A book of poems is not ROOM’s usual fare, but this one straddles the supposed gulf between the arts and the sciences with the thoughts of authors from Shakespeare to Simic (a poet whose work was included on NASA’s Lucy mission to the asteroids); its subjects range from “The Light of Stars” to “Dr Rendezvous Takes Communion on the Moon”.
The book’s editor - herself a poet - states in her introduction: “While poetry and astronomy may seem unrelated, in some respects they are just different ways of responding to the same questions – where did we come from, why are we here, where are we going?”. No doubt artists and scientists will have different answers to these questions.
The book is organised chronologically by poet’s birthdate “in the hope of showing how the poems change…and evolve”; arguably, it would have been more instructive to order the poems by creation date.
While most of the poems were written well before the Space Age, and thus relate to classical astronomy themes, a number of more modern ones reference space exploration. “Dr Rendezvous…”, for example, refers to Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, renowned for his technical work on spacecraft rendezvous techniques. It starts with his alcoholism, depression and “a left hook, to lay flat out a moon hoax conspiracy theorist who called him a liar”; and ends with a conflation of “faith and reason…to devise the rendezvous required”. Let’s say, it’s not exactly a celebration of the scientific method!
As ever, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I have to admit that my eye for poetry is clouded by the cataracts of technophilia.