Finding Speculative Poetry

SFPA logoEvery year since 1978, members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) have nominated speculative poetry published the prior year for the Rhysling Award. These poems are collected in the annual Rhysling Anthology. Once the membership receives their copies of the anthology, they cast votes for their three favorite poems in each of two categories: “Best Short Poem” (1-49 lines) and “Best Long Poem” (50 or more lines). The 2014 anthology came out a little late this year, but it was well worth waiting to lose myself in the astounding imagery offered by poets from around the world.

The 2014 Rhysling Anthology isn’t yet available for public sale, however, I’d like to use this opportunity to share a few links to speculative poetry publications.


Goblin Fruit

Quarterly poetry zine with a focus on the mythic and fantastical.


A new quarterly speculative poetry zine with poems “that touch the heart as much as the head.”

Note: Read Diane Severson’s review of Luminality’s first issue which includes four audio versions of the peoms here.

Strange Horizons

Weekly poem, story, article, review, etc., all with a speculative bent.


 Dreams and Nightmares Magazine

 Science Fiction and Fantasy poetry, often with a touch of horror.


The Journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Speculative poetry of all types.

Tales of the Talisman

Quarterly magazine packed with speculative fiction and imaginative poetry.



Reading and Regret

I’ve never been much for telling people that I’m a poet, and I’ve never made an effort to read my poems in front of anyone. I’ve explained the former in my original blog post, and as far as the latter goes, I’ve never thought my poems as the “out loud” sort. Then there is my voice to consider. I cringe every time I hear a recording of it, so I’d be surprised if people didn’t clap hands to their ears by the time I finished the first line.

This past week I was invited to read a few of my poems at a local coffee shop. Immediately, I felt a seed of reluctance germinating in my belly. I wanted no more to read my poems in public than I did to run through the mall naked. I was about to decline when that little voice in the back of my mind told me that I was a coward if I didn’t do it. If I didn’t do it now, I’d never do it, and I might as well stop writing now because apparently my poems weren’t good enough to share.

ReadingShotThis past Saturday I stood up in front of twenty people at Bigby Coffee and read four of my poems. I read with a steady voice, and received polite applause after each one. It was a pleasant experience, and I would do it again, however, next time I won’t hold back.

I held back a poem. I brought the following poem because I thought that I could read it as part of the whole Halloween season. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to read it because I was suddenly afraid that my audience wouldn’t like it. No one else was reading anything of the sort. So I held it back, thanked the audience, and sat down, regretting it ever since.

Threshold of Sleep
by Kurt MacPhearson

In the space between your slippers
and that fuzzy patch
the vacuum can’t quite reach
a monster awaits

Claws clicking, stomachs smoldering,
tentacles toying with the corner of the sheet
as your shuffle begins with outstretched arms,
as if to embrace a prodigal dream:

No shield, sword,
nor white-knuckled charm shall protect you
as you pass through the veil
between consciousness and sleep

When stars wink out like nightstand lamps
and the universe unfolds
in non-Euclidean angles
with a membranous stir

The beat is not your heart in ears
but tom-toms on hilltops,
and the frission across your neck
is the fetid breath of a forgotten god
at the threshold of sleep

Originally appeared in Dreams and Nightmares 93

Where Astronomy and Mythology Meet

Solar-SystemOne of my favorite things about speculative poetry is the interplay between astronomy and mythology. We see it throughout the cosmos: moons, planets, stars, galaxies… even the asteroids that have caused us such worry over the last few decades have names derived from mythology. With these names, it’s natural (for me, at least) to imagine these celestial bodies with the background and personality of their namesakes.

Anyone with a cursory knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology recognize the names of the major players—Jupiter (Zeus), Mars, (Ares), Neptune (Poseidon), Venus (Aphrodite)—but most would raise the proverbial questioning eyebrow at the mention of lesser characters such as Ganymede, Deimos, and Charon, let alone the significance they, as moons, hold to the planets they orbit. I too had this lack of knowledge, but as I began to research the astronomical bodies and the mythological characters after which they’re named, the imagery unfurled like a tapestry depicting the Trojan War as if fought in space.



Similar to “Io’s Reality Check,” the following poem tells the story of how I imagined Callisto may have ended up orbiting Jupiter as one of the Galilean moons. Callisto was a minor character, best known for being turned into a bear by Juno for having an affair with Jupiter.

by Kurt MacPhearson

Your story began the moment
the Great Pretender lured you
from Diana’s train; bore him Arcus,
a strapping Greek lad, but with him
came Juno’s ire, which regardless
of her husband’s charms, got you
just what you deserved: transformation
into a bear, and a son dead-set
on spearing you

Your tragedy would have ended
at the point of a thrust
if Jupiter hadn’t stepped in
and flung you both to hang
like dippers in our northern sky,
so forgive us if your tale seems murky,
finding you the outmost Galilean —
a pitted bronze shell of your former self
with an icy-tear patina suggesting
your troubled history — yet no sign
of your wayward son

Some dare say you earned this fate
for lack of discerning core, yet few
resist godly charms; take solace
that your aren’t alone: Europa
knows how to handle stress,
Ganymede’s scarred shoulders
remain strong, and with stealthy plumes
of SO2, Io lags to warn
of a scornful wife’s attack

Though it may appear we’re onlyDreams and Nightmares #96
concerned with crater formation
and how your hidden seas
generate a magnetosphere,
the truth is that we have many eyes:
the heavens may be a forest in which
even legends get lost, but if
we ever develop tools with which
to penetrate myth, we’ll certainly do
all that we’re able to reunite you
with your long-lost cub

Originally appeared in Dreams and Nightmares #96