Evolution of the Poem: at the barre …

pia04937orig1Recently, I was combing through old poetry, and ran across an early draft of my scifaiku poem “at the barre …”, complete with a list of markets that had rejected it.

Now, I love the completed version of this poem, which reads:

at the barre
the graceful arms
of a spiral galaxy

— first appeared in Rattle‘s Issue 49, Fall 2015, Tribute to Scientists

And I was excited when this scifaiku won an award, placing second in the 2016 Dwarf Stars Award given by the Science Fiction Poetry Association.

But the poem didn’t start out that way. In fact, the early versions were downright terrible.

My inspiration for this poem came from my daughter, who was taking dance class at the time. One of the ballet positions – fourth, if I’m remembering correctly – had one arm curved over her head and the other curled around her front. She reminded me of a spiral galaxy.

So, I began to research spiral galaxies, and discovered that their arm positions determine whether they are classified as spiral galaxies or barred spiral galaxies. The shape that reminded me most of my daughter was barred – an SBc.

I thought this was a nifty comparison, and conjured a row of little galaxies standing in front of a ballet barre. Such a lovely image should be easy to put into words, no?

This is an early draft of my poem (yes, I actually sent this out):

spiral galaxies —
intergalactic dance troupe
in “b” position

Um, yeah. It’s my poem, and it doesn’t even make sense to me.

But I knew I liked the concept, so I hung in there and kept editing. Barre was a lovely word to use because it both evoked the ballet and gave a nod to barred spiral galaxies. Once I put that word in there, I could take out the line about “b” position (the “b” stood for barred anyway), and I didn’t need to use the word dance. Elimating that clunky verbiage allowed the poem to flow from there.

So, please, my poet friends, hang on to your poems that speak to you, even if they start out rough. Haiku or scifaiku, in particular, can be deceptively tricky to write. Some short poems practically write themselves, but not this one. “At the barre …” needed distance, perspective, and research to come together.

Photo credit: That’s spiral galaxy Messier 81 above, as imaged by NASA/JPL/Caltech/University of Arizona/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/NOAO/AURA/NSF.

Newly published at Amazing Stories

I’m excited that two of my poems were reprinted – and I was interviewed! – by Diane Severson for her Genre Poetry Round Up for March 2015 on AmazingStories.com. Her topic? Speculative haiku. The speculative haiku umbrella includes science fiction haiku (scifaiku), horrorku, and poems with a fantasy theme. Here’s one of mine:

rapping
at the window
the ice storm
beckons

(First published in the micropoetry Twitter magazine Seven by Twenty)

Ice Storm
Photo credit: Dwight Sipler, via Flickr

Culling

My main poetry goal for the year is to put together a manuscript of scifaiku. In looking over my poems, it has been interesting to see a theme of extra-terrestrial romance flowing through the images. So, I am trying to line up my poems so that they tell a sort of love story while writing new ones to fill in the gaps. It is a challenging process because it is so new for me. I feel like I have a handle on submitting individual poems to contests or magazines, but a collection is a different animal – it has a different feel and it requires a different skill set.
When I was a little girl, my mom and I used to garden. One of our favorite things to plant was carrots. I think they intrigued me because they looked so different below the surface. A big leafy top didn’t necessarily equate to a big root. And every year, when it was time to thin the carrots so that the remaining ones could grow larger, we had a hard time doing it. My mom used to say that the carrots worked so hard to be born, she didn’t want to stop them now. Often, we just left all of the carrots in the garden to fend for themselves. So none of them ever grew very large.

Preparing a poetry manuscript is a lot like weeding carrots. If you want individual poems to flourish and be successful, you need to retain the best and remove the rest. But culling is hard. These poems are all my poetic children, so to speak, and I worked hard for them to be born. How can I choose?

And the winners are …

First of all, let me just say that running this scifaiku poetry contest was a lot of fun.  I enjoyed reading all of your entries.  In fact, I liked them so much that I picked out a winning entry … and then second place … third place … and an honorable mention.  I felt bad that I only had one prize to offer.  I discussed the situation with my son tonight – the 11-year-old instigator of the contest – and he said he wanted to donate the $5 Target gift card that he got during a holiday gift exchange at school for use as a prize.  Inspired by his generosity, I’m adding another prize of a $15 iTunes gift card.

So, without further ado, here are the winners:

FIRST PLACE
(winner of a one-year subscription to Poets & Writers magazine)
the aliens’ grasp
of haiku’s basic concept:
seventeen small farts
 — F.J. Bergmann
 My thoughts:  What can I say?  Every time I read this poem out loud, I laugh.  I love the contrast of the perfectly staid 5-7-5 syllable count against the bizarre imagery of the poem.     
SECOND PLACE 
(winner of a $15 iTunes gift card)
 elfbots
my little shoppers
return

— N.E. Taylor

My thoughts:  I read this poem after a long day of Christmas shopping, a day when I longed for some elfbots of my own.  Brief, concise, and compelling, this poem is classic scifaiku – the type of poem that stays with you long after you read it.
THIRD PLACE
(winner of a $5 Target gift card)
in soldered skulls
preprogrammed memories
echoing unheard

— N Sloboda

My thoughts:  This poem has a deeply haunting quality, a sort of scifaiku – horrorku hybrid.  Try as I might, the imagery of this poem would not leave my mind.
HONORABLE MENTION
   
Hollowed asteroid
–zygote born of desire–
finding a new home
–emeraldcite
My thoughts:  This was my son’s favorite poem.  “I thought it was an interesting idea,” he said.  My husband also liked this poem the best, enjoying the juxtaposition of a human zygote and a new colony on an asteroid.
If you have a winning poem, please contact me at jublke (at) gmail (dot) com and send me your snail mail address so that I can send your prize to you.
Thanks again for sharing your poetry!
 

Scifaiku Contest – Win a Year’s Subscription to Poets & Writers magazine!

Christmas Gift by Petr Kratochvil

The good folks at Poets & Writers are running a two-for-one holiday offer for current magazine subscribers, so I thought I’d pass along the extra subscription to one lucky winner by way of a poetry contest.  I’m partial to scifaiku (science fiction haiku, read a good definition here and see some examples at Scifaikuest), so here’s your challenge:

Leave me one original scifaiku in the comments section of this post before midnight EST December 24, 2012.  I will choose my favorite and announce a winner on or before December 28, 2012.  Please leave me enough contact information so that I can track you down.  If you are chosen as the winner, I’ll need a street address so I can tell Poets & Writers where to send your subscription.  I reserve the right to choose a different winner if I can’t locate you.

Rules & fine print: One entry per person.  Odds of winning depend on the number of entries.  The decision of the judge (me) is final.  Scifaiku do not have to adhere to a 5-7-5 syllable scheme, but should be roughly around that number of syllables.  The winning prize – a one-year subscription to Poets & Writers magazine – can not be converted into a cash prize.  This contest is not sponsored by Poets & Writers, Scifaikuest, or anyone else (except maybe my 11-year-old son, who suggested the contest).  Void where prohibited by law.
Please note: All rights to any poems remain with their authors.  However, numerous journals consider ANY appearance online to be publication and, if you place your poem here, these venues may not consider your poem as an unpublished submission.  When in doubt, save your best work for your favorite journal.
Good luck!