Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) members have honored Akua Lezli Hope and Mary Soon Lee as their 2022 Grand Masters. Two Grand Masters were selected due to a tie vote by the membership.
Akua Lezli Hope
Akua Lezli Hope, a creator and wisdom seeker, has been in print since 1974 with over 450 poems published. She wrote her first speculative poems in the sixth grade and was a member of the SFPA in the 80s, appearing in Star*Line and Asimov’s back then. Her collections include Embouchure: Poems on Jazz and Other Musics (Writer’s Digest book award winner), Them Gone (Sundress Publications 2018) , Otherwheres: Speculative Poetry (2021 Elgin Award winner), & Stratospherics (micro-chapbook of scifaiku @Quarantine Public Library). A Cave Canem fellow, her honors include the National Endowment for the Arts, two New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships, Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association award & multiple Rhysling & Pushcart Prize nominations. She won a 2022 New York State Council on the Arts grant to create Afrofuturist, speculative, pastoral poetry.
She created Speculative Sundays, an online poetry reading series. She edited the record-breaking sea-themed issue of Eye To The Telescope #42 (www.eyetothetelescope.com) & NOMBONO: An Anthology of Speculative Poetry by BIPOC Creators, the history-making first of its kind (www.sundresspublications.com/e-anthologies/nombono Sundress Publications, 2021). Her work has also been published in numerous literary magazines and national anthologies, including: Africa Risen (Tor, 2022), Black Fire This Time (2022), The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, The 100 Best African American Poems; Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora; Asimov’s Science Fiction; Gyroscope Review, Pensive: A Global Journal of Spirituality & the Arts, Strange Horizons, Star*Line, SciFaikuest, Eye to the Telescope, The New Verse News, Breath & Shadow, The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop, The Cossack Review, Silver Blade Magazine, Stone Canoe, Panoply, Penumbra, About Place and Three Coyotes, among many others.
She is working on three new speculative poetry anthologies for 2023: Speculative Cats Volume 1 with LindaAnn Schiavo (speculativecats.com); Arboreal Dreams (speculativetrees.com); and Black Multiverse (blackmultiverse.org).
From Grand Master Akua Lezli Hope: “I am deeply honored and affirmed by this fabulous recognition. My first literature was speculative poetry as I learned and sang Mother Goose nursery rhymes, hand clap and jump rope chants. In elementary school I read Animal Farm, Brave New World, 1984, and Alice in Wonderful. Jabberwocky cracked open a world of language’s possibilities to me. I wrote my first speculative poems in the sixth grade and for my 50th high school reunion, our literary magazine was shared and there were two of my science fiction short stores, both beginning with speculative poems.
“Speculative poetry, like its sibling speculative fiction, serves not only the imagination but the soul. It enables us to articulate the ineffable, to capture elusive as well as re/present the many issues, both transcendent and mundane that we struggle to understand and resolve. As a young poet, I was charged to SERVE VERSE and this award is a sweet acknowledgment on this journey. A lifetime member, I am so glad that the SFPA exists to support this work and grateful for the many volunteers who sustain and support this creative community. Thank you, dear poet mages, sages, magicians and technicians.”
Mary Soon Lee
Mary Soon Lee is a gifted fantasy and science fiction author of both stories and poetry. She has won the Elgin, Rhysling and Dwarf Star Awards as well as twice winning the AnLab Readers’ Award. Her has appeared in many speculative publications including Analog, Asimov’s, Daily Science Fiction, F&SF, Fireside, New Myths Penumbric, Rune, Star*Line, and Strange Horizons, Uncanny, as well as Science, among others. Her writing continues to raise the bar for poetry.
Winner of the 2021 Elgin Award, her stunning collection, The Sign of the Dragon is an epic fantasy told in poetry. She says “Of all the things I’ve written, it’s the one that matters most to me. It began with a single poem about a boy chosen by a dragon to be king. I meant the poem to be a standalone piece, but the boy stayed with me, and I returned and wrote more, and more, and more poems about him. Over three hundred poems in the end.” About her deft and lovely, Elemental Haiku “Lee has a magisterial ability to impart facts clearly, concisely and engagingly. In these short poems she succeeds in conveying the distinctive characteristics of each element, their inter-relationships, their applications and their role in history, be it on a human, planetary or cosmic scale.”
Her work has earned numerous awards throughout her career, such as her 2022 short Rhysling win for “Confessions of a Spaceport AI. Her work is always engaging and evocative. She has a dry wit about the messiness of transcendence, evolution, one more day. Her approach is always skillfully certain, but kindly even gentle, as you are plunged into the essence of being and not being, strife and peace. She is a prolific, talented, and insightful poet.
From Grand Master Mary Soon Lee: “I’m at a loss for words, which is awkward for a writer! I’m very grateful to everyone who voted and to everyone who has encouraged me as a poet, and I am very very honored by this award — all the more so as I am receiving it in the company of Akua Lezli Hope, whom I greatly admire.
“I would like to say something profound about what poetry, especially speculative poetry, means to me. I would like to do so, but I was diagnosed with cancer in August and, while the prognosis is hopeful, I am several months into chemotherapy and not yet past the hump of surgery and radiation.
“So I will simply say, with feeling, *thank* you.”
[Based on a press release.]