SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY POETRY is paradoxically at the imaginative core of the genre, yet exiled to the extreme periphery of the professional market. This reflects 20th Century science fiction and fantasy prose, cinema, and television as having virtually displaced poetry as our culture's supreme repository of cosmic, outlandish, and transcendental ideas. In the 21st Century, hypertext, hypermedia, multimedia, virtual reality, and other technology may similarly displace science fiction and fantasy non-interactive visuals and prose. Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry represent a true Genre, a genuine literary species or form, distinguished from "mainstream" poetry by intent, content, and history. Both Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry depend upon the use of conceits, especially metaphysical conceits (in the sense of Donne and Richard Crashaw) to achieve extreme originality, and a tension between abstract and concrete. T.S. Eliot paraphrased Samuel Johnson's definition of metaphysical poetry as "profundity of thought and learning ... dressed in outlandish and difficult imagery." Both Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry reflect Coleridge's distinction between "Fancy" (the basis of most mainstream poetry) with the superior "imagination" in a unique sense of creation, vitality, organicity, and passion, similar to Tolkein's "subcreation." Science Fiction Poetry tends towards the use of referential (cognitive) language, mixed with or replacing emotive language, often achieving a didactic tone. Science Fiction Poetry absorbs into verse the tropes, imagery, and topos of Science Fiction's (in the terminology of Northrop Frye) prose romances, especially novels and stories of utopia, dystopia, or attempting the "local color" of the future or other planets, or adopting the personas of aliens or robots. Example: "I am a very good robot with a very good brain.... I can make words rhyme though I cannot write a poem." -- Harry Harrison, "I Have My Vigil". Fantasy Poetry, on the other hand, exploits the realm of the supernatural and "the far away and the long ago" charted by the Romantics Keats and Coleridge, and/or the visionary symbolic prophetic poetry of Blake, Wordsworth, and Shelley. Fantasy Poetry draws from systematic myth, folklore (oral supernatural tradition not part of systematic myth), and the dream vision (descended from the 13th Century French Roman de la Rose, Dante's Divine Comedy, or Langland's Piers Plowman via Keats' The Fall of Hyperion or Lewis Carroll). Modern Fantasy Poetry also draws on Existentialism and the literature of the absurd. Horror Poetry, on the other hand, draws from Gothic romance and the Graveyard Poets. Our discussion here treats primarily the American and British markets, with a brief note on Russian, French, and German markets. We consider, first, Science Fiction Poetry, and second, Fantasy Poetry, although the boundary between the two is often fuzzy. Both major and small press markets are considered. Reference works and organizations are listed. Related genres include Childrens' Poetry, Computer Poetry, Filksong, Horror Poetry, Nonsense Poetry, Science Fiction Opera, and the futuristic interactive media of Hypertext Poetry and Hypermedia Poetry which this author founded in the early 1970's.
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