More Science Fiction Poetry Awards – The Rhysling Award

Last time I discussed the Dwarf Stars Award and the new Elgin Award. What I didn’t really go into, that I wish I had, is that I’m not in total agreement with the powers-that-be in the SFPA, who decided the parameters and rules for the Elgin Award. Go here to read them. Go on. I’ll wait. Do you notice anything missing? I’d say, that poetry anthologies and self-published collections should have been allowed. I see little difference these days between traditionally and self-published collections (especially since eBooks were allowed) and there was at least one collection and one anthology I would have nominated but wasn’t allowed to.

As for anthologies, the argument is that there’s a danger it would become a popularity contest for best editor and not an award for the quality of the poetry contained therein. There’s some validity to that argument, because it would be very hard to read all of the poetry (published in whatever form) and vote for the truly best. I found it impossible to finish the Rhysling Anthology this year and sadly refrained from voting. So, it’s possible people would just vote for the editor they think is the best (i.e. well-known, most widely published). But aside from that, I think that whether the award is for the poetry in an anthology or for the editor is of little import. If the editor put together a crappy anthology, it reflects on both the poetry and the editor. It seems to me that the two go hand in hand. At any rate, I’m sure there will be some tweaking of the rules for next year. This was, after all, its first year in existence.

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However, the main thrust of this post is about the Rhysling Award, the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s award for poetry in two length categories: short (under 40 lines) and long (40 lines and over). As per the rules only SFPA members are entitled to vote, so it’s more like a Nebula Award than a popular award, but if you are interested in helping choose the best SF Poetry becoming a member is very easy and quite inexpensive, especially if you are willing to read the association’s journal Star*Line as a PDF instead of in print. I urge you to check it out.

This year’s winners were gleaned from a selection of 110 poems (70 short and 40 long). which could be found in 57 different print, online and audio publications. Kudos go to Star*Line, Goblin Fruit and Stone Telling with 11, 9 and 7 poems nominated respectively.

I will be producing an edition of Poetry Planet for StarShipSofa showcasing the Rhysling Award winning and placing poems, much like I’ve done in the past 2 years. I hope you’ll listen! It’s always a wonderful way to get fresh insight and deepen your understanding of a poem. But I’m not biased at all.

Terry A. Garey’s winning short poem, “The Cat Star”, published in the anthology Lady Poetesses from Hell (Bag Person Press) won by a landslide with 29 points and 5 votes for first place. This is her 2nd Rhysling Award, the first being in 1997 for “Spotting UFOs While Canning Tomatoes” in the long poem category. “The Cat Star” is a riff on a what-if or rather

if there is a Dog Star there should be

one for cats

not lion, not leopard

although they are deserving

but a Domestic Shorthaired Cat Star

but it is really a poem for a beloved cat-companion, now dead. This is a poem that many cat lovers will be able to relate to, but in its larger scope it could be about our continuing relationship – after their death – to anyone or anything that we have loved and lost.

“Into Flight”, (Silver Blade 14) the winning poem in the long form category is Andrew R. Sutton’s first and only poem (hey – we have something in common) and what a stunning poem it is. It was also the clear winner in its category garnering 9 first place votes and receiving 53 points altogether.

It’s about how

The books gave up and,

in a flurry, took flight.

Literally. But how does it happen? Why? What happens next? It’s delightful, whimsical and somehow sad and frightening. With our world becoming increasingly digital a physical book is an endangered species. Or at least it could become so. Sutton looks at what actual books do for us. He shows us through wonderfully insightful vignettes what books do for different types of readers:

Poetry lovers were seen sprinting

through meadows with butterfly nets,

or canary cages baited with binder’s glue,

singing line and verse.

And what will we lose when books and libraries are no longer?

There were no sanctuaries of silence,

no temples of free thought.

I don’t know about you, but I love libraries, book stores (especially used book stores) and the feel and smell of a real book in my hands. Through necessity I do a lot of my reading on my Kindle (just the super simple one though), but I don’t like it. Really I don’t. Poetry is a mess to read on it and it’s impossible to really tell how far along you are in a book. I’m one of those people who takes pleasure in the process of reading a book. I enjoy seeing the progress I’m making only then at the end to be disappointed that it’s over. That doesn’t happen with an eBook. Well, I should say, I still feel the need to see how far along I am, but I’m left largely unsatisfied. It’s just not the same! End rant.

So, wending our way back to the actual focus of this post, the SFPA also announces the 2nd and 3rd place poems in each category as well as posting the break-down of the votes on the website. This year we had 5 poems take 2nd and 3rd places:

Short form:

Long form:

Please go and read the poet’s biographies at the SFPA website and check out their publications, websites and what-not that I’ve linked to above. And don’t forget to join me in a couple of weeks on Poetry Planet to listen to the all 7 of the poems.

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I’m planning on doing a review or two of a collection and/or anthology for my next post. I’m being intentionally vague, because I’m not sure exactly which ones I’ll do, since I have a few I’m in the middle of. I will definitely be including several audio files for your listening pleasure.

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