Astronomy / Poetry

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michael feist
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Astronomy / Poetry

Post by michael feist »

Some astronomers & skywatchers write poetry, as once did I, although in my case sequentially rather that at the same time. I started to think able this again after Bob mentioned it recently. and during a 'deep' tidying of my stuff, again read the unpublished, roughly hand-bound, book of poetry that I put together, after leaving the family home and after more or less giving up skywatching, in the years 1963-1967. These do touch on the sky, sunsets, and fates of mankind, freedom, escape, loneliness, love, and generally trying to make sense of reality and the craziness of it all. There are 293 of them.
The first, written in August 1963, a first attempt, was called
-----------
TWILIGHT
The Sun descends,
The day is through,
The evening with its pastel shades
Stir me to my very soul,
But Man will go and pass to dust,
But still the Sun will go to rest,
Spreading sadness and serenity
Where Man once walked towards eternity.
------------
and the last, written in in June 1967, was called
-----------
GREY EVENING
nine oclock on a summers evening and greyly overcast.
the breeze blows through my open window
people pass;
a sleek bronzed car glides effortlessly
an old woman hurries awkwardly
I sit in the fading room
my thought-threads building.
-------------
Between Opus #1 & Opus #293, it is essentially a poetical Diary of the Years 1963-1967.
I hope this is of some interest to at least one or two readers here. Just reading them again, brings tears to my old eyes.
Regards from mike feist.
brian livesey
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Re: Astronomy / Poetry

Post by brian livesey »

A good thread to start Mike. The sky with its endless moods has always been an inspiration for many a poet, lyrical and tragic.
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Re: Astronomy / Poetry

Post by brian livesey »

I like you first poem most Mike. I like this one too:


Stars


Alone in the dark
On a high hill,
With pines around me,
Spicy and still,

And a heaven full of stars,
Over my head,
White and topaz
And misty red;

Myriads with beating
Hearts of fire
That aeons
Cannot vex or tire;

Up the dome of heaven
Like a great hill,
I watch them marching
Stately and still,

And I know that I am honoured to be
Witness
Of so much majesty.

Sarah Teasdale
brian
jeff.stevens
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Re: Astronomy / Poetry

Post by jeff.stevens »

Beautiful poetry, Mike. Your words resonate with me, and my thoughts on many of my observing sessions throughout the years.

Best wishes, Jeff.
RMSteele
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Re: Astronomy / Poetry

Post by RMSteele »

It became a bit of a fashion to adorn sections of astronomical works with quotations from poetry and "literature". I find it a bit bizarre where it's overdone, as in the otherwise excellent Burnham's Celestial Handbook, which stands as an epic of Homeric stature on its astronomical content alone. I have a soft spot for Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin though who also used that template for her popular and educative writings on astronomy. In her classic, "Introduction to Astronomy", she gently pokes fun at her perplexed astronomy students by prefacing Appendix III ("Problems") with a quote from the eponymous Hamlet: "O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers."; "these numbers" of course was a synonym for classic poetry composition, the lines of which had to have a strict numerical count of syllables. The word "number" in the artistic sense survives today when musicians and singers cue their "next little number". I thoroughly recommend "Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin", the autobiography edited by Katherine Haramundanis, by the way.
Bob
Last edited by RMSteele on Sun May 09, 2021 8:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
RMSteele
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Re: Astronomy / Poetry

Post by RMSteele »

I should add in connection with the line from "Hamlet" above, that great astronomer as she undoubtedly was, Payne-Gaposchkin could also have excelled as a professor of literature. The double irony of the quote, of which she would have been perfectly aware, is that the words Ophelia and Cecilia form an example of a perfect rhyme and, what is more, "Cecilia" could replace "Ophelia" in the quotation without violating the poetic number rule! It must have amused her to think of her students pondering the problems she set and wanting to say to her "O dear Cecilia, I am ill at these numbers.".
Bob
michael feist
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Re: Astronomy / Poetry

Post by michael feist »

Although the first and last examples of my 1963-1967 poems are quite astronomical, I must admit that during middle period they became very experimental, I guess you might say. Including pages of streams of consciousness stuff, using the words to actually draw shapes and patterns, and so on. And some relating more to the 'the time' of Dylan etc. Still by some miracle, I did keep all of them as I has typed them out at the time, numbered them, and roughly bound them. The cover, nicely bound using an small offcut of blue material, left over from some repair job on a motor-car, and given to me when I worked as a garage parts-storeman, I also included a couple of photographs taken by a friend of the 'author' in the flat in Regency Square and a somewhat later one of 'me and my dog' on Brighton Beach. A 'Lost World' - long-gone- 50+ years since. 'Cecilia' reminds me more of that song by Simon & Garfunkel! regards mike feist.
Last edited by michael feist on Mon May 10, 2021 11:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
RMSteele
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Re: Astronomy / Poetry

Post by RMSteele »

That’s a very good observation Mike, St Cecilia is the patron St of music and the song Cecilia might reference Simon’s frustration with a lack of inspiration at the time; it might also be about his dog which I believe was called Cecilia. Bob
RMSteele
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Re: Astronomy / Poetry

Post by RMSteele »

A further little point that occurs to me in connection with the Cecilia Payne quote is that the course she delivered that was embodied in "Introduction To Astronomy" was aimed at engaging arts students who I suppose were taking a science as a "minor" in the US college system. Bob
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