I’d be the first to admit I’m not a big “serious literature” guy. I love books, and I’ve read a lot of the “classics.” But I’m more into genre fiction. Give me a choice between, say, Camus and Elmore Leonard, and I’m going for the latter.
So I don’t read a lot of poetry – a literary form than doesn’t lend itself to depictions of shootouts or kung fu fights. That might change, though, since I’ve discovered a wonderful poet named Linda Addison.
I recently read a volume of her poetry called Being Full of Light, Insubstantial. When the very title of the poetry collection is gorgeous, I figure that’s a good sign.
She was a recent guest speaker at a group I belong to called the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, which is made up of writers of lots of different genres, but tends to skew toward horror and science fiction. (Great group, by the way. If you’re a writer anywhere in the vicinity of New Jersey, you ought to consider joining.)
I missed that meeting, unfortunately, because of a computer-related crisis. But I met the group for their customary lunch afterward, and had a chance to talk to Ms. Addison.
Man! Describing her as “charming” doesn’t do her justice. VERY cool person.
I was blown away when I found out the extent of her genre fiction creds. Her first poem was published in the seminal “Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine,” and her poetry’s won not one but three Bram Stoker Awards.
And I’ll admit, Philistine that I am, to being a little bit puzzled as to how poetry could be considered genre fiction. Horror poetry? How does that work?
But then I started thinking about it. How about Charles Baudelaire? How about Edgar Allan Poe? How about “The Erl King” by Goethe? Couldn’t they all be considered “horror poetry?” Hell, if I really dove into it, I could probably come up with a list a mile long.
Anyway, keep in mind that the poetry I’m describing is from “Being Full of Light, Insubstantial.” I haven’t read her other stuff (yet).
Don’t get the wrong idea when I describe the poetry as genre-based. We’re not talking rhyming tributes to the Starship Enterprise or Freddie Krueger.
The poetry is more impressionistic, invoking a mood, a feeling, than any kind of concrete imagery or narrative.
I recently interviewed a former small press publisher who won a World Fantasy Award a while back. I asked him what he thought made for good speculative fiction. His answer was simple: “a sense of wonder.”
And that’s what comes through in “Being Full of Light, Insubstantial.”
When I was there in the diner, I leafed through the book and my eye settled on one of the poems. It was only six lines long. I’m no poet myself, so I doubt I’ll be able to do it justice. But to me, this is what the effect was like.
Imagine you’re walking down a city street, when you’re in that transition phase as evening’s giving way to night. And out of the corner of your eye, you glimpse two shadowy figures. You catch a snatch of whispered conversation – one that hints at dark subcultures and sinister doings on the periphery of the civilized world you inhabit. Things you’ll never see directly, but whose presence you might sense obliquely in the occasional darting shadow or newspaper headline about a mysterious disappearance.
Then you look and the two figures aren’t there. But you never feel quite as secure in your world again.
None of this was stated overtly. It was just the sensation I got reading it. Conveyed in six lines. Not bad, huh?
Anyway, check out Ms. Addison’s Website here. And be sure to check out her books. Even if you’re a little leery of poetry, like me. Or rather – like I used to be.