Check Out Raph Koster’s New Book: Sunday Poems


Raph Koster — Designer Dragon, and one of the key architects of Ultima Online — started publishing poems on his personal website, every Sunday, back in 2005. (It may surprise you to learn that, in addition to his considerable talent for designing game systems, Koster has a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry.) He recently collected eighty of his poems into a book…appropriately entitled Sunday Poems:
The Sunday Poems cover art.

The Sunday Poems cover art.

After years of threats, I finally made it happen. Sunday Poems is my new book, collecting many of the poems published here on the blog in the Sunday Poem tag, as well as a smattering of others. Sunday Poems is available right now in paperback, and is available for pre-order on Kindle (and those are both Amazon affiliate links). I will be working on getting the book to more digital services in the coming days.

There are likely many out there who see this as an indulgence, and certainly in some senses it is. I have an MFA in writing poetry, but it’s not a career, nor even really an avocation. It is a hobby, something I do for enjoyment, when the muse strikes.

The poems I posted here were often read far less than the blog posts about games, of course. Poetry readership is quite anemic these days, and the fact that some of the poems on here were read by thousands actually puts them in fairly rarefied company, I suspect.

As I wrote, I found myself bending the writing to suit the audience: rather than confessional or deeply personal work, I tended towards light verse, towards musings on history or science, or even on programming and video games. And of course, the sort of subject matter that still carries echoes of the world of geeks: ghost stories, real world mysteries, mythology and magic.

For example, his poem about BASIC is included in the book:

10 Dimension all your variables, figure out their sides.
20 Remark, perhaps, on how data twirls across divides.
30 Print a hello world, as if the world could not read cursive;
40 Go to thirty, looped but still printed, not recursive.
50 For once you have some code that doesn’t do much else,
60 Next you’ll want to make it special, of yourself.
70 Data will be read, perhaps, or Fibonacci spun,
80 While you tally figures until the job is done.
90 Poke a byte, peek a bit, nybble ‘til you’re through,
100 End with too few memories, dimensions still unused.

And here’s one (or, well, the first few stanzas of one) that — though Koster doesn’t specifically say it is about the Ultima Dragons — should resonate with anyone who has ever been an active member of the UDIC:

The dragons and me, well, we used to argue.
We had these fantastically frightening rows.
I tell you this to explain, not alarm you.

They wore fedoras and chomped old cigars,
And liked wearing ponchos on great horny toes.
But really, they loved most going too far.

As noted above, Sunday Poems can be purchased in paperback form right now; a Kindle version isn’t yet available, but can be pre-ordered.

Linguistic Dragon has been ripping through the book recently, and is evidently quite delighted with it. I’m thinking we’ll have to do a spot about it on a future Spam Spam Spam Humbug episode.