Diverse Views, Diverse Voices in Speculative Poetry

Welcome to September! It’s hard to believe the year is almost over, and we will soon celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association next year, which will be observed by numerous readings and events. This will be a time of reflection and opportunity as we continue to consider all of the amazing directions possible in poetry that embraces the truly imaginative.

I’ve talked previously about our goals at the SFPA in our list-serv, Twitter, and Facebook group, but also want to ensure we’ve shared them here for future reference:

The SFPA is an inclusive, international organization with a diverse membership on almost every continent except Antarctica. (At least regularly, for now.) At the heart of our organizational engagement, both formally and informally in the US and abroad, we are expected to observe a non-discriminatory approach in the way we present our programs.

This includes non-discrimination on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, age, religion or religious creed, disability or handicap, sex or gender (including pregnancy, sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct, gender identity and/or expression (including a transgender identity), sexual orientation, military or veteran status,  genetic information,  or any other characteristic protected under relevant federal, state or local laws.

Our various communities, poetic and otherwise, flourish with the free exchange of ideas. At the SFPA, I want us to work towards an inclusive model that can constructively embrace diverse ideas, aesthetics, and schools of thought. In practical application, I know that this will not always be ‘absolute,’ however, and our membership will likely face challenges of conscience.

But I hope that more often than not, we feel we can come back to the table on our various issues and our shared common love of poetry exploring the outer boundaries of the imaginative and the fantastic. It is my hope that we will extend each other professional and personal courtesies, including the benefit of the doubt and the initial assumption of good intentions and constructive critique.

My personal position and commitment to these principles stems from the journey my family and I made surviving the civil wars that devastated Southeast Asia during the 20th century-from the Secret War in Laos to the Killing Fields in neighboring Cambodia with their brutal purge of the intellectuals and artists. My personal life prior to the SFPA includes opposition to the KKK, Aryan Nation, Nazis, Neo-Nazis, or whatever particular appellations they rallied under over the last 30+ years. I know for some the possibility of Nazis in power is more of an intellectual exercise with likely few consequences for them, but for me, and many of our colleagues, it is a very real concern with very real consequences should Nazism triumph. I do not take that lightly.

The SFPA has a challenging course ahead to live up to all of our shared ideals. It will require ongoing conversations with our membership. I don’t want any of us to feel afraid of these conversations.  I applaud speculative poetry’s drive to encourage freedom of expression and innovation. But the SFPA will NOT condone racism, harassment or bullying.

Diverse voices and diverse experiments are needed in speculative poetry. I hope our international members feel strengthened to express themselves freely and to participate. So much of our best work in speculative poetry comes from communities who fought hard against negativity, dismissal, misogyny, homophobia, racism, and inequity.

If we want a diverse and vibrant field of Science Fiction and Fantasy, we must not neglect the trails blazed in speculative poetry, which is a key zone where many diverse voices start. With all of this in mind, let’s keep the conversation going constructively.

We’re always looking for new ideas and contributors for posts at SPECPO. If you’re interested, please let us know at SFPAPres@Gmail.com


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