by Kevin Williamson
The intersection of science fiction and poetry only made sense to me in recent years which seems weird as I started delving deep into both forms of literature in my late teens. As I switched back and fore between Asimov / Bradbury / Moorcock, and MacCaig / Plath / Eliot the idea there was a space where the two could merge seamlessly never really occurred.
These days the catch-all category of sci-fi has many names and dimensions. Social preoccupations with the current hell we are creating, as a species, on our home planet, takes precedence over Star Warsian space operas.
Just as the initial light-hearted experimental Martian communiques of Edwin Morgan evolved into a multiverse of futurism with his classic collection Virtual and Other Realities, this in turn has ceded ground to much bleaker visions of the here and now. Futureverse becomes nearfutureverse, and speculative, futurist, techno and dystopian poetry embrace almost/barely recognisable worlds.
When I first heard Harry Josephine Giles read an early extract from their new Picador collection, Deep Wheel Orcadia, a wildly experimental sci-fi verse novel written in the Orcadian tongue, the possibilities seemed limitless. (This much anticipated new book is launched at PTBO, by the way).
Two of my favourite poetry collections of recent years - Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic and Suzannah Evans' Near Futures (Suzannah will also be at PTBO) – have taken this borderless sub-genre of poetry to imaginative heights and sometimes terrifying depths. If I was Elon Musk I’d be handing out millions of fee copies of these two books rather than spunking cash on daft rockets.
Russell Jones has championed this artform for over a decade now and is a bit of an authority on the subject. His own poetry often reflects his creative immersion in futurist worlds, past and present. Russell is poetry editor of Scottish sci-fi zine, Shoreline Of Infinity, and has edited two ground-breaking anthologies of the same. He’ll be sharing this thoughts and poetry at PTBO with his fellow futurists.
Don Paterson and JO Morgan are two major Scottish poets whose most recent collections – Zonal (2020) and The Martian’s Regress (2020) respectively - have moved into these speculative terrains of the near future. New ground IS BEING BROKEN right here in Scotland.
Most of the poets I’ve mentioned here will be appearing at Push The Boat Out. Discussions. readings and speculations on speculative poetry - showcasing the vast diversity of approaches, forms and potentials - WILL BE HAPPENING. Be part of them. Check the programme for details.