I don't know how he does it & other poetic matters

Matthew Cheney's prolific observation inspires admiration and makes me want to respond but also to quit the blogging business in deference to his completist coverage. The most I can ever manage is detailed observation about a few items.

Oddly, we're almost always on the same wavelength. We both thought about the place of experiment around the same period (I was inspired by something Dan Green had written about formula, he by something Jeff Vandermeer had written). I'd pulled down Delany's collection to read and viola--Matt says he's thinking about blogging on Delany's stories. It's uncanny.

And now about the Rhysling anthology, which I'm slowly reading through for a review at SFSite.com. I hope Matt doesn't mind that I disagree, however, on a few points.

Cheney points out Blackston's review, which is quite thoughtful but at times I felt not entirely accurate--particularly in regards to Bruce Boston's poetry.

There is a connection to Stevens in all of Boston's work--that's definitely true in his unabashed use of abstraction in the concrete, a technique that Stevens developed well but is, sadly, poorly evoked by beginning poets. But "The Crow Is Dismantled in Flight" did not feel very Stevens to me. Boston is way too evocative to be closely associated with Stevens. In fact, Boston seems very Boston to me--a poet with a clear voice of his own.

Cheney also mischaracterizes Boston with "Bruce Boston... I associate primarily with an interminable series of jokey poems about famous monsters' wives."

This truly misses what Boston achieved with The Complete Accursed Wives, which is the finest speculative themed collection of poems that I've ever read. What Cheney doesn't realize is that Boston subverted the SF poetry industry. The premiere magazine of science fiction was primarily publishing joke poems of zero consequence. But it was popular with the lay folk who have not been turned on to the charms of good poetry, so maybe this helps engender interest in poetry through the back door. Boston took what he called "Populist" poetry and turned it into something meaningful, examining the married life through speculative tropes. I'm disappointed that these poems have been short-changed for their powerful subversion while under the lousy conditions of this subgenre. Like any good poet worth his salt, he works with what he's got--no matter how limiting the conditions.

Please do not short-change Boston's achievement. Sure, he sometimes writes jokey poems that never amount to much, but he can "write the insides" of poems, which this particular Rhysling anthology does not do a lot of, unfortunately. The last quote is from Dozois. Dozois was referring to Russ' complaint about Zelazny whom she felt could not write the inside of a story. This complaint can easily be pointed at SF poetry field.

Moreover, I've never seen the inside of a genre poem so incredibly well-written as the poem that finishes his Pitchblende collection. I've reviewed several of Boston's collection at SF Site:


I've reviewed several others that I never finished polishing--and now lost forever, I'm afeared, amidst several other reviews and fictions and poetries, on a computer that died on me. As Gordon Van Gelder sayeth, "Alas."

By the way, my favorite for short poems is Mike Allen's "How I Will Outwit the Time Thieves," which is simultaneously written with a speculative outside and a deeper inside. (Roger Dutcher writes a fine poem up until the end while Boston writes a beautiful end. Maybe they ought to combine forces.)

My favorite long poem so far has been Boston's precisely because he writes on the inside although I had to reread it to be certain (strangely, the poem does not finish strongly, which made think that, unlike Cheney, there ought to have been more to come--I suppose Boston could have taken the poem in either direction more successfully if inspired). Theodora Goss' is marginally better written on the outside but less so on the inside--moreover, while it makes motions toward emotion (in fact, it is specifically about the different masks of one's emotions), it isn't quite as effective at directly rendering the emotions it speaks of. Yet it is without doubt a poem of note--which is the only kind of poem I'm bothering to mention here. Sandra Lindow has another poem of great emotive quality, which seems to be her strength.

This process takes awhile since I have to read the poems enough times to get the entire poem in my head at once to see if any structural resonance occurs. Maybe I'll get done this weekend. (But don't hold your breath.)

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