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Regular news and insight from our many poets, writers, educators and facilitators

18 September 2023

Posted by Tabby Hayward


This week, continuing with our SPACE theme, we were looking at poetry about the stars!

After introductions, and sharing star signs (and whether we knew what these meant/whether we felt they represent us or not) we looked at a glossary of words relating to astronomy and the stars, and the writers had to come up with their own definitions for these words - which could be funny or serious, in a faux-scientific form, poetic or plain ridiculous! Words included Quasar, Collimation, Earthshine, Celestial Coordinates and Planisphere. Writers shared their definitions (without the word they were defining) and others in the group had the challenge of guessing the origin word.

Next, we read three poems about stars - 'Stars' by Marjorie Pickthall, 'Callisto's Song', by Jo Shapcott, and 'Stars Over the Dordogne' by Sylvia Plath. We read them aloud and discussed them together, and inspired by these poems, and the different imagery, language and structure they used to explore stars, the writers created their own star-themed poems - with extra points for anyone who could incorporate a word or definition from the warm up game! Aurora rose to the challenge brilliantly, with this lyrical and moving poem, which also uses the word 'Collimation':

The Art of Collimation

Under a street-light lamp, the echo that died
three years and forty seven days ago stands.

There was an idea of a full moon, though it
often shattered under the tea-paper drizzle
of wet leaves, clinging to the still air.

Three years and forty six days ago, a new echo
took its place beneath the willow tree, and
died, a lonely star in the pinhole camera
that shutters all information down to a single,
excruciating point. The art of collimation is simple,
when it is to allow for self-reflection. And grief.

The street lamp was a halo. The bending branches
my stairs to heaven, and I walked those steps
five more times as one week dragged into the next.

I was waiting for you to come home, comet. Rogue
planet, I spy you through mirrors and high-street windows,
a reflection of someone I used to know. An echo
that died three years and forty eight days ago.

Your quasar left me trembling. My echo trembles still.

I’m still seeing images of you as you run
from me.

The art of collimation shines the spotlight both ways,
and my telescope turns inward, crushing me. The waning
moon strays, fades, and the dark disc is jury. I know,
I know. The diamond shackles chain me to
a reflection I see in the cold baths. To choke me.

I can see you. I can’t touch you.

Your breath is stardust.


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