« Sunday Night Journal, September 23, 2018 | Main | Sunday Night Journal, September 30, 2018 »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Thanks for sharing this. MacLeish is the first living poet that I recall encountering (not in person but in a TV interview). I went into the den and my father was watching Educational TV (I think this was before it became PBS). There were two men sitting in folding chairs in conversation. My dad told me, "That's Archibald MacLeish." There was something about the way my dad enunciated his name that let me know that this was someone to listen to. I was only 10 or 12 years old at the time, but much later, remembering his name, I found a book of his poetry in the library. Then as an adult, I went to see a local production of his play, JB (a modern re-telling of the story of Job).

Glad you like it. I read JB a long time ago and was not real impressed with it. I don't know what I'd think now. There are a couple of other short poems that I know and love, though: "You, Andrew Marvell" and "Ars Poetica."

Oh yeah, "ETV"--I remember it well.

"It is very cold,
there are strange stars near Arcturus,"

Do you pronounce the first "c" in Arcturus.

I wouldn't have really thought of the sci-fi aspect, but I see it.

I like the feel of the poem.

I saw a production of JB once and it was really awful. It may be because it was a high school production--I went because the wife was the daughter of a friend. It seems like a really bad choice for a high school play.


I pronounce the "c" but I don't know if that's correct or not.

The sci-fi aspect seems to be that the earth has been knocked out of its orbit somehow and set adrift. At least that's what I always thought it meant. But all that about drifting "north by the Great Bear" and passing the flares of Orion is pretty much nonsense, like the attack ships on fire in the Blade Runner speech. To start with, all life on earth would be wiped out pretty soon, certainly before the planet got as far as Jupiter on its way out of the solar system. And of course "Orion" is something that exists only from our perspective--the stars that make it up are actually vast distances from each other.

Sometimes I hate my "that couldn't actually happen" voice of reason.

I thought, I still think that it has to do with the constellations that are in the sky during winter.

The "c" question was in reference to Craig's blog post. :-)


But "None know if this wandering earth will be found". It's really not clear.

I see. Yes.

It's odd, really. It's not like he was writing before we knew about interstellar distances and such. Oh well, he made a good poem out of the idea, which my skepticism would not have allowed me to do, even if I'd had the ability.

A footnote to the previous discussion: the sci-fi novel in question was written by Frederic Brown. It was published in 1952 , when I was 15. I think it was the first time I really understood that book-titles can be searchlights in the dark. I was entranced when I realized that this line from Archibald Macleish’s poem “Epistle to be left in the earth” meant that another sentient creature had been moved enough by the string of seven monosyllables to savor ir, save it, and send it out into his own dark expanse of space. I guess MacLeish wasn’t a great poet, but he was a good enough one to recognize that those words vibrate like a bell and were worth putting down. We all go into the dark . . .

Thank you. It seems the book still has enough of a following to have a Goodreads entry:


"It is the future; the year is 1997. Humanity reached Mars in 1964, five years ahead of its schedule for the first lunar landing, but space exploration came to a halt after reaching Venus...."

Those were the days.

The sentence ("The lights...") is really a remarkable demonstration of the way poetry works. It's absolutely simple in every way, yet it's true poetry.

I just put it on hold. It's coming from one of our partner libraries which means it could take a long time to get it.


I'm slightly surprised that you want to read it. Doesn't seem like your cup of tea especially, and a fair proportion of the Goodreads reviews are pretty dismissive.



Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)