A Primer on Speculative Poetry by Kimberly Nugent

When Wendy approached me about writing an article for “No Wasted Ink,” I was thrilled and immediately began to waffle about which idea to put to digital paper. Despite a career in editing, I kept coming back to a topic about which both Wendy and I are passionate, speculative poetry. Genre poetry has a lovely community of poets, and a thriving market for both paid and unpaid submissions.

Like a lot of creators, I had a long break from poetry until editing an e-zine that featured speculative poetry. I was fascinated and thrilled! So, I began writing again. Whether you are returning to poetry, looking for a change in your existing poetry, or would like to write for the first time, I have a few tips for writing in general, and a few specific to speculative poetry.

Keep a notebook. This notebook can be a 99-cent special or something bound in leather, but whatever you pick, keep it with you. And keep your favorite writing implement in stock. Keep pencils in your car, pens in your purse, grab some markers, something that will make a mark. I previously kept notes digitally but have since switched back to physical writing. Not only do you not have to worry about backups or where you saved that file, you will find the thought required to put words on paper also puts contemplation into your ideas and word choices.

Write. Just write in that lovely notebook. It can be anything from words and phrases to outlines and perhaps even a rough draft. But don’t worry about form—yet. The goal here is just to create the words that will build your poetry. Feel free to be wordy. Write in the margins, make notes. The more words in your notebook, the easier to compose your verses. Also, I find inspiration in various media, especially scientific articles and lectures! Your muse can be anywhere, so be sure to jot down all your ideas.

Buy a good form reference book. Now that you have those lovely thoughts and phrases, combine them into the forms that feel natural to the ideas when writing your final poem. I suggest buying at least one (or more!) form reference books. Two of my favorites are “The Prosody Handbook: A Guide to Poetic Form” by Beum and Shapiro and “The Book of Forms” by Turco. The more you write and create, the more you should challenge yourself and step outside your comfort zone. If you generally write a sonnet, try an epic poem or haiku! What specifically sets speculative poetry apart is the topic. The is sky is NOT the limit! Putting the fantastical, science fiction, and even mythological themes into form (and yes, you can include free verse) is what will set you apart from flash fiction and the short story.

After you write your poetry, always let it sit overnight before you make any changes. Like prose writing, a little distance between yourself and the words will make the editing process easier. Now is also the time to share your work with a trusted listener or reader. Your sounding board should give both praise and constructive feedback.

Your edits are complete, your trusted evaluator has appraised your efforts, and you are ready to submit your first poem! But, where? The largest poetry-only markets typically shy away from genre poetry, however, there are organization specifically for the speculative poet. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) and Horror Writers Association are both excellent resources for a genre poet. Also, look for publications and journals that are focused on certain forms in addition to genre-specific publications.

When you have decided on a market, read the submission guidelines carefully. Always follow their directions and pay close attention to if the market accepts simultaneous submissions or those that have been previously published. I also highly recommend you keep a log of your submissions so you can keep track of where you place your poems, and which publications you should follow up with.

The most important thing after submitting your work is to congratulate yourself! Whether your first submission or your 100th is your first published poem, creating a work you can be proud to submit is an accomplishment in itself.


Kimberly Nugent lives near the beautiful Sandia Mountain range and edits speculative fiction and RPGs. She spends her free time with her family, cats, and various nerdy hobbies! You can find her on Twitter at @BlueTeaEditing

4 thoughts on “A Primer on Speculative Poetry by Kimberly Nugent”

  1. This is some fantastic advice from Kimberly. And I’ve always got several notebooks on the go. Nothing like pen and paper to jot down fleeting thoughts that I know I wouldn’t remember in 2 hours, lol. 🙂

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