Speculative Poetry in the Central Valley?

-An interim report from Bryan Thao Worra, President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association.

I hope everyone’s been well!

Since April 3rd I have been conducting outreach efforts as a Visiting Artist at the University of California Merced in the Central Valley of California in a groundbreaking project as a science fiction poet working with the faculty, staff, students and local community to engage the humanities and education.

On a personal level, this has been a significant project for me.

In 26 years of writing, this is only the second time I’ve ever had a chance to work with the students and artists in Merced, and this year is all the more special as the 10th anniversary of my very first full-length book of poetry On The Other Side Of The Eye.

This is the very first year the University of Merced Center for the Humanities has had a Visiting Artist program, and I’m honored to be a part of this project and wish my very best to those who come after me. Already we’ve identified a number of new poets who have work that would fit well under the aegis of speculative poetry, both established and emerging poets.

I think we’ll be hearing from them again in the very near future.

 

For the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, our records do not readily show members from cities such as Merced, Fresno, or Modesto, among other cities of the Central Valley. This surprised me, given that the Central Valley gave us a fellow named George Lucas, and literary figures such as William Saroyan, and not far away, Robinson Jeffers and John Steinbeck. But in the weeks I’ve spent out here conducting trainings in both workshops, classroom lectures, one-on-one consultations, conference presentations, and performances, the response was very encouraging.

My upcoming schedule after this project already has me traveling next to Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Lowell, Massachusetts. It is my belief we have much ahead to be excited for.

bryan thao worra promo

I’m thankful to have had the chance to meet and collaborate with many extraordinary scholars here, as well as the film-maker Sanjay Barnela, local entrepreneurs, and the Merced Multicultural Arts Center. I had an enjoyable tour of their earth sciences laboratories, their library and digital archiving efforts, as well as a briefing on the vernal pools and the rare fairy shrimp found there. I heard the work of Latina punk rock elder Alice Bag, as well as how we’re preserving our aviation history at the Castle Air Museum. I’ve had extended conversations with members of the local Merced writers group throughout this trip, and they seem very interested in speculative literature.

As always, I thank all of you for your wonderful input and support during this project, it means a great deal to me. Here’s a recap of just a few of the key themes I’ve been discussing with the students, with more to come soon as time permits:

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