Eccentric Orbits is an anthology of speculative poetry by an international cast of poets. It was my pleasure to be the editor of this volume of poetry in 2021 and I hope to return in 2022 to edit another volume of this series. I will be posting calls for poets here on No Wasted Ink, at the SFPA, and via other general anthology submission groups on Facebook. If you write speculative poetry, I hope you will consider submitting your work.
Dimentionfold Publishing is a small press devoted to the support of speculative poetry. You can find a list of the speculative poets who are represented by Dimentionfold at https://dimensionold.com
The Entrepreneur and Artist The Importance of being Well Rounded
Do you choose to be a starving artist? Or is it a condition that befalls those who are inherently driven to create to the point of self detriment? In other words, do you choose to ‘starve’ or does ‘starving’ choose you?
It’s a valid and perplexing query, one worth unpacking with due diligence. Clarity on this issue would perhaps help to cultivate a healthy culture and mindset around creatives and monetising their endeavours.
Most of us would have heard of the denigration, “sell out”, an expression that describes the compromise of one’s integrity or betrayal to an allegiance. No where is this expression more commonly slung than in the realms of artistic endeavour. Why is that? Well, art is seen as a pure expression of self (whatever that means), and therefore, an artist who once immersed himself in the warm waters of artistic moral alignment, now pursuing financial profit ahead of critical acclaim, is seen to be driven by other motivating factors aside from the excellence of his/her art form, and is in effect, deemed a sell-out.
Name calling is unseemly, but there is an element of truth to this assumption which is almost trite. The pursuit of material gain, placed before the value that can derived from an endeavour not only diminishes the overall quality of the work, but does amount to much personal fulfilment.
So that’s the element of truth. Like most human enterprise, physical or otherwise, corruption sips in, insidiously. Being financial successful as an artist of any ilk, seems to almost inevitably come with label of industry sell-out, but not always for the reasons of compromise of artistic integrity, but more for a perceived betrayal to the notion of shunning success for the ‘sake of art’. This is destructive thinking, and while many are wise enough to question the credibility of this thought and it’s motivations, there are many, for reasons varied, who champion this perspective.
The question still remains. Do you choose ‘starvation’, or does ‘starvation’ choose you?
Proclaiming that there those who choose to ‘live for their art alone’, would not add much merit to this writing. That’s obvious, and good luck to them. One can infer some of the reasoning behind their choices, and while not all are invalid, one motive could certainly driven by pious commitment to ‘artistic integrity’. However, if we suggest that there are those who are chosen to ‘starve’, there-in lies a more engaging issue.
What distinguishes a liberal thinker from a conservative thinker ? Liberals are ideas people, high in creativity and openness, low in conscientiousness. Conservatives are not very creative, low on openness, but high in conscientiousness. Therefore, it can be certainly be argued that a highly creative person, is probably more likely to struggle in creating and enforcing a disciplined structure around his/her endeavours compared to a person driven to adhere by rules. But this bellies a critical point.
Great writers, artists, actors, poets reflect as much dedication and discipline to their craft, as do the best regulators, managers, corporate leaders and politicians. And while they may operate in fields that prioritise different traits, (creativity vs organisation ), it would be wrong to suggest that an artist could not develop the skill sets required to at the very least, understand the world of business in which his/her work is being marketed in. In fact, this article determines that an endeavour towards cultivating a well-rounded mindset is the more responsible, and less self indulgent course of action.
As previously stated, great artists like great managers employ discipline. It would seem that while, an artist may be predisposed to a unique mode of being, their ability to learn and master their craft is because of discipline and strength of character in overcoming inevitable adversity along the way. In order to manage your life and creative affairs appropriately, discipline and strength of character are qualities that are equally integral in achieving this aim.
That was a lot of unpack, but here are the essential points. There’s no value in conflating success with corruptible compromise. Of course, compromising on fundamental integrity for material gain will only lead to personal regret. Most importantly, there is a point at which material success and creative success meet. Establishing a place at this point means you are well-rounded, not a sell-out. It equates to being independent, self sustaining (you don’t necessarily need to become wealthy) and fulfilled. No one said it would be easy, but then again, what is?
Tola Makanjuola was born in Lagos, Nigeria. When he was 16, he and his family moved to the UK, where he finished high school and went on to study Media and Communications at Aberystwyth University in Wales. After graduation, he went on to study an Msc. in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management at Imperial College London (2013/14). From then, he went to work in IT Consulting for a period of two years, before branching out to start his company, Circleturn ltd. Under Circleturn, Tola has created the website circleturn.com, which he curates by writing poems, drawing comics, writing book overviews and articles on design thinking. Tola also founded Squishy in 2019, a travel pillow company looking to make the most personable and comfortable travel pillows on the market. He went on to create the Poetry Bores Podcast in April 2020. On Poetry Bores, Tola analyses poetry with his friend Filippo with humour and insight, and also interviews folks who are doing wonderful things such as writing, serving others, building businesses, etc.. Tola has written poetry religiously for the past eleven years, and has published three poetry collections , the latest in March 2020, called ‘Lonely Ways to Change the World’. You can purchase Tola’s first two books on Amazon, and the third in ebook version on his website.
THE PLANETS: a scifaiku poetry collection
written and illustrated by Wendy Van Camp
The planets have fascinated humanity since the dawn of time. We’ve looked up into the heavens and wondered what these wandering stars are and why they are different from their more stationary cousins. In modern times, humans have sent probes to all the planets in our solar system, sending back tantalizing views from faraway worlds. The planets are woven into our culture and history. They are signposts of our journey ahead.
This collection of 108 science fiction haiku poems (scifaiku) will take you on a journey of exploration showcasing tiny moments of wonder with each of the planets of our solar system.
THE PLANETS: a scifaiku poetry collection is nominated for the 2020 Elgin Award for best speculative poetry book of the year.
Poetry is special to me. I am a published poet of many years and I specialize in scifaiku poetry. This is science fiction themed haiku. This past December, I had the pleasure of teaching a scifaiku poetry workshop in Riverside, CA.
The Janet Goeske Center hosts over 200 classes for the active seniors of its area. The instructor of the literature class, Celena Diana, has been teaching literature at the Center for the past eight years and her class is ongoing and open to members there. She invites readers for their Tuesday Literary Series.
Celena had invited me to be a speaker to her class back in 2018 and we scheduled ahead of full year before I arrived. She told me I could read any of my work to the class. Most of my writing peers had read from their prose. I asked if I could read poetry and talk about the local poetry community. She agreed.
I started the workshop by reading a selection of poems from my new poetry collection “The Planets”. Followed by several of my longer science fiction themed poems. After the reading, I passed around a stack of my scifaiku art prints as a sort of “show & tell” item. These are illustrations of the scifaiku poetry I sell across the United States at various science fiction art shows.
The artwork was a prompt for a long Q&A session. We discussed: journaling, fountain pens, creating artwork with your poems, places to publish science fiction poetry, where to find inspiration, etc. I did not have to pick and choose who to talk to, their teacher handled all that. It made my job easier and it seemed to give confidence to the students.
I finished the Q&A by telling the story of how I became a poet. In “The Poet In Spite of Herself” I explain the accidental way I stumbled into a scifaiku poetry workshop at a local science fiction convention. There I wrote my first scifaiku poem and sold it on the spot. Being budding poets themselves and unsure if they could write a poem in this unique form, the story gave them the confidence that anyone could write scifaiku.
This led to the workshop. Instead of slides, I have a large paper poster board that can folds into a triangle so that it pops up on its own. My analog slides are pre-made for the class. On the back of the poster board, is a functioning whiteboard that I use for brainstorming during the class. I use this because most of the time I am teaching small groups without access to audio/visual supplies. Since this was a large class of 20 with a professional whiteboard on the wall, I ended up using the larger provided whiteboard. The workshop started with explaining the parts of scifaiku, the form that the poetry takes, and how to brainstorm ideas via my method of generating phrases that become the final poem.
I found the group to be exciting to teach because they were a highly creative group of writers delighted to discover a new form of poetry. The class ran longer than the one hour I had been scheduled for, but their teacher told me to go ahead and finish because the students were engaged. At the end of the session, I asked the students to write their scifaiku poem and we would share the poetry after the break.
While the students grabbed a cup of coffee or a snack, I signed a few books, had several further discussions about poetry and illustration before we resumed the workshop. I asked if anyone wanted to read the poem they wrote. Six people raised their hands. The poems they recited were excellent! I was so pleased. As a teacher, you don’t always know how well your class will respond to the course. Evidently, I made a favorable impression. Their teacher Celena kept telling her students to submit their work to their group anthology or to a manuscript they were collating with her guidance. They were excited about poetry and kept telling me what a fun time they had. I had a great time with them too!
I enjoy teaching and prompting poetry in my local area. If your writing group is in the Los Angeles area, I am open to teaching my poetry workshop to your group. Contact me via my website if you are interested.
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