2020 SFPA Poetry Contest announcement poster with painting of a golden dragon flying below a huge statue of a woman holding up two figures in her hands over a rocky landscape

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) has been celebrating and sharing speculative poetry for decades. The association holds an annual poetry contest open to both non-members and members that serves as a major fundraiser for the organization. I’ve submitted the past couple of years and plan to do so again this year. This year’s opportunity runs from June 1 through August 31, 2020. The entry fee is $3 per poem and you can enter as many times as you like.

While you’re at it, you may consider joining the organization. Membership is a great way to support the SFPA while also learning more about speculative poetry. Membership begins at $15.00 per year and at this level of support you’ll receive PDF’s of the organization’s quarterly Star*Line journal and annual Dwarf Stars and Rhysling anthologies. I paid an annual membership for a few years before I decided to purchase a lifetime membership. I’m very happy I did.

Speculative poetry includes science fiction, fantasy, horror and related subgenres, but its broader than that, too. Science poems are included. Fabulism, slipstream, mythology, and even realism with only glancing mention of something more speculative, surreal, or otherworldly also fit within the umbrella term of speculative poetry.

Beyond the SFPA publications, there are many other genre magazines and journals that publish speculative poetry. Examples of speculative poetry can also be found in literary journals; the excellent “Stealth SF” column written by Denise Dumars in Star*Line calls attention to such finds.

Two of my absolute favorite poets right now often have poetry published in speculative publications and beyond: Linda D. Addison and Christina Sng.

Addison’s latest collection of poetry, written with Alessandro Manzetti, is the 2019 Bram Stoker Award-winning The Place of Broken Dreams (Crystal Lake Publishing) and it’s next to read on my reading list.

I’ll also be reading Sng’s latest, A Collection of Dreamscapes (Raw Dog Screaming Press), soon. I discovered both poets in the pages of SFPA journals and anthologies.

If you want to get more of a sense of what speculative poetry reads like, here are a few online journals you can browse for free. If you enjoy them, consider donating and subscripting.

Dreams and Nightmares is edited by David C. Kopaska-Merkel and published three times a year. I recently purchased a lifetime PDF membership and received most back issues of the journal since the 1980s. What a joy it has been to read speculative poetry from decades ago as well as recent months!

Strange Horizons publishes a new speculative poem (in addition to fiction and articles) online each week. Editor-in-Chief Vanessa Rose Phin recently announced the publication’s new Kickstarter to fund operations and pay rates in 2021. I’ve been supporting the magazine via Kickstarter and Patreon for a few years now. I think the speculative poetry in Strange Horizons is more literary and sometimes more opaque and challenging than speculative poetry from other journals I’ve read, but it has opened my mind to appreciate just how cutting-edge and exciting speculative poetry can be.

Strange Horizons also publishes Samovar, a quarterly journal of translated speculative poetry and fiction.

The SFPA’s quarterly journal Eye to the Telescope is themed; the recent “House & Home” issue edited by Emma J. Gibbon included my horror poem, “Witch House“.

Yes, it’s true: I’m recently a published speculative poet myself! After chancing onto the SFPA’s website and speculative poetry in general, I realized that I had been writing speculative poetry (in addition to literary poetry) already. I continued to read, practice, and submit and eventually a couple of my speculative poems were published. The SFPA and speculative poetry took my career as a poet in an exciting new direction!

If you don’t already, try reading and writing some speculative poetry. You’ll learn a lot from the experience, I think, and potentially open up new opportunities for yourself. And if you have a speculative poem ready to go or can write one over the next few months, consider submitting it to the 2020 SFPA Poetry Contest. You’ll be supporting a good cause (the cause of speculative poetry and pushing boundaries with speculation), participating in good literary citizenship, and, you never know, maybe winning one of the top prizes!

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