SFPA 40 Kickoff Reading A Success!

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association thanks all of our friends, families and other community members who came to join us on January 10th at the Mojo Coffee Gallery in Northeast Minneapolis for the first official reading of the year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the SFPA. We will be convening numerous readings at conventions and events across the country throughout 2018. Over 40 people were in attendance throughout the evening, some even coming in from as far away as Missouri! You can also see some of the great photos from the evening from our friends at Twin Cities Geek.

SFPA 40 (63)

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association was established in 1978 by Suzette Haden-Elgin and has since grown to over 348 members internationally representing 19+ nations. It publishes two journals: Star*Line and Eye to the Telescope. It oversees three major literary awards for poetry: The Rhyslings, the Dwarf Stars, and the Elgin Awards, and an annual science fiction poetry contest . Further, it provides resources for emerging and established poets seeking professional publication and networking opportunities.

The celebrations had particular historic significance as the first time many members of the SFPA were able to read together, including the 2018 chair of the Elgin Awards, Josh Brown, Amelia Gorman, and award-winning poet Ruth Berman, one of the members of the long-standing Minnesotan speculative poetry collective The Lady Poetesses From Hell. The Mojo Coffee Gallery was selected as the site because of it’s tremendous support for many of our poets and artists in the area working in speculative art and literature, and they were excellent hosts throughout the process.

Door prizes13 poets in total read throughout the evening from 6-9 PM with the main part of the program concluded by 8 PM. Highlights included a chance to see a performance of Not So Silent Planet and Rev. Matt’s Monster Science for the first time together. A discussion on the journey of speculative poetry was intermixed throughout the proceedings, ranging from conversations on Vogons, H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, the Jabberwocky, Dante’s Inferno, and a classic limerick by the android Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. There were plenty of door prizes including complimentary memberships to the SFPA, a dinner for 4 at the Fantasy Flight Games Center, and several books including a copy of US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s Life On Mars. An open mic followed afterwards. Our special thanks goes to Michael O’Leary, Jr. who took photos throughout the evening for us!

An extended recap follows:

SFPA Collage

Tu the Judoka opened the evening for everyone. He is a spoken word artist living in Midtown Minneapolis. He represented Minneapolis at the Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam and is a two-time national silver medalist in judo. Tu also served as TA for the University of Minnesota’s Judo course. He also informed us that he “loves the Gameboy Color and has kept it One-Double-Oh since 1991.”

Josh Brown followed afterwards. A resident of Minneapolis, and an active member of the SFPA, he was the 2017 Elgin Award Chair and recently agreed to bring his experience back again for the 2018 awards. Writing in many forms, he is a graduate of the University of Minnesota–Duluth with a degree in English Literature, and has spent the past fifteen years in the publishing industry working for and with award-winning publishers and best-selling authors.  His work can be found in numerous anthologies as well as in Star*Line, Scifaikuest, Mithila Review, Fantasy Scroll Magazine, and more. His essay, “Poems and Songs of The Hobbit” was recently featured in Critical Insights: The Hobbit (Salem Press, 2016). He served as editor for issue 20 of Eye to the Telescope, the official online journal of the SFPA.

One of our award-winning elders in the speculative poetry community, Ruth Berman’s writing has appeared widely.  She was one of the contributors to Lady Poetesses from Hell (Bag Person Press Collective). She is a previous winner of the SFPA’s Rhysling (2003) and Dwarf Stars (2006) Awards. Her novel Bradamant’s Quest was published by FTL Publications. Her translation of two fairy tales by 18th-century writer Louise Cavelier Levesque, “The Prince of the Aquamarines” & “The Invisible Prince,” was published by Aqueduct Press (Seattle, WA), and her translation of “Trilby” and other fantasies by Charles Nodier, by Black Coat Press (Encino CA).

SFPA member Amelia Gorman loves writing poetry and stories about monsters, making surreal twitter bots, and training her dogs. You can read more of her recent poetry in Liminality Magazine and Star*Line and some of her fiction in the female-focused Lovecraftiana anthology, She Walks in Shadows. This was the first time many of us had to see her performing with other SFPA members!

We first ran into Kyle Dekker at the very first CONVergence Poetry Slam in 2017, where he won 2nd place, (SFPA’s Sandra Lindow, who was Vice-President at the time took First in that event, so he had stiff competition!) He was also a featured reader recently at The Not So Silent Planet speculative literature slam, and his Minnesota Fringe Festival Show Waiting For Gygax mashing up Samuel Beckett and Dungeons and Dragons was a must-see. We were excited to invite him to this event. He is a lifelong geek and movie fan, and a sucker for any movie featuring sword-wielding warriors or superheroes (and is basically powerless if they feature both). When not devouring his favorite films, Kyle can be found playing tabletop games with his friends and wife. He is particularly fond of roleplaying games and owns more RPG books than one person could possibly use in a lifetime. He once had the honor of meeting Gary Gygax and was promptly killed by the original Dungeon Master!

Jake Skillings followed, and has been sharing some strange and unusual material at poetry slams and open mics across the Twin Cities. He has been published in The Los Angeles Review, Revolver, Ampersand Review, Spork Press, and others. Recently, he informed us he has been shambling around the coffee shops and bars searching for clues of the hidden light. Sitting in plaid rooms and spitting on the page. Someone spotted him crying while watching the new Blade Runner movie. A few months ago he finished writing a book of poems about his time working in a locked intensive care psychiatric unit… He promised to read us some weird stuff, and he delivered.

Born and raised in Shreveport Louisiana, Hawona Sullivan Janzen is a poet and non-fiction writer whose work focuses on the impact of grief, love and hope on the human spirit. This was the first time she had a chance to share some of her Blerd poetry, touching on time, space, Star Trek, and more. Among her distinctions, she had been commissioned to write poetry for the St. Paul River Stewards Awards and Silverwood Park, and she was the co-founder of the University of Minnesota’s Witness Writing Project and a Givens Foundation Creative Writing Fellow. Her poem “Darkness” was a 2014 National Poetry Month selection on National Public Radio.

Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre is an MC, two-time National Poetry Slam champion, activist and educator. One of his classic pieces that caught our attention was “The Spill (Love In The Time of Zombies)” as well as his spoken word CD El Guante’s Haunted Studio Apartment. His work explores the relationships between identity, power, and resistance, and has been featured on Upworthy, Welcome to Night Vale, Everyday Feminism, MSNBC, the Huffington Post, and beyond. Garnering over ten million views online, Guante has also performed live at the United Nations, given a TedxTalk, and presented at countless colleges, universities, and conferences. Guante’s debut book, a mixtape-style exploration of the intersections of art and social justice, is available now.

Our next performer was Jon Olsen who aimed to be “definitely the very best poet tonight who is also in the thick of a sprawling five-alarm midlife crisis.” He’s had work published in Apex, Star*Line, Tales of the Unanticipated, and elsewhere. Jon also writes plays and performs stand-up comedy around the Twin Cities. He lives in Minneapolis with his children and pets, and has never ever won a fight. He gave a great reading that left us looking forward to more from him in the future!

Riawa Thomas-Smith was born and raised in Minneapolis and writes weird fiction and poetry.She has performed short stories, poems and the occasional song at open mics around the Twin Cities since the early 90s. She read at Storyfest in 2016 and once won Poetry Division of the Misfits writing contest with her Lovecraftian Love Poem, which she read that evening.

Rev. Matt’s Monster Science! is the culmination of a lifelong obsession with monsters – any sort of monsters, mythological, cryptozoological, cinematic, paleontological – combined with a deep adoration for ranting like a maniac, and in this case gave a spirited and rousing discussion of speculative poetry and how poem like “The Jabberwocky” works its particular magic.

Closing out the evening was Phillip Andrew Bennett Low, a Chinese-American playwright, poet, mime, theatre critic, and libertarian activist. His main claim to fame is as the founder of the touring theatre troupe Maximum Verbosity, and as co-founder and Chair of the Rockstar Storytellers, a group of bestselling local spoken-word artists.He has published a book of political humor, Indecision Now! A Libertarian Rage. He is a founding member of Not So Silent Planet, the nation’s longest-running Speculative Literature Slam.


Overall, the feedback was very positive for the space and we look forward to organizing future gatherings with each other in the future!


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