SCIFAIKUEST AUGUST 2017
August is our Anniversary here at Scifaikuest and this issue is one of the biggest, most spectacular editions we’ve ever produced! I always save the most excellent material for our Anniversary, and this year is no exception. So, if you are one of our valued contributors and your work is here, please know that you are definitely a cut above. We have 3 haiga, two black and white illustrations, 3 articles–and that’s just in the PRINT version–we have a number of articles here, in our ONLINE issue as well!
If you don’t have a subscription to our PRINT edition, they are available at: http://store.albanlake.com/product/scifaikuest-one-year-subscription-us-only/
And, if you would like to join the select group of contributors by submitting your poetry, artwork or article, you can find our guidelines at: http://albanlake.com/guidelines-scifaikuest/
You can also read our ONLINE VERSION at: http://albanlake.com/scifaikuest/
Happy Anniversary to our Readers and Contributors alike, and a HUGE welcome to our most recent newbies: Charles Christian, Karin L. Frank, John Granville, Manos Kounougakis, Lisa Timpf and Greer Woodward.
Now, sit back and prepare for another fantastic Scifaikuest!
eating fresh peas
no small feat
in a halfway house
reading the hive mind
Starving shuttle survivors
Who goes in the pot?
Space is silent
A cluttered tomb
Of whizzing spacesuits.
yellow jacket’s sting
really a drone injecting
a tracking device
on that summer
flight to Hiroshima
deciding not to
as the wind strengthens
acid rain burning through our
screen door and windows
ayaz daryl nielsen
a new ring system shields
the god of war
my new constant
on Proxima b
I ask the robo-usher for
a language implant
John J. Dunphy
First Lady warns her children
not to pull the ambassador’s tail
John J. Dunphy
in Proxima Centauri
Karin L. Frank
big things beyond
rescue from Planet X
two gymnasts, one seat
they flip for it
Last day of the Earth
Isn’t there anything else
Jean-Paul L. Garnier
the blue-eyed serial killer
leaves a quiet yard
sky full of stars
how I wish
I could live
to visit them all
a crowd at each viewport
up in business class
the seasoned travellers yawn
just another trip to Mars
as we cross
the Orion Nebula
new lungs cry
Gravity pull magnitude draw consequence
alarm bells sounding
loud and urgent
in our sector –
running to the opposite
side of the space station
hoping the shields hold
the surprise attack
wining this time
I cannot sleep
Typography: the missing link in haiga
by Charles Christian
Over the past decade I’ve edited a couple of online magazines that have accepted haiga. Zines are a perfect format for haiga as the obviate the commercial and technical issues associated with printing color illustrations in short-run print poetry publications. But, the benefits of going digital are a double edged sword as technology has created a fresh set of problems.
Haiga were traditionally created in Japan and, later, in the West, using a brush and ink in the e-sumi style – and there are plenty of artists who still originate their haiga this way and then scan the image into a JPEG for use online. (See example by Christina Sng) However these are now in the minority and most haiga submitted online today have been produced entirely with digital tech, either in the form of a photo plus text or created on a computer using applications such as Adobe Illustrator/Freehand or CorelDraw.
With photo and other digital haiga, exactly the same rules apply as they have done since the time of Basho in 17th century Japan. The picture element does not merely illustrate the haiku, and, similarly, the poetry doesn’t just describe the picture. Instead, the whole should be greater than the sum of the two parts, with each element complementing the other. But what about the typography, namely how the haiku wording appears on the page?
This was not an issue for the original haijin as they were using the Japanese kanji/katakana/hiragana writing system and were further circumscribed by the limitations of ink-brush strokes. However fast forward four centuries to the digital age and anyone creating haiga in English (or any other Western language) on a computer (even if just adding text to a photo) now has thousands of different fonts at their disposal, in sizes ranging from tiny to poster sized, and available in an almost infinite number of colours and shades.
There are four factors to be considered with digital haiga typography (1) the choice of font for the text, (2) the size of the text, (3) the positioning on the text, and (4) the text color. And, by way of a further complication, these factors cannot be taken in isolation. For example, the positioning of the text on the image will have an impact upon the choice of text color.
(1) Choice of Font
The key should be legibility, which rules out many elaborate handwriting/script-like fonts. On the other hand you don’t want the text to be so plain as to be boring, which eliminates fonts such as Arial and Helvetica. In addition, avoid texts that are too gimmicky. As the saying goes: Comic Sans is never an acceptable font unless you are an eight-year-old girl writing a poem about unicorns. That said, it may be the haiku subject matter itself hints at possible font choices: a poster-type font for a circus themed haiku; a gothic-style font for something dark/vampirish/horrorku-ific; a typewriter-style for work/business/writing topics; or a chalkduster font for school/education/college subjects. However whatever else you do, please stick to just the one font – if you’ve ever worked in an office you’ll be familiar with the five-line internal memo that manages to use six different type faces.
(2) Size of Text
This is the element most people get wrong because they make the text too small. Sure, sitting in front of your big computer screen at home, working on an image that is 3600 x 2400 pixels in size, your text may appear to be perfectly legible but what if the zine published it at only 720 pixels in width? What if the person is viewing the image on a tablet, such as an iPad, or even on a mobile phone? What if the zine previews content on its home page, so your haiga is displayed in an even smaller thumbnail-sized format?
Firstly, reduce the size of the image (this is particularly important with photos where the default image size on your phone or camera may be huge) to the size publication has specified. Then, and only then, start experimenting with different font sizes. You may use a 12 point setting when you draft a haiku on a wordprocessor or typewriter but transfer that text to an image and you may be looking at 40 point.
(3) Positioning of the Text
This is particularly a problem with photo haiga where you may have a “busy” font fighting an equally busy image. Alternatively parts of your text may fall over a relatively clear part of your image but other parts are lost against the background. Always experiment to find the right location by moving the text to different parts of the image. Better still, use parts of the image where there is a suitable empty spaces, such as the sky, fields or the ocean, for placing text.
(4) Color of Text
Without going into advanced painterly “color theory”, it should be obvious that some color combinations work whilst others don’t. Complementary colors tend to be legible whereas “muddier” tones are just, well, muddy. Does the text color stand out from the background or become and indistinct blur? Ideally stick with straight black text on a light background or white text against dark. Of course feel free to use colored text where appropriate: blood red for something gory, green for spooky, a orange and black combination for Halloween etc however do bear in mind that different types of devices display colors differently, depending up whether it is a Windows PC or Mac, the type of screen or monitor, and the viewers own screen settings – which is another reason for sticking with black, white or primary colored text.
Having said all that, the beauty of digital technology is you can always juggle your text options. Try different font, size, positioning, and color permutations until you get the perfect mix. You’ve spent time writing the haiku, you’ve spent time locating or creating a suitable image, so don’t rush the final stage and risk spoiling the overall effect with poor typography. Incidentally, if it is any consolation, many book publishers regularly get these rules wrong when they are creating cover designs – and they are meant to be professionals!
Finally, don’t forget to apply the same typography considerations to your signature, monogram or however else you add your name to your haiga – that also needs to be clearly visible and legible.
Lucidity Grows Around a Tree Trunk
By Herb Kauderer
Once, I was younger. And so was the drinking age. It was the autumn of 1979 and my barely teen-aged self was sitting in the basement of the Student Union of Fredonia State College drinking a pitcher of beer. Yes, they actually sold beer on-campus.
I was waiting for my friend Chris Thue to join me. And he did. He showed up in an agitated state waving around a sickly bluish paper object.
“I cannot believe this crap!” he shouted. “Have you looked at this?”
I poured him a beer without asking. “What is it?”
“The college literary magazine. The Fig. It’s a piece of crap. I don’t believe the stuff in here.”
“I could write anything and they would publish it,” he said. “I could write ‘my asshole grows around a tree trunk’ and they would publish it.”
While I happen to admire Chris’ taste in literature, he does have a tendency to get a little weird; so I didn’t take his ravings too seriously. After all, this is a man who once mailed me a complete set of his toe-nail clippings scotched taped, in order, to a sheet of lined paper, and labeled in faux Latin.
Chris didn’t really settle down, but the subject changed. And we enjoyed a last teen-aged afternoon of joy, solving the world’s problems and refining our literary tastes.
A year passed. It was autumn of 1980 and my no longer teen-aged self was sitting in the basement of the Student Union of Fredonia State College. Drinking a pitcher of beer.
I was waiting for my friend Chris to join me. He showed up in an unusually mellow state, carrying a sickly orange paper object.
I poured him a beer without asking.
“Here you go,” he said. Handing me the orange paper thickness.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“The college literary magazine. The Fig. Remember?”
“Oh, yeah. Is it any better this time?”
“Check out page six.”
I looked up from my beer. “What?”
“Page six. Check it out. I had to change a word, but there it is.”
I stared at him. He took the magazine out of my hand and opened it to page six. He handed it back without comment.
There, on the left side of the page, just below center, was the following:
humanity grows around a tree-trunk
granite words crumble to dirt.
the trees grow in the soil
of sentences until rotted out.
sunshine blocked out
no longer do words crumble
humanity crawls on sharp rock.
~ Christopher Thue
All lower case, with punctuation, no stanzas.
I’m not making this up. It was in a semi-official publication of a SUNY college. Their library must have a copy. You could look it up.
I stared at the page in awe.
“I submitted that with 12 of my best poems. That’s the one they took.” He spoke with unconcealed disgust. “I rest my case.” And he drained his beer.
It was an afternoon of much beer, and much mourning. We were mourning the death of a literary career. Chris’ will to publish had been broken. He would continue to craft strange, polished poems. But he would never send them out again. In his weirdest most drug-induced dreams, Chris still managed to be lucid in his poetry. And he felt defeated by the forces of anti-lucidity.
For this essay to continue, terms must be defined. The American Heritage Dictionary defines lucid as “1. Easily understood; clear” (406). For the purposes of this essay “lucid poetry” is defined as “poetry that, at least on the surface, is clear and easily understood by readers other than the poet.”
The vast majority of all poetry I write is lucid poetry. That my poetry is easily understood on the surface does NOT mean that it is without depth or complexity or power. It does not mean that it adheres to rules of grammar. It does not mean that it doesn’t sometimes stretch the language. Even this essay does that.
It just means my grandfather could have understood something from reading my poetry.
There is value in lucidity. Few recognize this. When I was in graduate school at Buffalo State College, the late Dr. John Dwyer said of literature, “It is sometimes helpful to know what is going on.” I thought this so profound, I wrote it in my notes and dated it. I’ve been using it ever since as one of my weapons against the anti-lucidites.
My choice of terms, though awkward, is well considered. Many poets choose to write non-lucid poetry. Perhaps they are non-lucidites. They celebrate the diversity and range of the form. Yet, they don’t mind if others write lucid poetry. By the same token, while I choose to write lucid poetry, I often enjoy reading abstract, surreal, allusive, illusive, and occasionally even nonsense, poetry.
I have puzzled and thrilled to classics such as Lewis Carroll‘s “Jabberwocky” with its riveting opening stanza:
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borograves,
And the mome raths outgrabe
I have chased and enjoyed modern non-lucidites such as David C. Kopaska-Merkel whose poetry includes this first stanza from “Goldfish in my Head”:
- The View Outside
Limpid crystals of pellucid thought
Flashing rainbow bands bedazzle on the white-washed walls.
Chatoyant shadows stir within each crystal rhomb,
Reflecting jerks and twitches
of my bound and bleeding limbs. (17)
Locally, I have enjoyed the power of Pushcart nominee Dan Sicoli who begins his poem “mind” with these words:
on my sweat and dies
back on the edge
when you were beautiful
and barbed wire
there was us
Despite the diversity of my reading, when I sit down to write a poem, it usually turns out to be lucid, such as this cinquain:
or Whose Job Is Harder Anyways
through Hellfire to
rescue his lady. While
she waited in Hell, to give him
For my three decades as an active poet, lucidites and non-lucidites have had no problem co-existing. But somehow, outside the mainstream of poets, there exists a staunch and vocal minority who insist that what I do is wrong. They are the anti-lucidites.
They insist that poetry must be a wrenching of reality, and a reconstruction of the language. They insist that lucid poetry is the enemy, and the tool of The Establishment, as if The Establishment doesn’t already have their own poetry. Anti-lucidites are the poetry police, and they want to enforce poetic correctness.
Often these anti-lucidites seek to censor my reading and listening choices as well as my writing. Perhaps the most obvious example of this are the many critics who insist that the pre-Sergeant Pepper’s Beatles were cute but unimportant. They insist that all the Beatles important works started with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
These critics are certain the Beatles non-lucid lyrics are superior to their early lucid lyrics.
Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly,
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.
Cellophane flowers of yellow and green,
Towering over your head.
As I read these lyrics to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” from the back cover of my battered first printing of Sgt. Pepper’s I can remember some of the freedom of those words. I was seven during the summer of love. But by the early 70s I was old enough to embrace the psychedelic era that was upon us. Non-lucidity was a revelation, a form of rebellion. Being young is all about rebellion and freedom.
But it is no longer the 70’s. I am no longer a teenager. I am in my 50’s, and “Lucy in the Sky” is a lot of pleasant memories, and interesting images now. But truth to tell, it does not move me. I am more moved by the early Beatles, such as these excerpts from the song “Help”:
When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now I’m older and I’m not so self-assured
And now my life has changed in oh, so many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
And, of course, ending with a plaintive cry of “Won’t you please, please, help me?” This song is relevant to me and my friends. This is what our lives are about more than forty years after first hearing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” We seek out connection, relevance, support, comfort, relief from the pain of life.
Perhaps we are unhip. Perhaps we fail to be musically correct. Or perhaps we’re old and cranky and just struggling to get along. The poetically correct and the musically correct come in all ages, but more often than not they seem younger than me. If anti-lucidites seek rebellion, they don’t seek me. My rebellion was broken long ago. Now-a-days I just seek to keep my children in medical coverage.
I was in a coffee house somewhere in Western New York. Poetry was being read. This hip fellow with a short shaggy beard, and lots of frizzy hair stopped to talk to me. He looked suspiciously like me when I was his age, but I wasn’t about to tell him that.
“Hey, man. You got a great delivery. But you gotta lighten up on your poems, man,” he said.
“Yeah. You gotta let loose with what’s inside. You can’t be always sounding like a book.”
“Because you’re not a book, man. You gotta respect yourself. You gotta let out what’s inside. You don’t think in whole sentences. Say what you think.” He was getting earnest and nodding his head a lot.
“Actually, I often think in whole paragraphs,” I answered. “Of course, that’s because I’m old. When I was your age I thought exclusively in fragments of pornographic dialog.”
He laughed. “You see. You said what was on your mind. And it set you free.”
“Actually, I said what I thought would amuse you. And it was a complete paragraph full of complete sentences.”
“Aw, man. Don’t bring me down. Freedom is important.”
“That’s right,” I answered. “And I consider my freedom to be lucid very important.”
“But that’s not it. You can be lucid anywhere. Be lucid when you write your mother. Be lucid when you do your taxes. But when you read your poetry, be free.”
I paused. “I can’t,” I said.
“Why not?” he asked.
“Lucidity grows around me.”
“Because I’m a tree trunk.”
“I’m a tree trunk.”
“You’re a tree trunk?”
“What does that have to do with poetry?”
“Lucidity grows around a tree trunk. I am the tree trunk. I can’t help but be lucid.”
He looked into the distance, and suddenly his face exploded in a smile and he looked at me and said, “Now you’re talking!”
But I wasn’t talking any more. Instead I saved it for you.
# # -the end- # #
Beatles, The. “Help.” Help! Record. Parlophone, PCS 3071, 1965. “Help.” Marcos’ Beatles Page 14 June 2001 http://www.geocities.com/sunsetstrip/Palms/6797/help.html.
Beatles, The. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. Record. Capital, SMAS 2653, 1967.
Carroll, Lewis. “Jabberwocky.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2000. 677.
Dwyer, John. “Class Lecture.” Buffalo State College. Buffalo, Oct. 16, 1984.
Kauderer, Herb. “Heroics.” Images 2000. Orchard Park: Auxiliary Services Corporation, 2000: 34.
Kopaska-Merkel, David. “Goldfish in my Head.” The Conspiracy Unmasked. Concord: Dark Regions Press, 1994.
“lucid.” American Heritage Dictionary, The. New York: Dell, 1983.
Sicoli, Dan. “mind.” Artvoice May 31, 2001: 13
Thue, Christopher. “untitled.” The Fig, Fall 1980: 6