Fanpoetry

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See also: fanwork, filk
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Fanpoetry, perhaps more than any other art form, divides fans. Some fans love it. Some fans hate it. And some fans simply ignore it.

One of the earliest examples of a poem in a media zine is The Territory of Rigel which appeared in the 1967 zine Spockanalia, the very first Star Trek zine. Tolkien fandom had earlier fan poems; the earliest known dates from November 1959.[1]

A fan in 2006 describes poetry: "A poem is usually a vignette, a snapshot of one specific moment or image or idea that you then explore in depth with language. If a story’s a meal, and a novel a multiple-course meal, then a poem is a sauce reduction, one mixture boiled down until the flavor is intense." [2]

Fannish Reaction to Poetry in Print Zines

Many classic fanzines included fanpoetry alongside fanfiction.

1) Some fans loved poetry and went out of their way to read it and comment on it.

2) Fans often made a point of how much they ignored/disliked poetry in general, but then offered up an an example of a poem they had enjoyed.

3) Some fans felt that zineds included poetry as filler: "Too often these names have contributed filks, poems, spot art, etc., while the bulk of the material [in an advertised zine] may be something the prospective buyer has no interest in." [3] And: "I object to poetry in zines primarily because it is used as filler and therefore editors don't seem to feel they need to work on it much." [4]

4) Some fans believed that poetry was important and could be well done, but didn't trust themselves to know a good poem from a bad one. In zine reviews, they often skated past poems, saying they didn't feel qualified to comment on them: "Fanpoetry is a category that most readers and editors greet with derision and sometimes justly so -- the American school system does not teach love or appreciation of poetry. We're taught that it is pretty, but useless; it has no place in a society where income rates higher than ability. We are not taught the difference between good poetry and bad, how to read it, how to write it, or why to love it." [5]

5) Some fans felt that other fans wrote poems for zines because it was perceived to be an easy way to obtain a contributor's copy. (need to find a quote)

6) Some fans objected to poetry because they felt it was often misunderstood and therefore badly done: "Poetry, unfortunately, is about the hardest form of writing imaginable. I think It's even harder than drama. To quote a poem on poetry from an old issue of Masiform D, "One word per line does not a poem make, any more than water without a shore would make a lake." I wish writers and editors would respect the art a bit more." [6]

7) Some fans didn't like poetry as they felt it was "too flowery" and sentimental for the subject at hand: "If I read one more poem mooning over that damn Vulcan, I'll set fire to the entire zine!" [7]

8) Some fans felt that editors weren't selective enough in regards to poetry: "Many editors openly admit that they nothing about poetry, so their editorial policy is to print everything they receive, or no poetry at all, or poetry that other people tell them is 'real good.' And what kind of presentation can a poet hope for when poetry is printed in tiny, illegible fonts for 'artistic' purposes, used to fill white space at the end of a page, rarely accompanied by artwork, or rewritten by the editor because 'it's too long to fit the page'? So, why should a fan even read poetry in a fanzine?" [8]

9) Some fans just seemed to dislike the whole genre, or at least as presented in fandom -- a fan comments on a science fiction and fantasy zine published in 1979 by two Temple University freshman: "Some wonderful poetry is contained here, unlike the usual schlock that abounds in almost all Trek zines." [9]

10) Some fans didn't like fan poetry in general: "My biggest gripe is with fan poetry. I love poetry, yet I hate fan poetry. Could this be that most of these so-called poems are not really poems at all? Just because you can string some words together that might rhyme or can write about feelings or can throw in some pretty imagery, it doesn't make you a poet and that fancy paragraph that you wrote a poem." [10]

11) Other fans objected to the styles of poetry: "Why do people feel that poems have to rhyme. Rhyming couplets are all very well for humorous ditties, but most times seem to aim for a serious point. Often I wish they stick to prose." [11]

11) Some fans were simply not fans of poetry, but they didn't begrudge others' interest in them: "There is nothing wrong with the poems. They're just not my thing." [12]

Fannish Reactions to Online Poetry

From Laura Hale in 2002, speaking as a moderator for FanDomination.Net:
We're not allowing poetry for three reasons mainly that we discussed early on when we were first developing the site... The first is that most fan fiction type poetry is so vague that it could apply to anything from Sailor Moon to Josh Lyman to Lance Bance to Harry Potter to Serena Williams. When a poem is that vague, and a lot of fan fiction type poetry is, it becomes almost original poetry. FanDomination.Net isn't hosting original fiction or original poetry. Stuff that vague, I can't figure out how to argue that it is fan fiction. It would be like well to me arguing that Allstar by Smashmouth is a piece of fan fiction for Sailor Moon, Harry Potter, Star Trek Voyager, etc. It really isn't though you could make it fit if you wanted too... The second reason is that a lot of fan fiction poetry, no offense intended, sucks and sucks badly. I'd guess that 90% falls into this category. Poetry is hard to write, and harder to write well. The crap to quality ratio is just so high... that coupled with the vagueness factor, it just makes sense to not have it. The last factor deals with content managers... and constructive feedback. When content management goes up, content managers would have had to review poetry and doing that with any degree of consistency would be extremely difficult. Sometimes, poetry in your gut you can just know it is wrong, bad, evil, horrid. Explaining WHY in a constructive format and saying what is good is difficult because unlike prose, each style of poetry has its own set of rules. Those rules are subject to change and a great many of the authors writing poetry aren't aware of the rules, aren't aware of the ones they are breaking, aren't doing it deliberarely as a style thing. You can't just say "This doesn't rhyme" to explain why a poem doesn't work. It's a lot more to deal with than that... and well, giving constructive feedback on poetry as a result of this is darned near impossible. It just isn't fair to ask content managers to do that. It isn't fair to authors because they couldn't get constructive feedback on it... and the disputes would have been many. I've been on a mailing list or two where the list went on self destruct over the issue of poetry with two rigid camps... and I just want to avoid that. Prose is different in that there are generally rules, etc. Giving constructive feedback that is useful and helpful is easier, and more useful. [13]

In Recent Years

In recent years, some fans have rekindled a love affair with formal poetry. [14] [15] Some fanpoetry is sexual in nature.[16] [17] Some works of fanpoetry directly parody known works of literature[18] [19], while some lead to the creation of still other fanworks [20]. Some are epic.[21]

Poet & academic Sheenagh Pugh discusses fanpoetry in her 2005 book, The Democratic Genre.[22]

Notable Works

Its Relationship to Filks

Some Fan Poetry Zines

References

  1. Sumner Gary Hunnewell. Tolkien Fandom Review: From its Beginnings to 1964 (accessed 7 September 2012)
  2. from A 2006 Interview with J S Cavalcante
  3. from Pop Stand Express #10
  4. from a fan in Jundland Wastes #13
  5. from a review of Panning for Pyrites by Susan M. Garrett in Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #1
  6. from Jundland Wastes #13
  7. comment in Horizon Newsletter #22 (1988)
  8. from a review of Panning for Pyrites by Susan M. Garrett in Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #1
  9. from a review of the zine "Ogre" in Scuttlebutt #13
  10. from S and H #24
  11. comment in Horizon Newsletter #22 (1988)
  12. Sockii Press Questionnaire, accessed February 7, 2012
  13. Poetry in Terms of Service Forum, Archived version, September 28, 2002
  14. House MD sestina #4, 2008; accessed 2008-10-4
  15. Snape/Lupin fluffanelle, 2005; accessed 2008-10-6
  16. Hold, an SGA double sestina, 2008; accessed 2008-10-4
  17. Night Moves, a crown of Sentinel sonnets, 1999; accessed 2008-10-4
  18. Thirteen Ways of Looking at Rodney, 2008; accessed 2008-10-4
  19. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Poet, accessed 2008-10-11
  20. Rodney's Poetry Months, 2008; accessed 2008-10-4
  21. A Princeton Odyssey (Alexander Pope Is Turning In His Grave Remix), 2008; accessed 2008-10-4
  22. Sheenagh Pugh site: The Democratic Genre (accessed 5 October 2011)