Interview with Diane Severson (StarShipSofa and Amazing Stories)

I’m talking with Diane Severson, podcaster for StarShipSofa (Poetry Planet) and staff blogger on Speculative Poetry for Amazing Stories Magazine.

SCy-Fy: Diane, I am very pleased to have finally got the chance to speak to you. How do you go about obtaining the poetry for your podcast shows?

DS: Let’s see, about 2 years in advance, I put out the call for poetry on a specific theme for Poetry Planet. I’ve done First Contact, Time Travel (twice), Coming Home, Moon Imaginings. I’ve also done several showcase shows on the various Genre Poetry Awards – The Rhysling Award, the Dwarf Stars Award and the Elgin Award and the SFPA’s annual poetry contest.

SCy-Fy: What are the current and upcoming themes?

DS: Right now I’m working on Animals & Creatures, and I’ve got themes Robots & Androids, Music, and Haiku and related forms in the works, as well as last year’s Rhysling Award and the SFPA Contest winners to produce as well. I collected the poetry for Animals & Creatures about 2 years ago and am now nearly finished recording the poetry that’ll go in.

SCy-Fy: What are the final touches?

DS: I gather very brief bios and perhaps a little blurb from the poet about the poem: inspiration, background or interesting tidbits. So, I write an introduction to the poet and poem as well.

SCy-Fy: And how do you prepare for your blog posts?

DS: I simply read the collection I’m going to review, gather my thoughts and start writing. At the same time, I consider which poems I’d like to record to include in the article. I usually do 2 to 4, depending on how long the collection is. I’ve done as many as 20 though! That was for the review of a British SF Poetry anthology edited by Russell Smith called “Where Rockets Burn Through” and I couldn’t whittle it down more! There was so much good poetry in that one!

SCy-Fy: And for interviews and your genre poetry round up posts?

DS: I have a list of standard questions that I send the interviewee and hopefully I have time for a bit of follow-up for depth. My most recent interview with British/American poet Steve Sneyd needed to be transcribed because he is almost completely offline and can’t type due to an elbow problem! That was a huge job, because he also abbreviated a lot and his hand-writing took some getting used to.

For the Round Ups I cruise the internet for genre poetry a few days in advance and choose a few sites to feature. Sometimes I end up focusing on a particular poet or theme or genre, but that generally happens by coincidence, not by design.

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives?

DS: I would love to not get so far ahead of myself! It’s a horrible thing to have 6 planned podcasts weighing me down. And I have enough poetry collections and chapbooks to write a review weekly till the end of the year! Unfortunately, I just can’t keep up that pace, as much as I’d like to. Perhaps I should write briefer reviews or only record one or two poems?

SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major challenges for podcasts and blogs in future?

DS: Keeping people’s attention and loyalty to your podcast or blog is top of the list. There are so many great and interesting podcasts to listen to and blogs to read, that if you can’t draw an audience and hold them, you’re talking and writing literally into the ether.

SCy-Fy: What advice would you give anyone presenting a podcast?

DS: Keep it short. Personally, I prefer to listen to short podcasts. At least, I’ll be more likely to start listening to a podcast if it’s not going to be a multiple hour investment. Sometimes, fiction podcasts can’t get around a show getting a little long, if the story is just long, but I think a podcast shouldn’t really go over 2 hours in length for any reason.

And I think everyone should figure out the crux of what it is they themselves love and write or podcast about that. If you are enthusiastic about what you do and stick to that, it will help with motivation and with finding an audience.

SCy-Fy: What helps you the most in all this activity?

DS: Personal relationships with the people giving me their work to podcast or review. I’ve had great interactions with the poets whose work I’ve had the pleasure of including. Other than that, no secret resources.

SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?

DS: Well, I’m on a mission, that helps. I think poetry is important and SF poetry is just fun. Poets are under-appreciated in our society and community and what people don’t know is that there is an active little micro-community of genre poetry, which I’d like to make more people aware of. That I’m helping the SF poetry community (i.e. the poets themselves) by giving them some much needed promotion and introducing other fans of speculative fiction to the wonderful world of speculative poetry is what keeps me going when I feel the slog.

SCy-Fy: Any controversy so far?

DS: There hasn’t been any controversy surrounding my podcast or blog, but genre poetry hasn’t been immune to flap. There was a blog posted on Amazing Stories Mag in the early days of the website entitled “Why Science Fiction Poetry is Embarrassingly Bad” by Paul Cook, which really got a lot of people riled up. I published a rebuttal, but there were others who did a better job of it and there was no subsequent flap regarding my own blog post. His post certainly did create a lot of conversation in the community, which is definitely a good thing.

SCy-Fy: The most popular show/blog you’ve presented/written?

DS: Well, based on the statistics on my personal blog, it seems like the Time Travel editions of Poetry Planet were the most popular. Since Time Travel is one of my favorite SF tropes, I certainly had lots of fun doing those.

My interview of Amal El-Mohtar on Amazing Stories. Amal is an amazing poet, but I interviewed her on Amazing Stories primarily about her role as editor of Goblin Fruit, so it was quite enlightening. She’s delightful!

I’m proud to say that nearly all of my reviews, interviews and Genre Poetry Round Ups have made it high onto the list of popular posts for the week, which Steve Davidson publishes on Sundays. The Round Ups are especially popular, I suspect because they involve a larger number of poets, who signal boost.

SCy-Fy: What have been the best books of genre poetry you have read recently?

DS: I’m reading the 2015 Rhysling Anthology – which anyone can purchase – and really enjoying it! I think it’ll be a tough decision which poems should get my vote.

I have a number of reviews coming up on Amazing Stories of poetry which I just loved. Check out specifically John Philip Johnson’s Graphic Poetry collection – it’s stunning! And Jeannine Hall Gailey’s semi-autobiographical The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, just wonderful work!

SCy-Fy: Which genre poetry collections are you most looking forward to reading?

DS: I’m really looking forward to reading and reviewing Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod’s joint collection, Poetry. I’m looking forward to digging into Mike Allen’s (Mythic Delirium) retrospective collection Hungry Constellations. There’s also Bram Stoker Award nominee (for poetry) Alessandro Manzetti’s forthcoming collection from Crystal Lake Publishing “Eden Underground”, which should be excellent.

SCy-Fy: Anything to add, Diane?

DS: Other than to say thanks for the opportunity to blather about my favorite subject and for your patience, no! Except this: go out and read some genre poetry! What are you waiting for?

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