Interview Project: Neon

To start December we talk with the editor of Neon, a fine British magazine that publishes spec poetry in addition to contemporary experimental

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

Neon publishes weird contemporary fiction and poetry, experimental stuff, speculative stuff. What makes it unique, I suppose, would be its particular aesthetic, which I always struggle to describe in words.

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How did you become a poetry editor?

I have been since the magazine started. Initially I wanted Neon to be more focused on prose, but over time the stunning quality of the poetry submitted won me over, and I now publish far more poetry than fiction.

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What's your background? How has that affected your decisions, with regard to individual poems or types? Are you more critical of some genres, subgenres, or tropes than others? If so, why?

The poetry I read for my own enjoyment has always been immensely varied, including both literary and genre poems. Until recently I never really made a distinction between different classes or genres, and even now I find it somewhat ridiculous to hear someone say that they never read science fiction, or only read fantasy. As such I'm willing to look at absolutely anything for the magazine, and I'd like to think that I consider everything fairly.

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What good is a fantasy?

I don't know. It's not something I've thought very much about. Superficially I could say that fantasy serves as a kind of escape from reality.

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What scares you?

Spiders. And terrorists. More the former than the latter.

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

Right at the centre of it. I think that, as far as preparing for the future goes, SF serves a unique purpose, by exploring the more human side of the new technology and changing culture.

 *

Who are some of your favorite poets, and why?

 There are many, many poets whose work I admire and yet oddly enough I cannot think of a single one.

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What makes a poem poetic?

I think it is the intensity and complexity of the language that sets poetry apart from prose. Ideally if you remove the line breaks from a poem and set it out in paragraphs it should still "feel" like a poem.

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How do you feel about rhyme?

I'm not a great fan. Rhyme often seems terribly forced and flippant, and I feel that when it is not done with great skill it can sap a poem of much of its power.

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What are some of your favorite poetic forms? What catches your eye when you read a submission?

Above everything else, I'm won over by a sense that the writer is confident in their work and comfortable in their style. I want to feel that this is their voice, not one that they are adopting because they believe that it is fashionable.

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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?

For me, the imagery and lyricism would be more important. Although I enjoy reading poems with strong, clear narratives, the language and tone of the work is far more important for me as far as the magazine is concerned. If a piece has both (and many do) then so much the better.

 *

Is there an evolution in genre poetry - is there a difference in the style genre is written in today vs classic?

I think the prevalent styles of different genres naturally vary over time. Exactly how they have varied though I couldn't say.

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

The most common mistake people make is to send their work as an attachment. It's stated in the submission guidelines that submissions should be in the body of the email, so when I receive an attachment it makes me think that it's unlikely the writer has read the guidelines. By extension, if they haven't read the guidelines it is hard to believe that they will have read the magazine, and thus they put themselves at a great disadvantage.

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With accepting electronic submissions you doubtlessly receive submissions worldwide - have you noticed any tone/style/theme variations in these? Are there noticeable regional flavors in such, or do you feel that poetry is a universal language?

There are definitely variations in the kind of submissions received from different countries. Painful as this is to say, American submissions are generally better than British ones: more adventurous, more honest, less trivial and domestic.

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

I think the best advice I can offer is to read the magazine before submitting. It's free, after all.

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

I'd love to see more experimental forms, more innovation both formally and in terms of subject matter. At the same time, fewer generic submissions and less spam email would be wonderful.

-- Krishan Coupland, Neon

~*~

 Please hop on over and check out Neon, and once there give the guidelines a checking-out!


Interview Project: Poe Little Thing


Here we are - a couple of days later than usual, my apologies! - with the 8th of our interviews with editors of magazine that publish awesome spec-fic poetry.  Today we are talking with Donna Burgess, editor of Poe Little Thing!

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For those readers who might not have previously discovered POE LITTLE THING, can you tell us a little about it? What makes POE LITTLE THING unique?

The previous incarnation of POE LITTLE THING was simply a thin digest containing ten excellent poems and a cool cover image. It sold for about $1.25. But with the increased interest in e-publications, I have taken POE to a higher level, with flash fiction as well as poetry. It will be a more substantial, perfect-bound, themed anthology, available for all e-readers as well as print. The upcoming issue's theme is IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM, which is essentially space-horror.

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How did you become a poetry editor?

I've been doing this small press thing for a long time, plus I've always enjoyed reading and writing poetry. I guess it was bound to happen.

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What's your background? How has that affected your decisions, with regard to individual poems or types? Are you more critical of some genres, subgenres, or tropes than others? If so, why?

I'm an English major, but frankly, that has little affect on my decisions on acceptance or rejection. I prefer free verse, rather than metered work. I'm not a big fan of rhyming poetry -- it comes off as a bit cheesy most times. I like a speculative element rather than high fantasy or hard science fiction.

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What good is a fantasy?

Everyone loves a story of the common man or woman thrust into strange situations. Like Sookie from the True Blood novels, or the kids from the Narnia books. Characters need to be easy to identify with. 

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What scares you? Is fear and the scare difficult to imbue into horror without falling back on tropish gore or creature horror? What makes the good horror poem stand out? Do you have pointers for those who come close, but miss the mark in their work?

Almost anything can scare me, if I think about it enough. I don't think gore or creature horror is necessary for a good scare (although I love a gruesome zombie kill-fest). Subtle horror is much more effective, really -- capturing everyday thinks and twisting them just enough to create some discomfort. No real pointers for those who miss the mark, except keep reading, keep writing and keep submitting.

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

Good science fiction is almost like a crystal ball, isn't it? Think about William Gibson's work, or all the way back to Jules Verne.  

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Who are some of your favorite poets, and why?

I love Anne Sexton and T.S. Eliot, but I also enjoy the poets I have accepted for my publications. I thrive on reading new work.  

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What makes a poem poetic?

Wonderful, uncommon combination of words and interesting subject matter.

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How do you feel about rhyme?

If it is well-done, it is beautiful. Anything less can be painful to read.

 

What are some of your favorite poetic forms? What catches your eye when you read a submission? 

I'm wide open, from haiku to epics. I hate clichés, so originality always catches my eye.

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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?

It depends -- you really don't want anything that loses the reader because it is so confused. I think both elements can be used, if carefully written.

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Is there an evolution in genre poetry - is there a difference in the style genre is written in today vs. classic? 

Obviously, the subject matter is different -- what scares people has become more complicated, I think. But really, the style remains the same.

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

Everyone follows the guidelines pretty closely. I'm not a stickler -- if I can read it or access the file, I'll take a look.

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With accepting electronic submissions you doubtlessly receive submissions worldwide - have you noticed any tone/style/theme variations in these? Are there noticeable regional flavors in such, or do you feel that poetry is an universal language?

Good poetry, or writing in general, is universal. With technology, the world is a much smaller (and unfortunately less diverse) place. Often it is difficult to determine where the author or poet is from just from reading the poem.

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

Edit it and send it, but be patient -- my response times are slow. Be sure to submit during open reading periods.

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

For the Naked Snake Press novels, I'd love to see more steampunk and near-future work with a "scary" element. Less sloppily-edited submissions. Lots of typos/grammar issues is a sure rejection. For POE, just check the theme and reading periods.

 

-- Donna Burgess, Poe Little Thing

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For more on Poe Little Thing, watch their listing on Duotrope!

Interview Project: Tales of the Talisman


For our interview this weekend, we are talking with David Lee Sommers of the fine magazine, Tales of the Talisman.

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For those readers who might not have previously discovered Tales of the Talisman, can you tell us a little about it)? What makes Tales of the Talisman unique?

Tales of the Talisman is a quarterly magazine of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.  We feature an assortment of new and established writers.  What I believe makes us unique is that we really explore the gamut of speculative fiction from fun and lighthearted to more serious and literary.  Another thing that makes us unique is that we feature quite a bit of poetry.  Typically we buy at least one poem for every short story.  The poetry is not merely filler.  We look for poems that compliment the themes that run through each issue.

I should note that it’s something of a mistake for poets to try to “target” specific themes that they think might be in a given issue. What I find exciting is that I can often match poems and stories from different writers who are unaware that they’re tapping into common themes. When writing for the magazine, write poems that interest you and submit them. I’ll worry about how the themes compliment what’s already in a given issue.


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How did you become a poetry editor?

Back when Tales of the Talisman was first founded in 1995 under the name Hadrosaur Tales, a number of the writers I knew happened to be poets.  They were doing interesting work and some of it had a distinctly SF/F character.  I had also recently discovered the poetry of Ray Bradbury.  It seemed there were things that could be explored in poetry that couldn't be done in fiction, so I decided to accept poetry to the magazine.  I've been learning more and more about poetry ever since then.

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What's your background? How has that affected your decisions, with regard to individual poems or types? Are you more critical of some genres, subgenres, or tropes than others? If so, why?

My degree is in physics, but I've been writing short stories as long as I can remember.  However, I felt intimidated by poetry for a long time.  The only poetry I really liked was by Edgar Allan Poe.  I didn't really become a fan of poetry until I heard Ray Bradbury read some of his poems when I was in high school.  There was a tremendous power when he spoke that I hadn't seen when I looked at words on a page.  Even then, I still felt intimidated by the idea of actually writing poetry.  I tinkered with poetry here and there, but I didn't really write seriously until I decided to accept poetry for Hadrosaur Tales.  Basically, I realized if I was going to accept poetry for the magazine, I ought to understand it better and I should get to a point where my poetry is picked up by comparable magazines.  After a few years of practice, I placed some poetry in places such as Star*Line and The Santa Clara Review.  I've won awards in local poetry contests and was recently nominated for the Rhysling Award given by the Science Fiction Poetry Association.  Basically I'm a self-taught poet who has graded himself through his sales and awards.

I don't really have a favorite poetic form.  I think it's important that a poet not force their poem into a form.  I've read too many poems where the rhyme scheme smacks you in the face and actually detracts from the poem.  However, I'm really impressed when I read a poem and then suddenly realize after the fact that it was a rhyming poem or followed a particular meter.

Because of Tales of the Talisman's broad focus, I look for poetry that works in all of the speculative genres.  One thing that's interesting is while I tend to see more fantasy short stories than other types of stories, I actually tend to see fewer fantasy poems than horror or science fiction poems.  One trap that some people fall into -- and I've fallen into this as well -- is that there is a fine line between science fiction poetry and science poetry.  Science poetry might simply be about a new discovery in astronomy, physics or biology.  To cross the line to science fiction poetry, it must speculate about how humans will change in response to new or possible future science.

Because I am trained as a scientist and because I tend to see more of it than other genres, I'm probably somewhat more critical of science fiction poetry than poetry from others genres.

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What good is a fantasy?

Fantasy is an essential escape.  It lets us see that there is a world beyond our world.  At the very least, fantasy helps us grasp the enormity of time and space.  We can image worlds and places very different from our own.  Fantasy lets us give name and voice to those hard-to-grasp spirits and forces that exist all around us.  Sometimes such forces are called magic and the spirits are called fae or elves.  However, fantasy has essentially no limits and the fantasy poet has a lot of room to create new mythologies or worlds.  What good is a fantasy?  Fantasy helps us humans understand those things that science has not yet explained or may never be able to explain.

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What scares you?

In addition to editing Tales of the Talisman and writing, I work at an observatory.  One night, while walking along a road with a dim flashlight, I saw what I thought was a big, slow-moving animal.  It was one of the scariest things I'd ever encountered.  I'd heard that there were mountain lions prowling about the area and thought this could be one, or something worse.  It turned out the thing was a fairly small branch, but covered by lots of leaves.  It looked like a big animal because of my expectations and the way the light hit it and the way the wind moved the leaves.  My point here is that the very best horror is about atmosphere and the way an author builds up your expectations.  Dracula scared me when I first read it, not because it made me believe in vampires, but because it made me conscious of the small noises in the dark and made me question what they could be.  Do that, and you've written an effective horror poem in my book!

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

To me, what distinguishes science fiction from fantasy is that science fiction looks at things that could happen given certain changes to technology or our understanding of science.  Fantasy imagines that forces outside our science or easy understanding are at work.  Science Fiction helps us prepare for the future in a couple of ways.  Sometimes it cautions us, telling us what could happen if we're not careful.  Sometimes it gives us hope for the future and tells us what we can look forward to if things are done well. 

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Who are some of your favorite poets, and why?

I've already mentioned Ray Bradbury.  I don't think anyone weaves words together like he does.  He brings together a passion and a power to the way everyday people encounter the future or the fantastic that few other poets have captured.

Edgar Allan Poe is fantastic.  He uses language very effectively and creates the atmosphere and expectation I was talking about in horror poetry.

Christina Sng is a contemporary poet who captures both the wonder of things that might come to pass through exploration and also creates genuinely atmospheric horror poetry.  When reading her work, you feel as though you are viewing wonders or horrors through her eyes.

Gary Every is perhaps one of the best contemporary fantasy poets I know.  He draws from a wide range of mythological sources including Native American and European lore and imagines people in the modern world interacting with the spirits of those worlds.

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What makes a poem poetic?

I think a good poem has a sense of rhythm that somehow compliments the subject matter. The piece as a whole should engage the reader emotionally just as a good song will. On one hand, poetry allows you to shift gears without being constrained to musical notes or styling. However, poetry also has to do its work entirely with words. You don’t necessarily have a musical instrument to help you carry the emotions.

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 How do you feel about rhyme?

I don’t feel rhyme is a requirement for good poetry. In fact, if rhyme is too obvious or forced, it can be a detriment. However, if rhyme is used well, it can compliment a good poem. Going back to the idea of rhythm, some poems really benefit from the lyricism of rhyme. Other poems can find a rhythm that doesn’t require rhyme. Do what works for the poem at hand.  

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What are some of your favorite poetic forms?  What catches your eye when you read a submission? 

I enjoy sonnets, villanelles, haiku and even limericks, but I don’t really give a lot of thought to those forms when I buy. For me, a poem has to create some emotional response on the first reading. If it fails that test, I don’t look at it again. If a poem creates an emotional response on the first reading, I’ll go back and read it again. If there is some deeper sense of craftsmanship -- such as form used effectively or a second layer of meaning I didn’t catch the first time -- there’s a good chance I’ll give the poem strong consideration for purchase. That said, if the form does not enhance the poem, then it could be a distraction. 

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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?

In an ideal world, I’d love to see a poem that accomplished both jobs. That said, I would probably gravitate toward the SpecFic narrative that’s easy to follow because it’s the kind of poem that’s most likely to work for me on one reading. Still, if a poem’s imagery and/or lyricism really blows my mind on the first reading, it doesn’t need the easy-to-follow narrative. So, I don’t really see this as an either/or question when I’m selecting poems -- but I probably do have a slight personal leaning toward the narrative. 

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 What do find that submitters most often get wrong with their submissions? Is there anything outside of the obvious of the submitter not following your guidelines that recurs in the slush? What advice would you give to those submitting to Tales of the Talisman?

I don’t have a lot of problems with poetry submissions as a rule beyond the occasional person who just can’t follow guidelines. I give people basically three options for submitting stories and poetry to the magazine: In the text of an email, attached to an email as a rich text format document (which can be generated from essentially every word processing program with a “save as”), or via snail mail. Since formatting is so important to poetry, I would tend to recommend that poets submit their poems as a rich text attachment or via mail. Formatting does have a tendency to get lost in the body of emails.

This is not specified in my guidelines, but when a submission is made as a rich text attachment, I prefer that all of the poems be collected into a single document. It’s easier for me to click one attachment and read the file, than to click on several, separate attachments.

Basically my best advice is, follow the guidelines and be courteous and to the point in your correspondence. A short biographical statement of who you are in your cover letter is nice to see. A lengthy discourse on your poetic philosophy should be saved for your blog. I don’t want or need it in your cover letter. 

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

I would really like to see more fantasy poetry. I see a lot of science fiction and horror poetry -- please keep it coming -- but I don’t see as many people trying their hands at fantasy. I’d love to see more poets who are inspired by mythology -- especially non-European mythology. There’s a whole world of possibility out there, I’d love to see more of it explored poetically.

-- David Lee Sommers, Tales of the Talisman

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Please stop by Hadrosaur Productions to check out Tales of the Talisman!   And while there, see the submission guidelines for open reading periods.

 


The Big Pulp, MLM, Apex


"Nether Air Ambush" accepted by Big Pulp
"New Kind of War" Accepted by Midwest Literary Magazine (and immediately reprint in their HC anthology.)
"Still Life for Gustave Moreau" Accepted by Midwest Literary Magazine (and immediately reprint in their HC anthology.)
"Cancelled Flight" accepted by Apex Magazine for their December issue.

Interview Project: Andromeda Spaceways In-flight Magazine


For this Saturday, let's head to Australia, and talk with the poetry editor at ASIM

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For those readers who might not have previously discovered Andromeda Spaceways In-flight Magazine, can you tell us a little about it? What makes your publication unique?

Andromeda Spaceways In-flight Magazine is the most regular and, in terms of issues, longest-lived of any Australian SF/F magazine. It's anonymous slushing technique, assuring that submissions are assessed without regard to their author's name, the way in which there is a three-stage reading and the rapid response time make it unusual in the field, as does it's collective, rotating editorship.


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How did you become a poetry editor?

I chose to become poetry editor because I felt best-qualified for the job.

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What's your background? How has that affected your decisions, with regard to individual poems or types? Are you more critical of some genres, subgenres, or tropes than others? If so, why?

Apart from teaching poetry for 25 years, I'm also a published poet and a critic. I have an academic background in poetry, along with many other things. This provides me with a depth of knowledge by which to assess the poetry contributions to ASIM, and a view from several directions. It has made me more sensitive to epagogic poetic forms, but I'll still choose those if they're good enough. It also makes me aware of the many, many forms of poetry and what works and what doesn't in formal poetry. I'm fairly strict with formal poetry; if the rules are broken, they should be broken for a good reason, and people should be aware of what scansion and rhyme actually constitute before they attempt them. I'm also aware of what's been done before, and endless repetitions of the same tropes will not find favor. Nor will endless variations an a currently fashionable theme; once it was dragons, then elves, now it's vampires and zombies. Humorous poetry had better actually be funny, rather than pathetic.

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What good is a fantasy?

If this is meant how it reads, fantasy is a way of exploring ideas and people, as is science fiction. If it's meant to be 'what is a good fantasy?' then I see a 'good' fantasy as one which is original and has some depth, not endlessly repeating the same ideas.

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What scares you?

Very little, these days. Most horror is not very scary, because it doesn't get to the root fears of people. It seems to be just an endless round of monsters and gore, without pointing out that the worst monsters live right inside us, as do the worst fears. If you write something and it genuinely scares you - *genuinely* scares you - it will probably scare me. Possibly the only thing that really scares me now is the idea of making a decision of consequence, without knowing how to do it. Having to choose between who would live and who would die - Sophie's Choice - would scare me.

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

It's the first word of the term that describes a field of literary endeavor. SF has a fairly poor record of preparing us for the future, because the future is fairly difficult to predict. According to SF, we should be flitting around the solar system, if not the stars by now, but we're not. SF didn't predict on-line games addiction; well, maybe Phillip K Dick did, or many other things that have happened, while it predicted a lot of things that have not happened or happened quite differently.

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Who are some of your favorite poets, and why?

God, that's an incredibly tough question. My tastes in poetry range from Chaucer to the next one I read. Shakespeare, for one, Byron, Browning, Chesterton, Eliot, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Corso, Strindberg, Dante, Lorca; the list goes on. Why? Because they write poetry that tickles something inside me, while being sufficiently technically proficient to avoid jarring.

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What makes a poem poetic?

Nobody knows. The only real difference is that the poet controls the line-length.

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How do you feel about rhyme?

It's not essential to a poem, but if done, it should be done well. There is nothing that grates on the inner ear more than poor rhyme.

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What are some of your favorite poetic forms? What catches your eye when you read a submission?

I don't really have a favorite form. What catches my eye is whether the poem is actually saying something. Technique can always be fixed, if it's not so bad that the whole thing needs to be done again, but the poem must say something genuine, in a way that's not trite or hackneyed.

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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'd prefer to see both. They're not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they are utterly compatible, as many writers have proved.

*

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

They haven't done background reading in the field, either in poetry or fiction. There's a long history of both, and publishable works have to be original in some way, not just rebadged.

*
 

With accepting electronic submissions you doubtlessly receive submissions worldwide - have you noticed any tone/style/theme variations in these? Are there noticeable regional flavors in such, or do you feel that poetry is a universal language?

If I get another zombie/vampire poem I'm going to be very, very unkind to it. Because all poems are slushed without their origin known, I don't really identify regional variations, but there is an overweening trend to follow fashion. The tendency for thumping fantasy poetry about princes and battles and such is one that could diminish without harm to the field.

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

Read more, of everything. Think more before you write.

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

I'd love to see more works that show some intelligence and consideration along with mature feeling, and less rants and attempts at technical effects that don't work. Oh; I just remembered, villanelles scare me, because they're bloody difficult to do well and too many people try to write them.

 

-- Ian Nichols, ASIM

http://tinduck.wordpress.com/

~*~

Please head on over to ASIM to see an awesome magazine, and while there, please check out the submission guidelines!

Interview Project: Polu Texni

In this weeks interview Ms. Dawn Albright tells us about Polu Texni.

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For those readers who might not have previously discovered
Polu Texni, can you tell us a little about it? What makes Polu Texni unique?

Polu Texni is Greek for many arts or many crafts. (Sort of. OK, it's bad Greek.) It's a magazine about speculative fiction and art, and the community around them. I'm mostly interested in things that cross different media and genre.

*

How did you become a poetry editor?

The crass answer is that I can afford twenty bucks, and twenty bucks is competitive pay for a poem so I get good submissions. A lot of other things that I'd love to work with are out of my price range. This has skewed Polu Texni strongly toward poetry.

*

What's your background? How has that affected your decisions, with regard to individual poems or types? Are you more critical of some genres, subgenres, or tropes than others? If so, why?

I am a geek girl through and through -- a statistician in my day job, SF fan, con go-er, bringing up a second generation of gamers and geeks. As such, my brain is very concrete. I like strong visual images and a narrative sense. I'm very sensitive to over writing. Lots of poetry strikes me as being "just words" and I can hardly stand to read it.

*

What good is a fantasy?

There are a lot of answers to this one, but in short I've just never been interested in mainstream literature, no matter how good. I figure I live in the real world, so I don't need to read about it. I'm not saying I'm only interested in escape -- good fantasy lights up reality -- but if it comes too close to what I see in the cubicle farms and my suburban neighbors, that book is going to get tossed hard.

*

What scares you?

I think one of the most frightening things is realizing that the world is not what you thought it was. Think about when you were small and afraid that there was a monster going to get you -- was the fear of any actual physical harm or just in knowing that monsters were real?

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

Actually, some of my favorite SF that I've published (Michael Burstein's Collapse) hit other editor's "not SF" button. I thought it was pure SF in that it was fiction where science (and the life of scientists) was a crucial element, even though there wasn't a scrap of fantasy or the future in it. So while I do like to emphasize science I'm not sure I would emphasize preparing for the future at all.

*

Who are some of your favorite poets, and why?

Is it a cop out to say the ones I have published? It's true.. I get to pick just what I want.

*

What makes a poem poetic?

I am probably the least qualified editor in your group to answer that question.

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How do you feel about rhyme?

It usually doesn't work for me because it draws too much attention to itself, but I try not to be prejudiced.

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What are some of your favorite poetic forms? What catches your eye when you read a submission?

I love a poem that can tell a full story in brief forms. It's amazing how even ten lines can give a full story with a complete plot and characterization.

*

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?

Narrative, for sure. I like visual imagery but a lot of people go very badly wrong when they try for lyricism.

*

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

Honestly, as a small press who has not had much visibility in the places where wannabe writers hang out, I would say that nearly all of the submissions I get are decent. I hear from serious poets who are paying attention. I get stuff I don't like, but I don't get submissions that I think are bad. Some people miss the speculative element that I'm looking for and send me mainstream poetry, but not much of that.

*

With accepting electronic submissions you doubtlessly receive submissions worldwide - have you noticed any tone/style/theme variations in these? Are there noticeable regional flavors in such, or do you feel that poetry is a universal language?

I don't get a huge amount of them, so can't really tell.

*

What advice would you give to those submitting to Polu Texni?

Some of them? Write more, submit less. Don't send dozens of entries of varying quality, send the ones you really like. It's great to write every day, but not every day is going to give you a terrific poem.

*

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

I'm pretty happy with the poetry I get. I'm struggling to get non-fiction that I'm interested in. I'm working my way through a backlog of fiction so can't use any of that.

 

-- Dawn Albright, Polu Texni


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Please head on over and peruse the fine work at Polu Texni!  And here are the guidelines, should you like to send in poetry for her to consider.

Interview Project: Scifaikuest

This week we talk with Teri Santitoro, editor of the fantastic spec poetry magazine, Scifaikuest.

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

Scifaikuest is a MINIMALIST genre poetry magazine. It is published both online and in print, and both versions differ in their content. It is published four times a year. Scifaikuest is unique in that it not only accepts scifaiku and its related poetic forms, but it also is devoted strictly to sf, fantasy and horror themed poetry.

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 How did you become a poetry editor?

I became the coeditor of Scifaikuest after years of learning how to write scifaiku (and related forms) on the Scifaiku List online, and after coediting Random Planets for Sam's Dot Publishing. When my coeditor, L.A. Story left Scifaikuest, I became the sole editor.

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What's your background? How has that affected your decisions, with regard to individual poems or types? Are you more critical of some genres, subgenres, or tropes than others? If so, why?

I have loved science fiction since I was a kid. TV shows, books, movies, comics, anime--I love them all. This love of sf has led me to a certain preference toward sf and horror poetry rather than fantasy, so I'd have to say I'm more critical of fantasy poetry. A fantasy poem has to really grab me in order for me to want to accept it for publication.

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What good is a fantasy?

 IMO a good fantasy has to be believable. Otherwise it's just a fairy tale.

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What scares you?

Intense suspense.

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

Don't even get me started! Great science fiction is colored by possibilities and imagination based on actual scientific fact and/or theories. So many of the dreams of past sf writers have come to fruition by scientists who read their stories and were determined to make those dreams into realities.

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Who are some of your favorite poets, and why?

Most of my favorite poets are contributors to Scifaikuest! People like Loyd Daub, Charles Reed, Scott Nicolay, Tom Brinck, John Dunphy, Joanne Morcom, Stephen M. Wilson and Lauren McBride, all of whom write immediate, poignant and/or sentimental poetry in a few perfect words.

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 What makes a poem poetic?

 To me a poem is poetic when it is colorful, concise and immediate, when it evokes strong emotion, and when it flows.

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 How do you feel about rhyme?

It depends on the poem. I can like rhyme very much, but it's not really an acceptable form in haiku/scifaiku, so it doesn't apply to the kind of poetry that I like to write, read or edit.

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 What are some of your favorite poetic forms? What catches your eye when you read a submission?

My favorite poetic forms are scifaiku, sijo, cinquain, tanka and haibun. What catches my eye when I'm reading a submission? Unique subject matter, concise expression and a great "ah-ha" moment.

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 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?

Wow, that's a hard question. I like easy-to-follow-imagery-that-blows-my-mind. LOL! I think these two elements can be very compatible, if the writer/poet is talented and imaginative.

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 What do find that submitters most often get wrong with their submissions? Is there anything outside of the obvious of the submitter not following your guidelines that recurs in the slush? What advice would you give to those submitting to your mag?

Like most editors, I hate it when the submitter doesn't follow the guidelines. One of my pet peeves is the poet who doesn't sign his/her work. Especially if they want to use a pen name. My biggest word of advice is to SIGN YOUR WORK! Also, take a look at an issue of Scifaikuest and find out just what kind of poetry we publish. If you've never written anything in the scifaiku and related forms--try to learn how to do so correctly. Scifaiku is NOT just 5-7-5 syllable count!

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

 I'd certainly like to see less 5-7-5 sentences! That is NOT was scifaiku is all about! I'd like to see more great "ah-ha" moments that embody the true haiku spirit.

Thanks so much for allowing me to participate!

 -- Teri Santitoro, Scifaikuest

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For a great collection of short-form poetry, please stop by Scifaikuest!  And if you have a batch of neat speculative fiction haiku, tanka, fib, or other short poetry, please visit the Scifaikuest guidelines.


Interview Project: Abyss & Apex


In the third of our on-going series of interviews with editors of magazines that publish speculative fiction poetry, we are talking with Trent Walters, Senior Poetry Editor of Abyss & Apex.

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For those readers who might not have previously discovered Abyss & Apex, can you tell us a little about it? What makes A&A unique?

What makes any magazine unique--if it is unique--is the editor's tastes. Since I own my own tastes--intrinsic to my being in part--it would be hard for me to step out of the frame I live in and be completely objective. However, I do know (or delude myself into thinking I know) a few things about my tastes.

In speculative poetry, I am as interested in the speculation as the poetry. Perhaps I emphasize the poem as a stand-alone aesthetic piece more than most poetry editors. I desire poems that surprise, function on a number of levels, and hit the head, heart and/or gut. But even that's not true as I have selected poems that simply captured a spooky moment or conceptually challenged what was thought to be poetry.

When I read SF poetry magazines--if my tastes differ--it's usually because the speculative conceit alone was not enough to carry the poem. And really, if the speculative idea were simple enough to convey in a poem, someone has probably already done it. If it hasn't been done before, it will soon be forgotten as soon as someone with a better sense of aesthetics tackles the conceit. So the poet may as well have focused on the aesthetics, anyway.

Finally, my selection process may be unique (or possibly different) in that I want poems you can read over and over again. Each poem I accept usually has language I can appreciate, novel conceits or treatments or perspectives, and something to think about after the poem is over. Also, I don't select poems based on poets. I'm not sure if this is a mistake or not. But I focus on the poems, not the poets. Poems are pooled semi-anonymously into a pile that I read over and over, both nitpicking and seeking ways to read the poems more deeply. Sometimes selected poets are cellophane new, sometimes old hands; sometimes literary, sometimes speculative. I like being surprised at who gets selected. I dislike rejecting poems by friends (or really anyone because I realize they are artists just trying to make their way).

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How did you become a poetry editor?

My first editing job was with Mythic Circle (which included poetry and fiction). I also did an editing stint with Tony Tost and Zach Schomburg at the short-lived "Smokestack Lightning" poetry zine. As for Abyss and Apex, I seem to recall that I'd just had my first chapbook of poems published by Morpo Press, and Jude-Marie (Kelly) Green and/or Wendy Thies asked me if I'd like to read poetry for A&A. I said, "You bet."

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What's your background? How has that affected your decisions, with regard to individual poems or types? Are you more critical of some genres, subgenres, or tropes than others? If so, why?

My background includes science and literature and education. I've always been interested in all of them. If this background affects any decisions, it's that I may be critical of weak or mistaken scientific aspects or of poor aesthetic execution, but as a teacher I have to believe that people can improve themselves and their work. So I don't take flaws too seriously. Someone may revise a poem into something I might want. It happens.

 

One subgenre I've never been crazy about is S&S--at least when the language gets too bombastic. But it can be done well. Also, I try to see past any biases I may have, so I may sit on poems for awhile in the hopes that I might gain objectivity. 

I should note that I do like horror, but the magazine on the whole does not choose to publish it (except maybe for an October issue). You can try on 

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What good is a fantasy?

I interpret this question as asking if there were inherent value in a thing being a fantasy. As has been pointed out before, all fiction is fantasy--even biography which is impossible to know with certainty that the events happened in just the way stated. If one accepts one untrue event, then other untrue events (at least as a category) beg, "Why not accept me as well?" The reason we accept the untrue is for the sake of artifice.

If the question distinguishes realism from fantasy, with reality being superior, then why not move the fiction further into nonfiction, which is more realistic still? I don't generally buy superficial limitations on what makes good fiction.

If the question asks for the opposite--what makes fantasy better than other fiction?--I'm not sure I believe it is superior. It's just something I learned to love while reading L. Frank Baum as a kid: Dorothy plucking lunch pails off a tree still flips my brain. Perhaps the exercise of believing "six impossible things before breakfast" is pointless. But perhaps it gets us outside of being trapped inside a prescribed set of thinking. It's too easy for anyone to think they've got it all figured out.

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What scares you?

I don't think I've ever analyzed my fears and frights. (See the above comment on A&A's policy on horror.) 

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

SF seems to be, largely, less about the science than the philosophical impact of science and technology on society. I have no intention of being prescriptive, but if society desires to advance science and technology, it would do well to spotlight engaging and close looks at the sciences and their impact. We can't expect new generations of scientists and technological progress if we don't lay the groundwork.

That said, I'm not going to vote for publishing something that forwards the cause of science unless it has a good aesthetic, a keen poetic sensibility. 

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Who are some of your favorite poets, and why?

Albert Goldbarth and Heather McHugh for their playfulness. Emily Dickinson's strange mystery. Wallace Stevens' use of image, symbol and language. Karl Shapiro when he bites. Speculatively, David Lunde for his emotional core and Bruce Boston's more ambitious work.

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What makes a poem poetic?

Whole books have been written on this. Many introductory books on poetry are available. Succinctly, I look for imagery, language, line, sense, speculation, and compression. Poems that make me turn my eyes from the page and into my head stand a good chance. I like to chew on the words.

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How do you feel about rhyme?

The problem with rhyme is that it can have an unfortunate chime. Rhyme should occur as a surprise at an unexpected or silent time, seasoned with a spicy dash of chili lime. We should ask: "Wait. Was that a rhyme?" We shouldn't think: "Here comes another clunky chunk of uninspired rhyme."

Rhyme should also be accompanied by meter. Regularly repeated rhyme without a meter is like watching someone play himself in a game of pong, without the net. Often the poet wastes words in padding or falls away from the poem's power by trying to make the next line rhyme. With meter, the poet plays tennis with the net up. Form should challenge. The poet has to pay attention not only to the sound and content but also do so within a preset confines. 

One could do worse than read Philip Larkin.

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What are some of your favorite poetic forms? What catches your eye when you read a submission?  

I don't know that I have favorite forms. See "poem poetic" response above for the answer to the second question.

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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?

This isn't the kind of question I ask myself. I read poems with two different aims in mind. 1) On the first pass, I look for good language imagery, emotions, and arc (or at least the feeling of completeness). It can be narrative or not. 2) On rereading, I'm looking for something that will stay with me, keeping me invested in and investigating the poem.

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What do find that submitters most often get wrong with their submissions? Is there anything outside of the obvious of the submitter not following guidelines that recurs in the slush? What advice would you give to those submitting to your mag?

Most often wrong for our magazine are a reliance on abstractions (not imagery) and a single-mindedness (focus solely on speculation or rhyme or easy "poetic" words, etc.).  

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

What I find strange in 98% of speculative poems is the reliance on punctuation and other obvious places to end lines. Why don't more poets try to surprise?

-- Trent Walters, Abyss & Apex.

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For excellent poetry and fiction, please don't hesitate to visit Abyss & Apex!  Also, check out their guidelines for submission windows and other cool stuff!
 

 


Interview Project: Stone Telling


Today we have the second of our on-going series of interviews with editors of magazines that publish speculative fiction poetry.   We are talking with Rose Lemberg, editor of Stone Telling, a new speculative poetry magazine that has made a recent and exciting debute.

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

Stone Telling is a new magazine of literary speculative poetry. From the guidelines:

"Stone Telling is looking for literary speculative poems with a strong emotional core. We focus on fantasy, science fiction, surrealism, and slipstream, but would consider outstanding science poetry and non-speculative poetry that fits the flavor of the magazine. While we are open to all speculative poetry, we are especially interested in seeing work that is multi-cultural and boundary-crossing, work that deals with othering and Others, work that considers race, gender, sexuality, identity, and disability issues in nontrivial and evocative ways."

In addition to poetry, we also offer non-fiction columns covering speculative poetry around the world, as well as reviews and interviews.

I am not aware of any other publication in the field that is purposefully doing what we are doing.

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How did you become a poetry editor?

I talked to some of my favorite speculative poets, who felt frustrated that their most intriguing, daring, thought-provoking poetry did not sell. And I wanted to see more diversity in the field of speculative poetry. So I thought I'd put my skills to good use and start my own market.

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What's your background? How has that affected your decisions, with regard to individual poems or types? Are you more critical of some genres, subgenres, or tropes than others? If so, why?

I was born in the former Soviet Union and immigrated twice, settling in the USA in 2001. Like many Russian speakers, I was exposed to the classics of Russian poetry before I could walk - or talk. I fell in love with epic poetry at the tender age of five, when my parents introduced me to the Iliad in an excellent translation by а 19-century Russian poet N.I.Gnedich. Later, I studied a fair number of ancient, medieval and modern languages. I started to teach myself Old Norse in high school in order to read the Poetic Edda, and Old Norse remains one of my favorite languages. I hold a Ph.D in a field related to these interests, and currently teach at a large research university in the Midwest.

How does all this affect my editorial process? My life experiences are very rich, and my reading multilingual and extensive - as a result, I know what works for me and why; and I am very picky. In my slush I am looking for feeling, ideas, imagery; and of course, I am looking for multi-cultural and boundary-crossing work. While I am open to pretty much everything, some things will be a hard sell: very short or very long poems, poetry that feels too familiar and too European-centric, rhymed poetry, non-speculative work focusing on the mundane. There are exceptions to every rule. In Issue 1, Emily Jiang's "Self-Portrait" is perfect at just 13 lines. Samantha Henderson's "The Gabriel Hound" explores the folklore of the British Isles, and has some rhymed sequences. I will consider everything I receive.

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What good is a fantasy?

Fantasy is crucial to the neurotypical cognitive development in humans. Engagement in pretend play (also known as imagination play) is fundamental for developing language and social skills. This is why, in every culture and society, you will find creativity that involves the fantastic. To ask "what good is fantasy" is akin to asking "what good is human cognition?"

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What scares you?

Death.

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

There may be as many definitions of SF as there are SF writers. As I understand it, science fiction asks the "what if" question. The "what if" doesn't have to be scientific - it can examine changes in society, human creativity, ecology. I do not believe that SF's mission is to prepare us for the future. Good science fiction is a thought experiment that opens our eyes to something we have never before considered about ourselves and the world.

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Who are some of your favorite poets, and why?

I answered this question extensively in my Outer Alliance interview .http://blog.outeralliance.org/archives/583

But to briefly recap, if I had to name three, these would be Egill Skallagrímsson, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Ted Hughes. I cannot imagine my life without these poets.

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What makes a poem poetic?

I am not sure I understand this question. 

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How do you feel about rhyme?

I feel enthusiastic about rhyme in the Russian poetry of the Golden and Silver ages; just as I have tender feelings for alliteration - in Old Norse poetry. I'd rather not see rhymed poetry in my mailbox, because I usually feel that the poet spent a great deal of effort searching for rhymes when s/he should have paid more attention to crucial elements that would actually make me want to buy the poem. While I'd rather not receive rhymed poetry, I will consider anything.

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What are some of your favorite poetic forms? What catches your eye when you read a submission?

What catches my eye is not the poetic form; I am looking for imagery and power.

I do enjoy experimental poems, prose poems and visual poems, and definitely do not receive enough of these, maybe because they are very hard to get right.

That said, I am not looking for flash fiction; please do not send me your oft-rejected flash in hopes that I might accept it as a prose poem. If you are in doubt about this form, check out Lehman's Great American Prose Poems and Stuart Friebert and David Young's Models of the Universe: An anthology of the Prose Poem.

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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?

As a rule, I am not looking for narratives that are easy to follow. In general, "easy" is not an adjective that I feel should be applicable to Stone Telling poems. I want my readers to be able go back and reread a poem several times, and find something new in it every time; this is how I choose poetry for ST. I am most emphatically not looking for storylines everybody saw a hundred times already. Strong imagery is always a big plus for me.

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What do find that submitters most often get wrong with their submissions? Is there anything outside of the obvious of the submitter not following your guidelines that recurs in the slush? What advice would you give to those submitting to your mag?

I guess I see mistakes what every other editor sees - people not following the guidelines, for example sending me more than three poems at a time. People respond to a rejection with a fresh submission - it's definitely not a mistake to send me more of your work, in fact I often ask for it; but please send the new batch in a separate email. It makes my record keeping easier and results in a faster response.

Please make your introductory emails brief. Credits can be nice, but I am not swayed by them; I want to read your poetry, not your credits. If your introductory email is longer than 100 words, I will skip it to get to your poems. But please do write something - a poem without at least a "Dear Editor, please consider" is somewhat annoying. If you never sold a poem before, that's fine.

I think the worst thing that a poet can do is to take rejection personally. I like much of what I see in my slush, but can only buy a very small percentage of it. I have a very strong vision, and even if I love a certain poem, I will not necessarily buy it. Rejections are not personal.

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

More diversity. Less mermaids.

 
-- Rose Lemberg, Stone Telling.


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Head over to Stone Telling for some really fine poetry, and if you feel that you would like to try your hand at some verse that would fit, see the full guidelines!