Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Interview Project: Star*Line

Welcome to the first of an on-going series of interviews with editors of poetry magazines that specialize in speculative fiction poetry, and with magazines who are open to genre work.  Today we are talking with Marge Simon, editor of the SFPA's journal of speculative poetry, Star*Line.


For those readers who might not have previously discovered
Star*Line, can you tell us a little about it?  What makes your publication unique?

Star*Line isn't "my" magazine.   Yes, I pick the poems and get the articles and artists, deal with what comes up and so on, but it’s a production of volunteers in an association poets in the sf/f/h & speculative genres. (Note: The term, speculative may apply to all those genres.)

What makes it unique? We have a plethora of all types of poems, varying in length. Covers by professional artists, interior art (when possible). Articles on speculative poetry and specific genre poetry areas. We have convention reports, reviews, member news, etc. We promote poetry with our annual Rhysling Awards for sf/h/f & speculative poetry in a gorgeous perfect bound collection, free to members. And the Dwarf Stars collection which members may vote on, for poetry ten lines or less - winners reported in Star*Line.


 How did you become a poetry editor?

I decided I could write good poetry. My mom loves my poems. And then, when a spot came open in a zine my boyfriend started, I said I would be the poetry editor. He was a happy camper. 

Seriously? Whenever there was a need for a poetry editor, I knew I could do the job. So I got the job. Even if it meant sleeping with the editor-in-chief. 

No, that's not true either. I'm not sure. It's a compulsion. When I see a mountain, I must climb. I've also been an art editor, as well as a fiction editor. Currently, my husband, Bruce Boston, and I again going to be guest editing the 2010 December fiction issue of The Pedestal Magazine.


What's your background?

MA in Fine Arts, minored in English Lit. But the courses didn't include SO many great poets and writers who have influenced the next generations, like C. Ashton Smith, Kerouac, Bukowski, more. But there were Hemingway and Steinbeck. There were sf writers like Sturgeon, Asimov, Bradbury, Henderson, Bester and Huxley to find on my own. Writers, like artists, provide a wealth of inspirations for poems.

In high school I was introduced to Stephen Crane, poet & author. Remember "The Red Badge of Courage"? Have you read his short poems?

A Man Said to the Universe 

A man said to the universe,
"Sir, I exist."
However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
a sense of obligation." 

So if you wrote a poem with an idea something like this, I doubt it will be as good. Period. If you wrote a story or book with that theme, that’s another matter entirely, for many have done just that, in one way or another. 


Has your background affected your decisions, with regard to individual poems or types?  

I hope not. I am ever a willing student. I've educated myself about references that I wasn't sure of along the way. Sometimes a poem brings such a wealth of learning about something I wasn't aware of in myth or history or science, that I'm the richer for it. Of course, it has to be a good poem to instigate my curiosity. 


Are you more critical of some genres, subgenres, or tropes than others? If so, why? 

Not particularly. 


What good is a fantasy?  

A fantasy is good for what it's for. It depends - not on your age, but your bailiwick. I don't know what this question is asking.  

We all have fantasies. They do serve a purpose. Ask any psychologist. 

What is a good fantasy poem? You didn't ask that one. An ezine that features excellent fantasy poems is Goblin Fruit. (www.goblinfruit.net)


What scares you?  

The Tea Party movement? Sara Palin? Glen Beck? Hurricanes? Heights? Mobs?  


Where is the "science" in science fiction? How could SF help us to prepare for the future? 

That's an old topic -- SF has been doing this for decades. Rhysling poetry winners like Bruce Boston, Robert Frazier, W. Gregory Stewart, Ann K. Schwader, Geoffrey Landis, Joe Haldeman, and others have been predicting or outlining future scenarios since the early issues of Star*Line, decades ago. 


Who are some of your favorite poets, and why? 

Wendy Rathbone, Ann K. Schwader, Charlee Jacob, G. Sutton Breiding, Bruce Boston, Robert Borski, JoSelle Vanderhooft, Chris Conlon, to name a few. You will note that I don't mention Lovecraft. But I do love the way that Schwader has used his influence in her works. And Poe, he's a done deal on chilling stories and poems. BTW, who says a poem can't be a story and vice versa? 

Favorites vary widely, according to where my head is at for the moment. Why do I love these poets? They give me ideas and great pleasure. Reading their works fills my day with visions. You know what I'm saying? 


What makes a poem poetic? 

I can give you one that isn't poetic: 

I have a roach that is cute so I gave it a rocket ship and it went
to the moon and then it came
back and told me that I needed to clean up mankind.
I got a big gun and I so then I ...(etc.) 

No line flow, no interior rhythm, nothing unique. You don't necessarily have to stick to rules, but give me some quality thought and texture. But sometimes the poem may have been well written and yet it doesn't spark that "Wow!" sense, for me. 


How do you feel about rhyme?  

Meh. Rhyme is very expensive. Meaning, if you can write original rhyme, you may hook me in. For example, Mikal Trimm writes excellent verse. But forced rhyme or archaic rhyme, forget it. 

Here's an extract from the end of former Rhysling nominee Trimm's dark poem, "The Clockmaker's Wife" --but to fully appreciate it, you should read it in entirety: 

She cleaned the tools, avoiding strife,
Sworn to be the Clockmaker’s Wife. 

He works the leather, reticent flesh
That, dried and tanned, embossed and inlaid
Upon the framework he has begun,
Becomes the benchmark of his trade. 

She hunts the victims, wields the knife;
Born to be the Clockmaker’s Wife. 


What are some of your favorite poetic forms?  

Free verse preferred. Narratives, prose poems. I'm not keen on experimental forms  

where         the    words
look                                        like
              s          and wiggle about. Just a personal thing, I guess. Of course, ee cummings did it. And t. winter-damon did it too, in his own style; his work is tops. He died two years ago. He is sadly missed. 


What catches your eye when you read a submission?  

Sometimes I skim and focus on the last stanza. That should "bring it all home", make it resonate. I am so used to reading poetry, having edited many publications (for prose or poetry) over the years, that I read fairly rapidly. If it's a short poem, I can kind of breathe it in. That is, if it works.  

What catches my eye also is the format. If you have a poem that looks clunky, with one or two very long lines, and some very short two word lines, that is another red flag. Sometimes it simply lost the original formatting, though. If I like the poem, I'll question the poet about format. 


Which would you rather see in your slush: a SpecFic narrative that's easy to follow, or imagery/lyricism that blows your mind? How compatible are these two elements?  

I'll take the latter over the former. To ask "how compatible" they are doesn't make sense to me. And what does "easy to follow" mean? Just wondering what you are asking. I rarely accept long poems. If I do, they must have imagery and style, which is a matter of personal taste. 


What do you find that submitters most often get wrong with their submissions? Is there anything outside of the obvious of the submitter not following your guidelines? 

I don’t want to see preachy poems. Don’t mention Jesus or God. The gods are fine and any religious items from history but non-denominational, about history or a future history. I don’t like poems that are didactic, unless they are obviously meant to amuse. 


What advice would you give to those submitting to your mag?  

Star*Line isn't a "mag". I call it the digest of the SF Poetry Association. Call it what you may, but please, it's beyond "the land of the magazines" as Bierce explains poetry in The Devil's Dictionary. 


Okay. Don't submit religious poetry. Avoid using profanity. If you have to say the F word, better be absolutely necessary. I'm not a prude, but that's a rule for S*L as long as I'm editor.  

Please don't think that I've not ever debated how small we are in the eyes of the universe. When I see a poem that starts out, "Did you ever look at the night sky and realize how small we are" ---red buzzer. Refer to Stephen Crane’s poem previously cited.  

Ah, and using archaic language doesn't work for me.

"I spied you in a leafy bow'r

and o'r you spun a silvery wind.
When first I touched your ivory hand,
a fairy wand made it a sin.” 

That's by me. I don't know from whence it came. Actually, that could work. If it was to be a humorous, facetious poem. 


Is there anything you would like to see more of? Less of? 

I'd like to see more publications with intelligent poetry editors, paying good money for good poems. 

I'd like to see no more of this "your poem has made the first round, we'll be back in 2-3 months to let you know if it made round two." Ridiculous!! It's a poem, it's not a bill in the House of Representatives! 

But oh, you mean me? As editor of Star*Line, I'm very happy with what I've been getting for consideration. But I wish every poet would put their name and address with the poem(s) submitted.

I got a submission recently with only an email name like "hotbuns@sum.net" and when I asked them to please include their real name with their submission, they responded with "Everyone knows you can get that if you’re using “sum.net”. ????? I thought that was (1.) rude and (2.) stupid

Sometimes (rarely) I get a nasty response to a rejection. This also happened recently. I told the poet that his work was good, but not quite what I was looking for. Then I gave him email addresses of several other magazines that I felt his poems would be welcome. Instead of thanking me, he replied, "It's editors like you that make poets like me want to jump out of windows." 

I appreciate a brief, polite message with the poems. Include your email and snail mail address. We are now asking if you have PayPal, but it’s not required. You don't have to tell me how many degrees you have or how long you've lived in the Andes. Or that you have a bad knee and are out of work, love photography and have three grandchildren or one out of wedlock. 

I'm most sorry for those who don't have computer access. Everyone can avail themselves at their local library in this nation. I don't know what is holding them back from getting assistance, if they don't want to learn, or can't afford a computer, unless they are in prison or have serious health conditions. But it's their choice. I always make exceptions for those without internet access and read their poems outside of my usual reading periods. 

-- Marge Simon, Star*Line.


Check out the Science Fiction Poetry Association's website for news and current guidelines for Star*Line.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 26th, 2010 03:36 pm (UTC)
Perhaps a spec poet should write what they find fulfilling and significant for themselves, whether that be rhyming poety or "underappreciated" forms.
Oct. 26th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
Heh, since we're all out in the open now, I shall add that, five years later, your gripe about speculative poetry somehow harming itself by not loudly singing the praises of Shel Silverstein and Led Zeppelin still makes no sense whatsoever.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )