Moon Shot Sonnet

August 25, 2012 § 3 Comments

– Mary Ellen Solt

Solt explains:

It has not been possible since the Renaissance to write a convincing sonnet on the moon. Looking at the moon photographs in The New York Times, it occurred to me that since the scientist’s symbols for marking off areas on the moon’s surface were presented five to a line and the lines could be added up to fourteen, a visual sonnet could be made of them. The poem is intended as a spoof of an outmoded form of poetry and as a statement of the problem of the concrete poet’s search of valid new forms.

I disagree that the sonnet is an “outmoded form of poetry” or that there is a subject on which a modern poet cannot write convincingly, but I admire Solt’s inspiration. The soundless lunar landscape becomes the poet’s blank page. In the absence of words, we get an outline of what could be, an optimism that spreads from the purity of white space. Similarly, the moon in the 1960s represented boundless possibility — galactic travel, space colonies, postcards from the Sea of Tranquility. From a clean white surface the perfect sonnet and the perfect society could emerge.

Compare to Christian Morgenstern’s fish poem. Both are silent, wordless creations that contain beauty in their simplicity. Also note how Solt’s lunar markings look like alien orthography.

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