06 February 2005

Suzette Haden Elgin on SF Poetry

Suzette Haden Elgin is one of the pioneers of the term science fiction poetry and a founder of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. She's got a new book coming out in March, The Science Fiction Poetry Handbook and has been writing a bit at her weblog recently about SF poetry and the SFWA's refusal to allow poems as qualifiers for membership (the posts start here and continue here, here, and here, with more, I expect, to come.)

As will probably surprise no-one, I disagree almost completely with Elgin (except about the SFWA), but she's stirring up some great conversations, and that's important. In some ways, actually, I do think she's right -- if SF poetry is going to truly be a genre (rather than a style, mode, or something else), then it should have hard and fast rules, ultimately putting it one step away from being a poetic form. If there are going to be rules, they might as well be Elgin's. The only excuse I can think of for poetic rules, though, is to provide new writers with exercises and all other writers with something to break (for instance, what Ted Berrigan did to sonnets).

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