If there’s one thing (of many) that I really admired about the late Thomas Disch, it’s that he did what he wanted, went where he wanted to go, in terms of writing.  I could be mistaken, but observing from a distance, that’s the impression I got, at least.  Disch wrote genre fiction, and he also wrote poetry — but not the poetry of the prevailing standard.   Disch didn’t try to be an avant garde hipster; he was mostly a formal poet, not afraid of rhyming or using traditional forms to advance his ideas.  During his life, he never really broke out in the poetry world, becoming a “Big Name.”

He did, however, garner the attention of Dana Goia.  I wish I had time to read his memorial on Disch’s passing, but I really have to get away from this keyboard.  However, here is an exerpt from Goia’s Can Poetry Matter, as posted on Goia’s website:

The most unusual of the younger formal poets is probably Tom Disch, whose third and best collection, Burn This, has just appeared in London. Although Disch is well known in this country as a science-fiction writer, only one volume of his poetry has been published here (and that one by an Iowa fine press in a limited edition). Disch’s lack of acceptance in the poetry world is not altogether surprising, however. Genre writers with serious ambitions are viewed with extreme suspicion and condescension by the literary establishment.

As if his literary credentials weren’t dubious enough already, Disch’s poetry is as unusual as his background. One could virtually use Burn This to define the current mainstream of contemporary poetry dialectically through its opposites, so consistently antithetical is its approach from contemporary practice. Disch is concerned primarily with ideas not emotions (the free play of ideas, that is, not any particular ideology). His subjects are rarely personal, except insofar as Disch represents himself as what Auden once called the “average thinking man.” He therefore cultivates a general rather than a private voice. His tone is cosmopolitan and public rather than intimate and sincere. The structure of his poems more often depends on the logical progression of his ideas than on the associational links of his images. His natural manner is witty and discursive, not serious and lyrical. Most of his poems fall into traditional forms and genres, not the preferred nonce forms of contemporary poetics (when he does adopt the forms of contemporary poetry, it is almost always for parody). And, most amazingly, one gathers in reading him that Disch is more interested in writing verse than poetry (though there is certainly no surer way to good poetry than to begin by producing good verse). In short, Disch is every bit at one with his age as John Dryden would be in a surrealist café.