Second Warring States period

Posted by Rich Magahiz Sat, 05 Apr 2008 13:47:00 GMT

the old power plant
a sour wind blows
flakes of paint

hold me! prelude to a spore body

Come, love,
to Venus! Mind the
flesh-rending molluscs…

Q
About that title…
A
You want to know what the Second Warring States period is?
Q
Of course.
A
It is a time which postdates the first one or the other first one. As far as I know, it hasn’t happened yet.
Q
But it doesn’t relate to the scifaiku at all, as far as I can tell.
A
You would perhaps prefer this title, then:

The old power plant

the old power plant
a sharp wind blows
flakes of paint

To me, it is part of the reader’s experience to try to bring the title in line with the poem, and the two parts of the scifaiku itself in line with one another, so when one titles a scifaiku with the very same words used in the poem, something is lost. In fact, I would go further and say that it would be better to leave it untitled than to repeat oneself in the title.
Q
You hate that kind of lazy titling.
A
No comment.
Q
So you think there actually is a connection between the weird “Warring States” title and the verse, I guess.
A
To me, it suggests that perhaps such a period of strife and chaos might return, given sufficient inconvenience, and plays against the images of acid precipitation and of worn and peeling paint to give you an idea of what kind of wars one might be able to fight then. Utterly straightforward, it is. Yeesssssss.
Another in a projected series of discussions on poetry.

Posted in ,  | Tags , , ,  | 2 comments

Rallye

Posted by Rich Magahiz Tue, 25 Mar 2008 01:19:00 GMT

magnificent
selfpropelled
devices
swimming

telezoic
telltale
borated
eyeliner

Q
Four lines?
A
It’s a brick, a verse form I invented a few years ago. It was originally a four-line scifaiku poem consisting of one line of two syllables, one of four syllables, two of three syllables, in any order. I have further imposed the restriction that each line consist of a single word.
Q
But otherwise like any other scifaiku?
A
Well, it is usually pretty hard to figure out where the kireiji or “cutting word” goes so sometimes it gets left out. But it should have a science-fictional element in it, as here with the notion of swimming technology. I always like it when I can write about something that isn’t automatically about ships flying in outer space.
Q
Why not just write the poem as a regular scifaiku, which has (in your scheme) the same number of syllables anyway? Is it just the challenge of making a four-word poem?
A
I think of it as more of an esthetic difference. The compactness of the lines without any whitespace makes the poem look like a monolith on the page, or in this case, with the 4-3-3-2 syllable count, an inverted teardrop shape. It is can also come across as kind of like a telegram from the future, or an alien inscription. But the name “brick” is a little bit of wordplay taken from virology; it is what they call the smallpox virion.
Q
A lethal dose of scifaiku.
A
You’ve got that right.
Q
Yeah, but I think the second line is cheating. It should be self-propelled with a hyphen.
A
True, there I am doing some violence to the language. Or to typography. But I really wanted a single word that was three-syllable synonym for automotive there, without the little break in the middle that the hyphen would cause. I console myself that the S sound in that line and the final line counts for something.
Q
You could have put in “spluttering” instead.
A
Hmm.
Q
I don’t know for sure whether I understand that fourth line “swimming,” anyway.
A
The poem could be seen as describing either large-scale devices swimming through fluid, vehicles like submarines perhaps, or else it could be talking about microscopic things in a drop of water possibly. The first line sets up the allusion to that movie Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines from the 1960’s, as if one could imagine some kind of race between competitors in strange contraptions in a watery or liquid methane environment instead.
Q
I could imagine that would make a pretty picture.
A
You’re right: this is a scifaiku which really cries out to be illustrated haiga-style. Maybe I might get around to that someday, maybe even with the “spluttering” line of yours.
The fourth in a series of discussions on poetry.

Posted in ,  | Tags , , ,  | no comments

Yet Another Vampire Horrorku

Posted by Rich Magahiz Fri, 21 Mar 2008 11:59:00 GMT

ever since,
next to her bed she keeps
a sharp stake

we can prove your guilt: Scythe-Angel-Scythe

shambling horrors
move in next door
flanked by lawyers

Congruence
Q
You don’t need to explain horrorku to me. It’s pretty obvious that if one can accept science fiction-themed poetry, why not horror-themed in the same form. But what is this “yet another” thing?
A
That’s just me getting snarky about cliché. I’ve done others in this vein before, criticizing the kind of writing which does not take enough risks by avoiding the obvious path. If you read enough verse with vampires and werewolves, blood and carnage and fear, monsters and midnights and other low-hanging horrible fruit in them, you want to see something that has none of those elements in them to see if it can be done.
Q
Sounds pretty dismal.
A
Well it would not be horrorku if it weren’t dismal, would it? Think of the poor dark poetry editors who have to read things like this day in and day out:
Bloody vampire
a bloody vampire
waiting by the dark graveyard,
a bat flies over

(Which I just made up.) To me, even though that has all the elements of a horrorku, the way it just kind of throws them out there makes it less interesting than it could be.

Q
You mean it just sort of tells you about the subject instead of showing it in any kind of novel way.
A
Take a look at this list:

  • It is a poem.
  • It is a poem limited in length, in English that limit being somewhere between 15 and 20 syllables.
  • It presents images rather than ideas.
  • It is intuitive rather than intellective.
  • It uses observation of nature and the seasons as a basis for that intuition.
  • Its observations are specific rather than general.

That was written about English-language haiku, not any of these speculative fiction derivatives (thus the item about nature and the seasons which would not apply to scifaiku or horroku), but the esthetic point being made is still useful to ponder. I think the bat poem has problems with the part about being intuitive, more so than the wooden stake poem, which starts out open-ended and ends before the reader really knows what went on.

Q
Oh, so you’re saying that the original poem wasn’t supposed to be using cliché after all, but is actually an anti-cliché statement?
A
You didn’t get that? Yes, the idea is to write a horrorku (or whatever) that takes a hackneyed subject but which itself tries to put a new spin on things. There’s enough trite verse out there that there seems to be no real point to add to the collection.
Q
You mean that

Yet Another Mummy Horrorku
on my way to work
I passed a mummy - he was
a very strange sight

isn’t worthy of posting to the Scifaiku list?

A
Keep working on that, there.

The third in a projected series of discussions on poetry.

Posted in ,  | Tags , , , , ,  | no comments

The Metaphase Waltz

Posted by Rich Magahiz Mon, 10 Mar 2008 12:11:00 GMT

the room
so narrow, one couple
fails to keep up

Unaligned chromosomes persist in HURP-depleted metaphase cells.
Normally dance choreographies never change once they are created. But Richard enjoys watching dances naturally evolve so he observed the way dancers were inclined to dance Metamora.

Q
I get it, this scifaiku something about biology, right?
A
Molecular biology, yes. But without the footnotes it is nothing more than a plain old senryu.
Q
What’s that?
A
Senryū. They’re the first cousin to haiku, with different rules governing subject matter and form. My point is that the verse itself does not actually carry the science fictional content in its words, the analog to the so-called season word in haiku.
Q
So is that a bad thing?
A
If you don’t like it, it’s bad, otherwise it passes. I prefer to regard the added information (the title and the footnotes) as part of the poetic experience so I think it’s okay. After all, scifaiku (and fantasyku and horrorku) have to set up a lot more backstory generally than mainstream non-genre poetry, so if that has to slop out into the title and the footnotes, so be it. Maybe it is cheating, but I personally like the value added by the extra stuff.
Q
Still, it seems as if you can get the science or science fiction content into the poem by shorthand or something, without sticking it in the title (which I know that real haiku don’t have), that’s got to be better.
A
I won’t disagree with that. But tell me, did you at least get the pun in this one?
Q
(blank look)?
A
Look up cell on Wikipedia and see what it has to say about the word’s etymology, when you get a chance. It’s a tiny little joke of mine.
The second in a projected series of discussions on poetry.

Posted in ,  | Tags ,  | no comments

Another dream-wracked amnion

Posted by Rich Magahiz Sat, 08 Mar 2008 14:29:00 GMT

cleft
deeply the seamounts
of Algaetopia
Q
So this is what you call a scifaiku, then? What’s the deal with the syllables, though?
A
You mean about how it isn’t a 5-7-5 count?
Q
Right, how is is supposed to be anything like a haiku if it comes out as 1-5-6?
A
It’s in English.
Q
Yeah, so?
A
Not Japanese. Where they count on, not the kind of syllables we have in English. To me, 17 English syllables feels a lot longer than your average Japanese haiku. (Archive)
Q
So you don’t care about the syllable count?
A
Actually, I do. In scifaiku and haiku, I usually write either three-line poems in twelve English syllables, or one-liners in nine syllables, to approximate the quantity in the Japanese verse.
Q
Okay, so it’s twelve syllables about science fiction then. Or nine.
A
Well, yes, but not exactly. The way I see the form, there are a few other features that I like to see in a scifaiku, besides the brevity and the subject matter.
Q
Namely…
A
A title. A pause between the two parts of the poem. Some sense of immediacy is nice, along with a tendency to suggest rather than state everything outright. And if you can work in an allusion to poetry or something else, that can be nice too, and similar to what was common practice among haiku and renga writers in Japan.
Q
You’ve got to be kidding. How can you get all that into twelve syllables, plus have it talk about some science fictional thing?
A
Well, I didn’t say it was going to be easy.
Q
I’ve got to work this out a little. Undersea mountains, a title that might have a pun in it, some vaguely sexual language, a break right there in the middle of the second line — and did you just make up that crazy name?
A
Hey, just Google it.
The first in a projected series of discussions on poetry.

Posted in ,  | Tags  | no comments