things science fiction poetry for the year is to pick up a copy of the 2015 Rhysling Award Anthology.

A sci-fi poetry first: for the first time in over twenty years, a Star*line original is a Rhysling Award winner: Mary Soon Lee’s long poem Interregnum, from Star*line 36.4, or you can read it in its entirety here.

Science fiction poetry, or speculative sci-fi poetry, like sci-fi itself, can span into horror and fantasy genres as well. Heck, there’s even sci-fi-ku, or science fiction haiku. And examples of variants of nearly every other type of poetry can be found in the mirror universe of science fiction as well. Science fiction poetry is as wide as the multi-verse, covering mind-bending topics big and small.

The Science Fiction Poetry Association has published Rhysling Anthology annually since 1978. Featuring the very best in science fiction and speculative poetry as voted on by the members of the SFPA, the anthology features over 60 authors spanning sci-fi poetry. Its quite a task, whittling down the field, especially in the long form poem category, but the 2015 Rhysling Anthology delivers marvelously… another compendium, known as Dwarf Stars, runs short form poems as well and is well worth seeking out.

Here’s a challenge for you: pick up a collection such as The 2015 Rhysling Anthology, and read one and only one poem a day. Think about what you’ve read, what the author was getting at and maybe what she or he didn’t intend. This sort of deep dive contemplation is a somewhat dying art in our modern sound bite (bark?) culture, an exercise in Goethe’s admonition to, among other pursuits, “…read one good poem…” a day. Hey, if you’re like us, one poem a day is one more than we used to read…

Here’s some personal highlights from the 2015 Rhysling Anthology:

-Ode to Yon Gliesan Orbs, or No? By Terrie Leigh Relf. There are now 1,978 exoplanets and counting out there to wax poetic about… and the mind’s eye of sci-fi poetry is still the best way to envision these alien worlds.

-100 Reasons to Have Sex with an Alien by F.J. Bergman. What, there’s only 100? Seriously, I love these sorts of lists turned poetry as a sort of window into a stranger world.

-After ”Signs You’re in Trouble” by Herb Kauderer. OK, another list turned sci-fi poem. Epic prose on the finer points of paranoia.

We’ve cyber-penned our own modest speculative poetry as well over the years, a few of which we’re proud to say, landed in the fine pages of Star*line. We find the exercise of writing sci-fi poetry is a good warm up to get my brain in the fiction-writing mode, and snippets of sci-fi poetry now litter portable drive plugged into my laptop… and heck, its just fun to add ‘sci-fi poet’ to the old resume…

Be sure to check out the 2015 Rhysling Anthology as a great introduction to the wondrous world of sci-fi poetry!

-Read original tales of sci-fi by Dave Dickinson.


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