Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Picture's Worth 1000 Blog Comments And Thomas Disch Made Me Really Mad

Here's the Pic:

Shown are two very talented SF poets: Deborah P. Kolodji and Samantha Henderson. (See other pics here.)

What they are pointing to is a long-form poem by Albert Goldbarth in the 2006 Rhysling Anthology, "Cock." (To the easily offended: Rooster, just tell youself it's a rooster! Better?)

Why is this photo cracking me up, besides the priceless expression on Samantha's face?

You'll know when you get to the latter part of this post. Hang with me.

It all started cause of something well-known SF writer/poet/essayist Thomas Disch (334, The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of, The Genocides, Camp Concentration, The Man Who Had No Idea) wrote on his blog that pretty much dissed me and a bunch of very wonderful folks who write speculative poetry. (Disch's post is deleted now, but it's preserved at Drew Morse's blog.)

Drew of SFPA responded. Intelligently, too.

My guess as to why Mr. Disch, a very well-educated man and respected SF talent, deleted the entry is that it stands as proof that he went and jammed both feet in his mouth on this subject:

Foot #1--He writes about the Science Fiction Poetry Association (of which yours truly is a newish member): That is is so totally ingrown and parochial. I don't think any of them have ever read Shakespeare and Milton, much less a contemporary poet outside their enchanted circle.

God, how snotty can you get? Not to mention uninformed.

There are numerous members of SFPA who earned English degrees (including moi) and who are professors of English. Guess who we had to read to get those degrees? Yeah, Shakespeare and Milton and Donne and Tennyson and Frost and Whitman and Shelley and Dickinson and Rich and Atwood and Millay and Ginsberg and Brooks and a host of others in the poetic canon (and some not in the canon, such as Latino poets and contemporary Greek poets).

And even those who aren't English majors or professors, well, those folks love language and poetry. You think they don't read the stuff for pure pleasure? Does that even make sense?

Now, here's how Disch concluded we're a bunch of inbred hacks:

Foot #2--The great deciding factor: I once was at one of their consistories and asked who'd read Albert Goldbarth. No one. And he's surely never been nominated for one of their prizes, although no other nationally acclaimed poet has written more work that should appeal to an SF audience.

Well, yeah, Goldbarth didn't ring an immediate bell, but neither do a host of living poets and living novelists. I only have so much time. I don't read poetry 24 hours a day. And I tend to avoid poets who prefer long form, too. I like short; I like lyric. So sue me.

Doesn't mean I don't enjoy several living and dead poets, though, who don't write science fiction poetry. My blog readers may know--although I don't post much on poetry here at Mirathon--I very much respect the work of Catherine Sasanov, Carolyn Forche, and Luci Shaw (to name three). They're all alive last I checked. Kenyon died, yeah, and so did Levertov. I would have wished otherwise. Oh, and I've posted haiku (granted, all but one of the haikus I've posted that are non-SF are from dead greats).

Still, the main point is that the SFPA folks in Disch's company that particular day DID NOT KNOW ALBERT GOLDBARTH. And, he snidely adds, we've never nominated him for one of the Rhysling awards.


Yes, we did. FIVE TIMES. Count, em, FIVE.

Lemme quote Drew's post:

For the record, Goldbarth has been nominated for the Rhylsing at least 5 times: 1982, 1988, 1995, 2001, and 2006. That he hasn't won does not mean that the voters haven't liked his work; it just means that there were other poems (remember, the Rhylsing recognizes the best poem, not poet) that they liked better. In 1982, Goldbarth lost out to Le Guin. In 1995 he was competing against Haldeman, Yolen, Ford and, yes, you Tom. In 2006, he placed fourth; Haldeman's "The Old Twentieth" was one of the poems that placed ahead of his poem

(Hey, look, we nominated Disch, too, same year as Goldbarth. He forgot about that, huh?)

I have the proof on my bookshelf about that last nomination Drew mentions--page 97 of THE 2006 RHYSLING ANTHOLOGY.

And that's what our two fine lady poets are pointing to in the pic. Imagine the shock. We hacks managed to nominate quality-touchstone poet Albert Goldbarth...for the fifth time. Whodathunkit?

And Thomas Disch..well, he's busy with two feet in his mouth.

Just read his fiction and poetry and ignore his rants against the SFPA.

Now, go and read some Rumi or Sodergrand or Neruda or Auden (Elliot often posts Auden, drop by) or Shihab Nye or Amichai or Dickinson or Basho or Herbert or Yeats or H.D. or Rilke or Alegria or Eliot or Perez Firmat or, yeah, some nice speculative poetry. Drop by Once Upon a (Uni)Verse and find a link to Goldbarth's "Moonology." I liked that one. ::grin::


Daniel Ausema said...

I'd consider myself much more widely read in the broader world of poetry than in SF/F poetry (though I'm trying to increase my familiarity there and just got an order from Amazon that included Alchemy of Stars). But's it's so hard to keep up with everything going on in poetry, whether mainstream of speculative--everyone will have different poets they've discovered that others aren't (yet) aware of.

silk-noir said...

Heavens. Goldbarth was one of my teachers in college. What a small world.