Speculative poetry

Speculative poetry is a genre of poetry that focusses on fantastic, science fictional and mythological themes. It is also known as science fiction poetry or fantastic poetry. It is distinguished from other poetic genres by being categorized by its subject matter, rather than by the poetry's form. Suzette Haden Elgin defined the genre as "about a reality that is in some way different from the existing reality."[1]

Due to the similarity of subject matter, it is often published by the same markets that publish short stories and novellas of science fiction, fantasy and horror, and many authors write both in speculative fiction and speculative poetry. The field has one major award, the Rhysling Award, given annually to a poem of more than fifty lines and to a sub-fifty lines poem by the US-based Science Fiction Poetry Association.[2]


Much of the Romantic poetry of the 19th century used techniques seen in modern fantasy literature: retellings of classical mythology and European folklore, both to show alternative angles in the stories and to explore social issues. Many distinguished poets here were women, and many used folktales as an acceptable social camouflage with which to explore feminist concerns. One of the most celebrated of these poems, Christina Rossetti's 1862 "Goblin Market", remains a source of critical debate.[3]

Andrew Joron wrote in 1981, that over the past decade in the United States "it was possible to create a tradition, that established and defined the genre" of science fiction poetryJoron, Andrew (1981). Is This Poetry or Is It Science Fiction?..

In common with the gradual recognition of science fiction and fantasy as distinct literary genres in the 1930s, science-fictional poetry began publication as a distinct genre in the pulp magazines of the United States. Fantasy-specific Weird Tales (1923–1954) and its brief compatriot Unknown (1939–43) were the only major publishers. They were succeeded by more serious venues including the US-based The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF) (1949–), the UK-based flagship of the New Wave movement New Worlds while it was under the editorship of Michael Moorcock between 1964 and 1970, and the annual reprint anthologies of F&SF and The Year's Best Science Fiction edited by Judith Merril. These anthologies drew much of their content from mainstream or literary sources.[4]

In the 1960s, anthologies of original speculative material began to be published. F&SF ceased accepting poetry in 1977, a gap in the market taken up by the newly established Asimov's. The Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) was founded by Suzette Haden Elgin the following year.[5] In the 1970s, Elgin's colleague Frederick J. Mayer for some time awarded an annual Clark Ashton Smith Award for best fantastic poetry.

By 1990, Asimov's remained the major news-stand market, but a diverse array of predominantly US-based small press markets had developed, many lasting several decades, and many choosing purely electronic publication post-2000. This is in common with mainstream written poetry in the US over this time.[6]

SFPA (now called the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association) awards the Rhysling for short- and long-form SF and fantasy poetry awards annually; most winners have been either science fiction or science-themed rather than fantasy or horror. Most Rhysling nominees have been from the small-press poetry journals Dreams & Nightmares, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, and the SFPA's own journal, Star*Line.[7] Winners are reprinted in the Nebula Awards anthology. The Horror Writers Association has a separate recognition for single-author collections of horror poetry, the Bram Stoker Award, though there is no facility in the Bram Stoker Award to honour anthologies of horror/weird poetry.

Subgenres and themes

Science fiction

Science fiction poetry's main sources are the sciences and the literary movement of science fiction prose.[8]

Scientifically-informed verse, sometimes termed poetry of science, is a branch that has either scientists and their work or scientific phenomena as its primary focus; it may also use scientific jargon as metaphor.[9] Important collections in this area include the 1985 anthology of predominantly Science-published poems Songs from Distant Worlds. This area often sees work by mainstream poets, and works on these themes dominated the early years of the Rhysling awards.[9]


Mythic poetry deals with myth and folklore, with a particular focus on reinterpreting and retelling traditional stories.


Horror poetry is a subset which, in the same way as horror fiction, concentrates on ghostly, macabre, spectral, supernatural themes. Modern horror poetry may also introduce themes of sadism, violence, gore, and the like.


Weird poetry is a subset. It differs in several important ways from straightforward modern horror poetry. It arises from the early 20th century literary tradition of 'the weird' also known as weird fiction, in which certain groups of authors collectively attempted to move beyond tired old stories of haunted castles, graveyard ghosts, and suave vampires. It tends to be concerned with the subtly uncanny, and is expressed in macabre and serious tones. The atmospheres of a certain place may be evoked, and the narrator may discover certain weird details of that place which arouse a sense of unexplainable dread. Some weird poetry will describe timeless geological forces or the night sky, trying to harness the feeling of dread to a wider and sublime 'cosmic awe' about mankind's insignificance in the universe. Yet the narrators of such poetry tend to be unreliable, and may perhaps be on the edge of madness. They may describe or hint at unreal nature-defying events which occur in otherwise normal places - although without the overt technical explanation found in science fiction, and without the violence and sadism common to modern post-1970 horror. S. T. Joshi's short book of essays Emperors of Dreams: Some Notes on Weird Poetry (2008) examines a number of key weird poets. While weird poetry has appeared in a vast array of anthologies and journals (both professional and small-press), perhaps the first journal devoted exclusively to this form is Spectral Realms, founded in 2013 by editor S.T. Joshi and published by Hippocampus Press.

See also


  1. ^ Elgin, Suzette Haden. "About Science Fiction Poetry". Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  2. ^ "The SFPA Rhysling Awards and Anthology". Science Fiction Poetry Association. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  3. ^ Reid 2009, pp. 23–33
  4. ^ Reid 2009, pp. 94–5
  5. ^ Reid 2009, pp. 95–6
  6. ^ Reid 2009, p. x
  7. ^ Reid 2009, pp. 98–9
  8. ^ Moore 2003, p. 10
  9. ^ a b Reid 2009, p. 95
  • Morse, Andrew David (2003), "A new discipline of vision": The synthesis of poetic and scientific epistemologies in contemporary speculative verse (PhD dissertation), University of Oregon, p. 241
  • Johnston, Nancy (2003), "'I would have swallowed the kiss'; Reflections on Feminist Speculative Poetry", Femspec, San Francisco, 2 (1): 38
  • Reid, Robin Anne, ed. (2009), Women in science fiction and fantasy, vol. 1, Greenwood Press

Further reading

  • The Year's Best Science Fiction, edited by Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss, a nine volume anthology series which included a poetry section in every volume.
  • August Derleth ed. Dark of the Moon: Poems of Fantasy and the Macabre. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1947. Crucial anthology of 65 poets ranging from border balladeers to moderns.
  • August Derleth ed. Fire and Sleet and Candlelight: New Poems of the Macabre. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1961. Anthology of 93 poets, mainly moderns.
  • Elgin, Suzette Haden, The Science Fiction Poetry Handbook, 2005. Sam's Dot Publishing ISBN 1-930847-81-5 [1]
  • Frazier, Robert, ed. Burning with a Vision: Poetry of Science and the Fantastic. Philadelphia: Owlswick press, 1984. Fantastic poetry by moderns from Diane Ackerman to Al Zolynas.
  • Lovecraft, Charles. "Echoes in the Wilderness: Weird Poetry in Australia". Futurian Observer No 1 (new series) (April 2010), pp. 15–16. Pioneering checklist of weird and fantastic poems by Australian writers.
  • Scott E. Green. Contemporary Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Poetry: A Resource Guide and Biographical Directory (Greenwood Press, 1989) ISBN 0-313-26324-8 ISBN 9780313263248
  • S.T. Joshi and Steven J. Mariconda, eds. Dreams of fear: Poetry of Terror and the Supernatural. Comprehensive anthology of weird poetry from Homer through to moderns such as Gary William Crawford, Ann K. Schwader, Bruce Boston, G. Sutton Brieding, W.H. Pugmire and Leigh Blackmore.
  • S.T. Joshi Emperors of Dreams: Some Notes on Weird Poetry. P'rea Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9804625-3-1

External links

Online venues

Bruce Boston

Bruce Boston (born 1943) is an American speculative fiction writer and poet.

Donald Sidney-Fryer

Donald Sidney-Fryer (born September 8, 1934) is a poet and entertainer principally influenced by Edmund Spenser and Clark Ashton Smith.

Born and raised in the Atlantic coastal community of New Bedford, Massachusetts, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in October 1953. While in the Marines, he first became enamored of "imaginative literature" and began to compile A Checklist of the Ballet Scores of Cesare Pugni, eventually published in 1961 as Vol. VIII of Enciclopedia dello Spettacolo. Following his honorable discharge at the rank of sergeant in August 1956, he moved to California, where he enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles; during this period, he engaged in the concomitant study of classical ballet, working under David Lichine and Tatiana Riaboushinska for a year. In 1958 and 1959, he visited Smith's home in Monterey, California; during these two excursions, Smith introduced him to the oeuvre of George Sterling. After graduating from UCLA in January 1961 with a B.A. in French and the death of Smith in August of that year, Sidney-Freyer commenced work on the poetry that would eventually comprise Songs and Sonnets Atlantean (1971) and The Emperor of Dreams (1976), a bibliography of Smith completed in 1965. From 1965 to 1971, he edited three volumes of Smith's work for Arkham House, a task he would reprise for Pocket Books a decade later.

In 1969, he married Gloria Kathleen Braly, and started giving dramatic readings shortly thereafter at universities and other institutions, almost always incorporating material by Smith and Spenser. His poetry has continued to appear in a variety of weird fiction and speculative poetry-oriented journals.

Sidney-Fryer's verse is marked by a strong imagination, and a Francophilic focus. He is a strong believer in "pure poetry," and practices formalist verse, having developing his own specific poetic form: the Spenserian stanza-sonnet.

He remains a prolific historian of 19th century ballet, and is an expert on the ballet theatre of the romantic era.

Duane Ackerson

Duane Ackerson (born October 17, 1942) is an American writer of speculative poetry and fiction.Не taught at the University of Oregon, then headed Creative Writing program at Idaho State University. He currently lives in Salem, Oregon.

Duane Ackerson's work has appeared in anthologies that include The Year's Best SF 1974, 100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories, Future Pastimes, and the textbook Writing Poetry. He has won the Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem twice, in 1978 and 1979.

Ackerson's poems are translated into Russian by Dmitry Kuzmin.

Dwarf Stars Award

The Dwarf Stars Award is an annual award presented by the Science Fiction Poetry Association to the author of the best horror, fantasy, or science fiction poem of ten lines or fewer published in the previous year. The award was established in 2006 as a counterpoint to the Rhysling Award, which is given by the same organization to horror, fantasy, or science fiction poems of any length. Poems are submitted to the association by the poets, from which approximately 30 are chosen by an editor to be published in an anthology each fall. Members of the association then vote on the published poems, and first through third-place winners are announced. The 2006 anthology was edited by Deborah P. Kolodji, and subsequent anthologies have been edited by an array of editors, including Kolodji, Stephen M. Wilson, Joshua Gage, Geoffrey A. Landis, Linda D. Addison, Sandra J. Lindow, John Amen, Jeannine Hall Gailey, and Lesley Wheeler.During the 11 nomination years, 35 poems by 25 poets have been selected as third place or better, including one three-way tie for second place in 2016, of which 11 poets have won outright. Jane Yolen has been noted four times, a first and a third place and two second-place results; Deborah P. Kolodji and Julie Bloss Kelsey have each received a first and a second place; Greg Beatty a first and a third place; Sonya Taaffe has received two second-place results; and Ann K. Schwader has received two third-place results.

Eye to the Telescope (magazine)

Eye to the Telescope is a quarterly online journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, which publishes speculative poetry, including science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and poetry.

It was established in 2011.It is a theme-based periodical with rotating editors. The first issue, in May 2011, had the theme "The Long and Short of Speculative Poetry," and featured both short poems, including haiku, tanka, and other short poems, contrasted with long poems. It was edited by Samantha Henderson and Deborah P Kolodji. Since then the journal's editors are selected by the current SFPA president and change with each issue; as a result, editorial policies change with each issue as well.

G. Sutton Breiding

G. Sutton Breiding (born August 17, 1950) is an American poet and zine publisher of Speculative poetry, science fiction, dark fantasy, and horror poetry characterized by mysticism, black humor and references to San Francisco.


Ideomancer is a Canadian quarterly online speculative fiction magazine whose contents include science fiction, fantasy, slipstream, horror, flash fiction and speculative poetry, along with reviews and interviews. The first issue debuted in 2001, and in 2002 the magazine was "rebooted" with new numbering under new editorship. Volume 1 of the current Ideomancer was established in 2002.

Chris Clarke and Mikal Trimm, who were on the original Ideomancer editorial team, edited an ebook anthology called Ideomancer Unbound published by Fictionwise in 2002. It includes stories by Charles Coleman Finlay, Jack Dann, Jeff VanderMeer, Tobias S. Buckell, Deborah Biancotti, Mike Resnick, and Claire McKenna, among others. Cover art is by Cat Sparks.

Ilona Hegedűs

Ilona Hegedűs is a Hungarian writer of science fiction, fantasy and horror poetry, writing in English, who has written Unearthly Companion (2005), a book of speculative poetry with poems nominated for Muses Prize and James B. Baker Award. She was the editor of the European Reader magazine (2006-2010).

She is also well-known as a book reviewer.

John Reinhart


John Reinhart (born 1981) is an American writer of speculative poetry and fiddle and guitar musician in the Texas style of fiddling. His poems have appeared in print and online publications internationally, including The Pedestal Magazine, Star*Line, Grievous Angel, Crannog Magazine, Focus, and the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review.

Reinhart describes himself as an arsonist, which stems from his "hope to set fire to the imaginations and aspirations of (his) students," though he says"he has encouraged his children to play with matches from an early age."

List of speculative poets

This is a list of speculative poets. People on this list should have articles of their own, and should meet the Wikipedia notability guidelines for their poetry. Please place names on the list only if there is a real and existing article on the poet.

Marge Simon

Marge Baliff Simon (born 1942) is an American artist and a writer of speculative poetry and fiction. Her poems, short fiction, and illustrations have appeared in hundreds of publications, including Amazing Stories, Nebula Awards 32, Strange Horizons, The Pedestal Magazine, Chizine, Niteblade, Vestal Review, and Daily Science Fiction.

Mike Allen (poet)

Mike Allen (born 1969) is an American editor and writer of speculative fiction and poetry. He currently lives in Roanoke, Virginia.

His short story "The Button Bin" was a finalist for the 2008 Nebula Award for Best Short Story. In 2015, his debut short story collection Unseaming was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award for best single author collection. In 2017, an anthology he edited, Clockwork Phoenix 5, was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award for best anthology.The Philadelphia Inquirer has described Allen as being "[a]mong the better-known practitioners of speculative poetry" and said his poems "work best when his bizarre lyricism is put in the service of a scary and taut narrative."Allen has won the Rhysling Award for best speculative poem three times, in 2003, 2006, and 2007. He served as President of the Science Fiction Poetry Association from 2004-06. He created the small press poetry journal Mythic Delirium in 1998.Published biannually, the journal has included poems by authors such as Suzette Haden Elgin, Neil Gaiman, Theodora Goss, Joe Haldeman, Ursula K. Le Guin, Darrell Schweitzer, Sonya Taaffe, Catherynne M. Valente, Ian Watson, and Jane Yolen. In 2013, Allen used the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to convert Mythic Delirium to a quarterly digital journal that publishes fiction and poetry.Allen also used Kickstarter to continue publishing Clockwork Phoenix, a fantasy fiction anthology series he began editing in 2008.Strange Horizons called the first crowdfunded volume, Clockwork Phoenix 4, a look into "the future of publishing, in which a crowd-sourced publication from a very small press can produce, and can present professionally and beautifully, work which is at the height of what is being written in genre."

Mithila Review

Mithila Review is an international science fiction and fantasy magazine. It publishes original speculative fiction, poetry, reviews and interviews from authors around the world. Contributors to the online magazine include Ian McDonald, Cixin Liu, Kij Johnson, Lavie Tidhar, Ken Liu, Theodora Goss, Aliette de Bodard, Alyssa Wong, John Chu, Priya Sharma, Usman T Malik, Anil Menon, Dilman Dila, Dean Francis Alfar, Indrapramit Das, Rabi Thapa, among others.


Poetry (the term derives from a variant of the Greek term, poiesis, "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.

Poetry has a very long history, dating back to prehistorical times with the creation of hunting poetry in Africa, and panegyric and elegiac court poetry was developed extensively throughout the history of the empires of the Nile, Niger and Volta river valleys . Some of the earliest written poetry in Africa can be found among the Pyramid Texts written during the 25th century BCE, while the Epic of Sundiata is one of the most well-known examples of griot court poetry. The earliest Western Asian epic poetry, the Epic of Gilgamesh, was written in Sumerian. Early poems in the Eurasian continent evolved from folk songs such as the Chinese Shijing, or from a need to retell oral epics, as with the Sanskrit Vedas, Zoroastrian Gathas, and the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Ancient Greek attempts to define poetry, such as Aristotle's Poetics, focused on the uses of speech in rhetoric, drama, song and comedy. Later attempts concentrated on features such as repetition, verse form and rhyme, and emphasized the aesthetics which distinguish poetry from more objectively informative, prosaic forms of writing.

Poetry uses forms and conventions to suggest differential interpretation to words, or to evoke emotive responses. Devices such as assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia and rhythm are sometimes used to achieve musical or incantatory effects. The use of ambiguity, symbolism, irony and other stylistic elements of poetic diction often leaves a poem open to multiple interpretations. Similarly, figures of speech such as metaphor, simile and metonymy create a resonance between otherwise disparate images—a layering of meanings, forming connections previously not perceived. Kindred forms of resonance may exist, between individual verses, in their patterns of rhyme or rhythm.

Some poetry types are specific to particular cultures and genres and respond to characteristics of the language in which the poet writes. Readers accustomed to identifying poetry with Dante, Goethe, Mickiewicz and Rumi may think of it as written in lines based on rhyme and regular meter; there are, however, traditions, such as Biblical poetry, that use other means to create rhythm and euphony. Much modern poetry reflects a critique of poetic tradition, playing with and testing, among other things, the principle of euphony itself, sometimes altogether forgoing rhyme or set rhythm. In today's increasingly globalized world, poets often adapt forms, styles and techniques from diverse cultures and languages.

Robert Frazier (writer)

Robert Alexander Frazier (born 1951 in Ayer, Massachusetts) is an American writer of speculative poetry and fiction, as well as an impressionist painter on Nantucket Island.

Ruth Berman

Ruth Berman is a writer of short science fiction and speculative poetry. In 2003, she won the Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem. She was also the winner of the 2006 Dwarf Stars Award for her poem Knowledge Of. Her short fiction has appeared in Analog, New Worlds, Star Trek: The New Voyages, Shadows 2, Tales of the Unanticipated, and Asimov's Science Fiction. Berman is on the faculty of the University of Minnesota.

Science Fiction Poetry Association

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) was established as the Science Fiction Poetry Association in 1978 by Suzette Haden Elgin to bring together poets and readers interested in science fiction poetry. In 2015 the president of the SFPA was Bryan D. Dietrich, with Bryan Thao Worra starting as president in September 2016, with Vice-President Sandra J. Lindow and Secretary Shannon Connor Winward. In 2017, members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association voted to change the name of the organization to the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, while keeping the acronym "SFPA", similar to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Strange Horizons

Strange Horizons is an online speculative fiction magazine. It also features speculative poetry in every issue.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.