Mike Allen: Hey! Matt! Got too much time on your hands? You want something to blog about? Well I got something for you.
Matt Staggs: What? Who the hell are you?
MA: My name is Legion.
Or at least, there are legions of guys with my name. But I’m the only one that writes sf. (I’m surely the only one nominated for a Nebula Award.) And I’m the only one I know of publishing poetry. I’m even crazy enough to combine the two, sf and poetry, which some people swear should never be mixed, just like the silly folks in the old Reese’s Cup commercials.
You might think that’s strange, that someone would want to devote their time to writing so-called “speculative poetry.” But you know what? I don’t care.
I even publish a little magazine that’s full of this crazy soup. And I’ve been doing it for ten years.
MS: Ok. Ok. I get you. It’s a crazy soup magazine.
Honestly, I don’t cover topics like cooking. Are you like that one guy on TV with that show?
He eats bugs. You don’t eat bugs, do you?
And what do you mean, speculative poetry? Does it rhyme?
MA: I don’t eat bugs, but I might put smart-mouthed bloggers in traction.
And yeah, speculative poetry can rhyme. Or it might not.
I’ve explained this so many times, I feel like a broken record. But I’ll explain it again for you, because I think you need it.
Keep in mind, this is how I define it. You might not get this definition from someone else. But “speculative poetry” for me is poetry that has a “flavor” that might be science fiction or fantasy or horror or some weird blend thereof. Given that, the poem can be anything, a sonnet, a sestina, a concrete poem shaped like a landing pod, a wild experimental free verse construction that bends language in all kinds of strange shapes.
It amazes me how some people just get their nose out of joint about this idea. Shake their fingers and say, you can’t do that. You can’t divide poetry up by genre like that. Which totally misses the point. Nobody’s dividing up anything. But, to move my metaphor from flavors to addiction, a poem can be written so that it gives you that same science fiction or fantasy “fix” that you look for in a novel. If you buy into the notion that sf is a literature of ideas, sometimes you can just nail an idea with a poem, without having to bother with all that plot and characterization that can be just so much padding.
And I’ll go so far as to say that the absolute best speculative poetry stands up well to the best short stories, even the best novels.
Cuz I’m crazy like that.
MS: I’ll have you know, Mr. Allen, that I don’t cotton to threats of physical violence. Especially from poets. What ever will you do if you get blood all over your billowy white shirt or cravat? Aren’t you poets all supposed to be winsome aesthetes of some sort? That’s what the gym instructor/English teacher/janitor at my school told me, anyway.
Anyway, what puts you in some kind of position where you’re an authority on poetry of any sort? Where’d you get your bona fides?
What’s Mythic Delirium anyhow? Is that some kind of new coffee drink of some sort? I’m a Folgers man, myself.
MA: I own about as many of those shirts as Charles Bukowski did, Mr. Staggs. Though I will admit, I’m sure prettier than Bukowski.
As for where I got my bona fides: I don’t have any! I’m a complete fraud.
Despite being a fraud, I’ve fooled a number of editors into publishing a couple hundred of my so-called poems. But heck, anyone can fool an editor, right? Well, I also fooled the Science Fiction Poetry Association into giving me the Rhysling Award for speculative poetry three times. Ah, I can hear the skeptics out there now: “That proves nothing!”
But if you want real tomfoolery: I also fooled the Philadelphia Inquirer into picking my collection Strange Wisdoms of the Dead for their Editor’s Choice column. Front page of the Arts & Entertainment section: “Poetry for goths of all ages,” they said. A gentlemanly former N.C. Poet Laureate named Fred Chappell also very kindly (but foolishly) said my new book The Journey to Kailash “is a vividly vertiginous collection of poems, all fun and mind-games.” I even tricked a bunch of librarians at the Library of Congress into inviting me up there this past December to talk about poetry. They seemed to enjoy it. Guess I fooled them.
As for Mythic Delirium: that’s my foolishness.
It’s a zine. Not a magazine, “but a zine, an inexpensively produced, self-published, underground publication,” as one of my fellow zinesters once succinctly put it. Mythic Delirium is devoted to that aforementioned crazy soup, speculative poetry. It’s come out twice a year for ten years. We’ve helped a lot of beginners get their start, and we’ve also published work by, oh, let’s see, Jane Yolen, Ian Watson, Joe Haldeman, Theodora Goss, Ursula K. Le Guin, Catherynne M. Valente, Greer Gilman, M.M. Buckner. You know, no one you’ve heard of.
Me ‘n’ mah crew are getting ready to put out our giant 10th anniversary issue. Numero 20. Oh, and it’s got this guy named Neil Gaiman in it. Maybe you’ve heard that name somewhere. Or maybe I’m giving you too much credit.
MS: Well, Mr. Allen, you might have fooled the compromised Mainstream Media, but I’ll have you know that we bloggers are by far a cannier bunch. I have a WordPress account and everything. Don’t make me Twitter you into submission; I have a thousand years of power.
Huh. Neil Gaiman? That’s the Funny Book guy, right? I only read Archie comics and Chick tracts. How did you get him tied up into this sordid little affair of yours? Did you steal his favorite black leather jacket?
Anniversary issue? How did you take Mythic Delirium this far?
Where can I find this thing? Bus station bathrooms? Salvation Army thrift shops?
Answer quickly; wrestling is about to start on the Sy Fy Channel, and I’m about to get my “Imagine Greater” on.
MA: I decline to comment on your tweet-fu.
I got Neil on board the old-fashioned way. I asked. Years ago I got in touch with him and asked him if he’d be willing to let us publish a poem of his in Mythic Delirium. (That Funny Book guy writes poetry, too, you know.) He told me he was interested, keep reminding him. Fast forward to the weekend Coraline 3-D came out, another reminder sent, and whadya know, here comes a poem! Apparently Neil visited a trout farm with some lady named Amanda Palmer and they had such a memorable experience that, as he put it, “Amanda songed, I poemed.” The poem is called “Conjunctions” and it’s weird and funny and sinister and we’re happy to have it along with all the other good stuff we’ve got.
How did I get Mythic Delirium this far? The encouragement of others has a lot to do with it. Subscribers who keep subscribing, poets who keep sending in their stuff, Persons in the Industry willing to talk it up (*wink!*). We even had a patron for a while, when we were part of the DNA Publications family of magazines. And then there’s perseverance. For example, getting on our feet and keeping the ball rolling after we left DNA, thanks to an outpouring of that encouragement I mentioned. It helps too that it’s just flat out fun to do this and after all these years of practice, putting an issue together isn’t all that time consuming. There’s also patience and luck, of which the inclusion of Neil’s poem in our anniversary issue presents a prime example.
And the only place to find that issue is at www.mythicdelirium.com, capiche?
And I hope that was quick enough. Far be it from me to keep you from the things in your life that are truly important.
MS: Huh. Well, whatever. I hope your magic soup poetry does alright. Doesn’t sound like anything I’d cover at Tor.com. I gotta run. Mansquito Two: The Ensuckening is on in an hour and I have to set my DVR.
Aside from his poetry zine, Mythic Delirium, Mike Allen edits the anthology series Clockwork Phoenix for Norilana Books. The first volume made the 2008 Locus Recommended Reading List, and the second volume, due out in July, contains a new “Flat Earth” novelette from Tanith Lee. He also writes fiction; his short story “The Button Bin” is a nominee for the Nebula Award. Other stories have appeared in Interzone and Weird Tales, with new ones scheduled this year in Tales of the Talisman, Cabinet des Fées, and the Norilana anthology Sky Whales and Other Wonders. He lives in Roanoke, Va. with his wife Anita, a demonic cat, and a comical dog. You can view his website at Descent into Light and read his LiveJournal at http://time-shark.livejournal.com. He also has accounts with MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, Lord only knows why.