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November 6, 2016

I want to be part of the SFF poetry world. I want to be a really good writer. I want to be an innovative writer. I want to hybridize forms. I want to write in translation. I want to translate poetry into English.


I’ve been reading SFF since I was a kid (40-ish years), but only in the last several years have I been reading SFF as a writer.

I didn’t begin writing CNF until I was 43; poetry, I was 45.

Outside of poems, I’ve written no fiction. I attempted NaNoWriMo at 45, and failed, miserably.


Of the literary poets, translator poets, and SFF poets I follow on Twitter, some have been getting their work published for 10, 15, 20, 30 years. So they’ve been writing even longer.

I can’t go back and “begin writing fiction as a teenager” or “begin writing poetry in college”.

Also, when I’m lamenting things I didn’t try, I tend to forget the inconvenient fact that… I’m a generalist, not a specialist. In no timeline anywhere in the multiverse, did I settle on one thing in 1981 or 1987 and concentrate on mastering it.

In 1981, I aspired to being an art student in Paris. Slightly later, an interpreter at the UN.

In 1984, I began college as a botany major. By 1987, I was a philosophy major. A year later, I was absorbed by physics.

I graduated in late 1999 with a B.A. in…. geography.

The most promising start to a career I ever had, I was an environmental scientist. That was… 4+ years of my life. The longest, by far, I spent at any employer. I don’t stay.


Here’s what I have going for me:

I read fast.

I read (pretty much) constantly.

Since 2010, I’ve read 2,003 books. Close to 600 have been related to literature, how to write, poetry, translation, research for topics I want to write about.

Another 301 have been SFF.

(When I was younger, the proportion of SFF compared to everything else I read was much higher. But I read a lot fewer books because I had a lot less free time.)


I have a wide range of interests. Spouse thinks I’m an expert in most of them. I’m much more aware of how everything I know or could hope to know is a drop in the ocean of what could be known, so I don’t call myself an expert… in anything. But I will admit that I know a lot more than someone who has no interest.


Inter-Library Loan is great. Since I began using the all-Maryland service 4 years ago, I’ve read 423 books. Many from the Enoch Pratt Free Library, in Baltimore.


When I worked, I prioritized buying books over everything but rent. Even, sometimes, over food. (It’s so hard to remember to eat regularly anyway.)

Books help me make sense of the world in a way human beings only begin to approach.

Even now, I’ve engineered my monthly budget to make sure a modest amount is always available for buying books. Hypothetically, I could buy books… every month. I usually don’t, but I could.

I buy used whenever I can.

(I don’t keep books I know I won’t read again, which frees up bookshelf space.)


Since circa 2006, I’ve kept handwritten records of things I’ve read, and what I thought was important to remember about them. (Not everything I’ve read; mostly things that were worthwhile to make handwritten notes about.) Those daybooks fill a bookshelf. (Someday, I really need to get around to indexing them.)


I collected bilingual language dictionaries, beginning in 1986. Some years ago, I divested myself of all that weren’t languages I thought I might ever use. In retrospect, I likely should’ve kept more of them, but I still have these:

Albanian, Anishinaabe, Danish, Gaelic, Greek, Lithuanian, Maltese, Māori, Spanish.

Also, Aboriginal Words of Australia; a visual dictionary; (English) dictionaries for specialized vocabularies.

Because I’ve had them available for so long, I’ve been thinking about speaking in multiple tongues all these years. Non-English words have occasionally appeared in my speech and writing… always, really.


I not only think a lot, I think about thinking a lot. I think about learning.

I think about feeling like I don’t belong anywhere.

I think about having friends of other species. How to communicate with them better. Pondering if we’re actually communicating now.

I wonder what my “native tongue” actually is, since I usually don’t think in words first. But I don’t think in fully-developed pictures either: I’m not a visual thinker the way Temple Grandin is. No books I’ve read have described accurately how I think, so I don’t know what to call it, or how it compares to anyone else’s thought process.


I’ve spent more time with books than with human beings.

If I have a “tribe”, it might be books. I don’t think that makes sense, but maybe it’s still a kind of true. (Good thing I’m a poet.)


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