April 09, 2010

Poetry and Science Fiction

 Poetry and Science Fiction

We are stepping into the twilight zone for a time because after all, this is National Poetry month.   Are there any science fiction authors who write poetry.  Are any of our hugo winners poets?  Surprisingly, yes.  I did find several including Ursula Le Guin, Neil Gaiman and Joe Haldeman.  Plus I discovered the Science Fiction Poetry Association.  


by Neil Gaiman

We owe it to each other to tell stories,
as people simply, not as father and daughter.
I tell it to you for the hundredth time:

"There was a little girl, called Goldilocks,
for her hair was long and golden,
and she was walking in the Wood and she saw — "

"— cows." You say it with certainty,
remembering the strayed heifers we saw in the woods
behind the house, last month.

"Well, yes, perhaps she saw cows,
but also she saw a house."

"— a great big house," you tell me.

"No, a little house, all painted, neat and tidy."

"A great big house."
You have the conviction of all two-year-olds.
I wish I had such certitude.

"Ah. Yes. A great big house.
And she went in . . ."

I remember, as I tell it, that the locks
Of Southey's heroine had silvered with age.
The Old Woman and the Three Bears . . .
Perhaps they had been golden once, when she was a child.

And now, we are already up to the porridge,
"And it was too— "
"— hot!"
"And it was too— "
— cold!"
And then it was, we chorus, "just right."

The porridge is eaten, the baby's chair is shattered,
Goldilocks goes upstairs, examines beds, and sleeps,

But then the bears return.
Remembering Southey still, I do the voices:
Father Bear's gruff boom scares you, and you delight in it.

When I was a small child and heard the tale,
if I was anyone I was Baby Bear,
my porridge eaten, and my chair destroyed,
my bed inhabited by some strange girl.

You giggle when I do the baby's wail,
"Someone's been eating my prridge, and they've eaten it —"
"All up," you say. A response it is,
Or an amen.

The bears go upstairs hesitantly,
their house now feels desecrated. They realize
what locks are for. They reach the bedroom.

"Someone's been sleeping in my bed."
And here I hesitate, echoes of old jokes,
soft-core cartoons, crude headlines, in my head.

One day your mouth will curl at that line.
A loss of interest, later, innocence.
Innocence; as if it were a commodity.
"And if I could," my father wrote to me,
huge as a bear himself, when I was younger,
"I would dower you with experience, without experience."
and I, in my turn, would pass that on to you.
But we make our own mistakes. We sleep
It is our right. It is our madness and our glory.
The repetition echoes down the years.
When your children grow; when your dark locks begin to silver,
when you are an old woman, alone with your three bears,
what will you see? What stories will you tell?

"And then Goldilicks jumped out of the window and she ran —
Together, now: "All the way home."

And then you say, "Again. Again. Again."

We owe it to each other to tell stories.

These days my sympathy's with Father Bear.
Before I leave my house I lock the door,
and check each bed and chair on my return.




And I was fascinated to find that Ursula Le Guin has translated the poems of the Latin American Poet I am studying for my Nobel Literature class - The Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral.  Gabriela is the first and only Latin American woman to win a Nobel prize for Literature for her writings. 

Canto que Amabas

Yo canto lo que tú amabas, vida mía,
por si te acercas y escuchas, vida mía,
por si te acuerdas del mundo que viviste,
 al aterdecer yo canto, sombra mía.

Yo no quiero enmudecer, vida mía.
¿Cómo sin mi grito fiel me hallarías?
¿Cuál señal, cuál me declara, vida mía?

Soy la misma que fue tuya, vida mía.
Ni lenta ni trascordada ni perdida.
Acude al anochecer, vida mía,
ven recordando un canto, vida mía,
si la canción reconoces de aprendida
y si mi nombre recuerdas todavía.

Te espero sin plazo y sin tiempo.
No temas noche, nebline ni aguacero.
 Acude con sendero o sin sendero.
Llámame adonde tú eres, alma mía,
y marcha recto hacia mí, compañero.


What You Loved

Life of my life, what you loved I sing.
If you're near, if you're listening,
think of me now in the evening:
shadow in shadows, hear me sing.

Life of my life, I can't be still.
What is a story we never tell?
How can you find me unless I call?

Life of my life, I haven't changed,
not turned aside and not estranged.
Come to me as the shadows grow long,
come, life of my life, if you know the song
you used to know, if you know my name.
I and the song are still the same.

Beyond time or place I keep the faith.
Follow a path or follow no path,
never fearing the night, the wind,
call to me, come to me, now at the end,
walk with me, life of my life, my friend.

And Joe Haldeman, whose poem won the Rhysling Award for the best science fiction poem of the  year.  Unfortunately I don't know which year. 

Eighteen years old, October eleventh

Drunk for the first time in her life,
she tossed her head in a horsey laugh
and that new opal gift sailed off her sore earlobe,
in a graceful parabola,
pinged twice on the stone porch floor,
and rolled off to hide behind the rose bushes.

It gathered dust and silt for two centuries.
The mansion came down in a war.

For twelve thousand years
the opal hid in dark rubble, unmoving.
An arctic chill worked down through it, and deeper,
and glaciers pushed the rubble thousands of miles,
very fast, as opals measure time.

After millions of years (the Sun just measurably cooler)
a female felt the presence of a stone,
and waved away yards of snow and ice;
waved away dozens of yards
of frozen dirt and crushed rock,
and held, in what resembled a hand,
this bauble of gold and rainbow stone:

felt the sense of loss in that silly girl,
dead as a trilobite;
felt the pain that had gone into penetrating
the soft hyperbolic paraboloid of cartilage
that then displayed the decoration;
felt its sexual purpose:
to attract a dissimilar pattern of genes
to combine and recombine a trillion trillion times,
and become herself.

She briefly cherished the stone,
and returned it to its waiting.
Interested in finding out more about Science Fiction Poetry.   Head on over to the Science Fiction Poetry Association  and find more.  

We know return you to our regular programming -- Imagine twilight zone


Luis Vargas Saavedra Saturday, April 10, 2010  

The translation of Gabriela Mistral's poem is quite acceptable but

¿Cómo sin mi grito fiel me hallarías?

is not well translated.

Should be:

How without my loyal call could you find me?

Unknown Friday, April 16, 2010  

Love the Gaiman poem. Of course, why should I be surprised that the man is also a brilliant poet?

H. Dougherty Friday, April 29, 2011  

Llámame adonde tú eres, alma mía,

is also mistranslated

It should be
"Call me to where you are, my soul"

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