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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology

Allen, Dick
[Editorial comment: the poet looks at space--inner and outer],   pp. [184]-193 PDF (10.1 MB)

Page 188

folk rock and psychedelic music writers.
Poets using allusions to space include
almost every major contemporary
figure. In his already famous
"Waking Early Sunday Morning"
Robert Lowell ends a despairing survey of
American life with the image of an
Everyman astronaut:
Pity the planet, all joy gone
from this sweet volcanic cone;
peace to our children when they fall
in small war on the heels of small
war - until the end of time
to police the earth, a ghost
orbiting forever lost
in our monotonous sublime.
Robert Bly's poems call forth deep
responses from the subjective surrealistic
life of us all. He writes in
"Those Eaten by America":
The wild houses go on
With long hair growing from between
their toes
The feet at night get up
And run down the long white
188              roads by themselves
The dams reverse themselves and want
to go stand alone in the desert
The world will soon break up into small
colonies of the saved
and in "Watching Television":
Sounds are heard too high for ears,
From the body cells there is an
answering bay;
Soon the inner streets fill with a
chorus of barks.
We see the landing craft coming in,
The black car sliding to a stop,
The Puritan killer loosening his guns.
The filaments of the soul slowly separate:
The spirit breaks, a puff of dust floats up,
Like a house in Nebraska that suddenly
In "Outward" another Pulitzer prize winning
poet, Louis Simpson, writes,
The astronaut is lifted
Away from the world, and drifts.
How easy it is to be there!
How easy to be anyone, anything
but oneself!
The metal of the plane is breathing;
Sinuously it swims through the stars.
He is the same poet who has written about
American poetry, "Whatever it is, it
must have/A stomach that can digest/
Rubber, coal, uranium, moons, poems."
One could go on endlessly, picking up
quotes here and there. Suffice it
to say that to poets not writing straight
s-f poetry, space and surrealistic fantasy
are good sources of symbols, of allusions to
fresh words and worlds. Their poetry
shows they have been touched by
the new space, but are not, of course,
exclusively involved with it.
The main trends in establishment poetry
are still toward the working out of the
small, individualized subjective experience,
related primarily to this time and
this place.
Poems by major poets which would
fit easily into any modern s-f anthology are
numerous. The names here encountered
include Richard Wilbur, W. H. Auden,
John Ciardi, Richard Eberhart,
Andre Vosnesensky, Edwin Muir,
Allen Ginsberg, and Edward Field.
Eberhart's reaction to the Space Age is
one fairly characteristic of his generation
of poets. In "On Shooting Particles
Beyond the World" he says,
On this day man's disgust is known
Incipient before but now full blown
With minor wars of major consequence,
Duly building empirical delusions.
In a fine, tightly-controlled but angry poem
he goes on to compare man to a
"little creature in a rage" throwing his
rockets like toys. He says man
ridiculously ignores the possibilities of his
own planet, has not searched deeply
enough. Now, man's "particles of intellect
will spit on the sun." Eberhart
concludes with,
Not God he'll catch, in the mystery of space,
He flaunts his own out-cast state
As he throws his imperfections outward bound
And his shout that gives a hissing sound.
Eberhart's poem is an extreme reaction,

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