September 27th, 2005

Egrets Reading

MultiVerse Review of Scifaikuest

A review of the August online issue of Scifaikuest by Jennifer Mercer is now online at MultiVerse, the genre poetry review site by Eric Marin:

Jennifer reviews two of my ku from that issue quite favorably, which is always welcome feedback for a poet:

melting gold
she wears a sizzle skirt
shopping on Venus


a good night's sleep
the monster in my closet
changes his image

- Deborah P Kolodji
Scifaikuest, August 2005 Online Edition

Strong literary criticism of scifaiku is important if the form is to be taken more seriously by either the genre or haiku poetry communities. I think it is important to analyze what works and what doesn’t from the viewpoint of the reader.

One of the biggest challenges of scifaiku IMO is the ability to paint a completely different alien landscape or concept in the minimal three lines required. With longer genre poetry, it is possible to build up an alien society, landscape, etc with myriad images stacked upon each other to form a cohesive new setting for the poem.

With scifaiku, I believe it is probably best to narrowly focus on ONE alien image/concept and then juxtapose something familiar from our current 21st century society/world upon it. With my sizzle skirt scifaiku, I was thinking of my teenage daughter and her friends shopping in the mall as I wrote the poem about shopping on Venus, so there’s a sense of the familiar even as one contemplates what it would be like to live/shop/be/adapt to the extreme heat conditions on the planet Venus. I think this is what comes across as what Jennifer describes as the casualness of the woman in my poem – it is an alien world to us, but to a settler in a colony adapted to that planet’s extreme heat, it would be the familiar, what she is used to, what she is comfortable with. As hard as it is to imagine, she would be as comfortable shopping in her sizzle skirt on a planet where gold melts outside of whatever colony structures are built to insulate the colonists from the heat as my daughter is shopping in the Santa Anita Mall.

When the “alien concept” central to the scifaiku is so alien that 21st Century readers are likely to not “get it”, then I think a haibun might work best, where a small bit of prose is added to lead up to the scifaiku. I think, for example, if Terrie Relf had added a piece of prose about science fair experiments to the beginning of her “gaining mass” scifaiku, it would have been a more effective poem and Jennifer may have appreciated it more. I’m not suggesting that Terrie should describe her daughter’s experiment per say, because I belong to the haibun school that thinks that the haiku part of a haibun should link and shift away from the prose, but I think that if she would consider writing something about science fairs in general and perhaps even describe some of the other projects in this fair, which could be an otherworldly science fair, it would be a great lead-in to her “gaining mass” scifaiku.

I’m actually surprised that haibun isn’t used more in genre poetry. It seems like a natural form for a genre poet (especially a scifaiku poet) to use. I have read a few in Scifaikuest and I have one of my own upcoming in Dreams and Nightmares, but the form IMO hasn’t been used up to its full potential in genre poetry.