In Praise of Poetry and the HWA
As I write this there are lots of exciting happenings in speculative poetry. The Preliminary Ballot for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Poetry has just been announced. I’ve learned that master poets Alessandro Manzetti and Marge Simon have announced a new collaboration on War to be published by Crystal Lake Publishing. I hear rumors that Bruce Boston, never to rest on his already amazing laurels, has another book in the works. Linda Addison was named the recipient of this year’s HWA Lifetime Achievement Award. Also the HWA is continuing with the acclaimed HWA Poetry Showcase. This year Bram Stoker winning and multiple nominee Stephanie Wytovich will be the editor. I’ve learned that Michael Arnzen and Mercedes Murdock Yardley will be the two additional jurists for the volume.
I want to use this blog (which I admit is a bit of a filler waiting for the final list of nominees and returns from several pending interviews) to tout a horn for the Horror Writer’s Association. The number of associations of horror and speculative writers in the world is legion. These organizations have very prestigious award programs: the Hugos; the Nebulas; the Shirley Jackson Awards; the World Fantasy Awards. None honor the horror poet like the HWA.
The HWA has proven to me, time and time again, to be a friend and promoter of poetry. In every program for Stokercon you will find a panel on poetry as well as reading slots for poets. I’ve been to the World Fantasy Conference. There is no poetry on their programs. Poets do not have reading slots. The one time I was offered a reading slot was for a short story. The last time I went was in Toronto (missing the one in San Antonio due to work conflicts — drat that day job). At that meeting the Science Fiction Poetry Association could only muster an impromptu gathering one of the nights. It was not well attended but certainly enthusiastic. Last year the HWA, spending the resources to publish the Poetry Showcase in hard copy for the first time, set up a signing so that poets in the volume could meet members and be recognized. This year they offered authors the choice of payment in cash or a copy of the book. That is not insignificant.
Remember poets, our work will not bring in the big bucks. Publishing poetry does not usually pay the bills. Most publications which will pay will give you around $5 a poem. If you sell 1,000 poems a year at that rate you might make a decent living. You are also likely not going to have a long life because a 1,000 publishable poems a year is just not possible.
Last year the HWA also agreed to set up the first two Poetry Showcase volumes in hardcover form for purchase. Having placed poems in both of those volumes I was very grateful to be able to have a physical volume to put on my shelf. I know that editor Peter Salomon, who helped usher in this wonderful series, was very gratified as well. For the past two years Ellen Datlow’s prestigious Best Horror of the Year series has made mentioned of the Showcase.
So, as the ten preliminary ballot poetry collections are under consideration remember the privilege you have that there is even an award for poetry. In early years of the Bram Stoker poetry fit under the category of “Alternate Forms.” The World Fantasy Conference has a similar category. I don’t believe a poet has ever won that category. While the Bram Stoker process will always leave disappointments (having made the preliminary ballot but not the final ballot twice I fully understand that), but don’t lose sight of the fact that we even have a venue to celebrate the contribution poetry has made to horror — spanning centuries. I encourage members to read all of the works on the list. You’ll be very pleased to realize that the roots of horror carry on.