Comicpalooza: SpecPo Reading and Thunderdome 2018

Comicpalooza in Houston lasted from May 25 to May 27 this year, and the convention provided multiple opportunities for local speculative poets to share their visions with the crowd.

SPFA 40th Anniversary Reading at Kaboom Books

First, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the SFPA, eight poets gathered for a reading made possible by Kaboom Books, WriteSpace, and the SFPA itself. In the sultry heat of a Houston spring evening, Holly Walrath led off with a lovely contextualization of what speculative poetry is, along with selections from her new chapbook, Glimmerglass Girl.

Holly at reading

One by one, poets ascended to the podium to give the audience a taste of their own unique perspectives on the field. From Saba Razvi‘s intricate reflections on ancient manuscripts to Jody T. Morse‘s fantastical faerie imaginings; from Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam‘s savage sense of irony to Michelle Muenzler‘s mastery of the macabre; and from Kate Pentecost‘s examination of how the real and the magical intersect in human lives to Karen Bovenmyer‘s rich imaginings, words flowed alongside wine, culminating with Deborah L. Davitt‘s heel-turn from the philosophical to the comic–proving that the tent of speculative poetry can encompass many ideas and ideals at once.

Directly afterwards, the poets retired to the welcome air conditioned confines of the Hobbit Cafe, where they consumed mead and committed acts of revelry. Also, they committed acts of haiku, signing their receipts with such. (Michelle Muenzler’s poem ended, “This is a haiku,” just so that the waiter would be clear on this fact.)


Left: Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Michelle Muenzler; right, Karen Bovenmyer (in red), Holly Wallrath, decompressing after the reading at Kaboom and preparing to be rowdy poets at the Hobbit Cafe, Houston, May 25, 2018.

Note: As video links become available, they may be added here.

  • Deborah L. Davitt, reading ‘E pur si muove’ (first published in Star*Line) and “Giants in the Earth,” which will be featured at Art&Words this year in Fort Worth, Texas.
  • Karen Bovenmyer, singing one of her poems!

The Return of Thunderdome

Saturday, May 26, 2018 brought the return of Thunderdome to Comicpalooza, where it all started a year ago. Holly Walrath again moderated, providing a welcome introduction for the crowd as to what speculative poetry even is. She then gave the poets an opportunity to read some verses of their own, previously penned, so as to demonstrate that they actually could write well when afforded time. Karen Bovenmyer went so far as to sing her piece, bringing a welcome note of lyricism and, well, filk, to the proceedings.

And then the chants began. “Five poets enter! No one leaves! Five poets enter! No one leaves!”

Four rounds. No survivors.

The first three prompts included “Cook, Mars,” and “mirror,” which Karen Bovenmyer won handily with a piece about a space trucker’s hangout. Each round thereafter became tougher and tougher. The competition closer and closer. Saba Razvi innovated early, being the first poet to offer actual titles for her improvised compositions–the rest of the poets scrambled to catch up.

The second round prompts were “Space geologist,” “asteroid belt” and “spoon.” The crowd oohed and ahhed over each offering of verse placed before them. The round proved too close to call, but Michelle Muenzler offered the following:

one more time around the belt
she flings him wide
her man of the moon
forever facing each other’s eyes
in orbit they spoon
The third round became a nail-biter as the audience proved vicious with their prompts: “Game show host,” “Lakehurst, NJ,” and “sentient scrunchy.” In desperation, the poets asked for what was relevant about Lakehurst, lest they have to Google the locale; Holly Walrath allowed an extra minute for this round, taking pity on the entire panel. (Apparently, the city is the site of the Hindenburg crash.)
Karen Bovenmyer offered the following response:
Death stalks on velvet lengths
under bleachers past the gum
of discarded teens
inching around the heels of contestants
while the host of “Unusual Deaths”
guides unwitting participants
to a final
The final round’s prompts included “Horseshoe,” “Purgatory” and “spaceship mechanic.”
Several poems from this deathmatch were, to our mutual astonishment, not eye-gougingly dreadful! We will simply have to redouble our efforts to inflict pain upon each other and the audience, next year.

Open Mic Reading

An open-mic reading panel ran concurrently with Thunderdome, run by Jody T. Morse–a panel dreamed up again by Holly Walrath. Several of the poets, probably punch-drunk after the carnage of Thunderdome, ventured next door and participated there, too–clearly gluttons for punishment.

After that, the only thing left to do was to repair to the Writer’s Hangout at Phoenicia and lick our wounds. And prepare to meet again in mortal poetical combat next year.

Phoenecia hangout



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