100 Odes to Infinity
In “Outer Space: 100 Poems,” a new volume curated and edited by Midge Goldberg, the power of poetry is used to scan the heavenly firmament and finds that it reflects those same intricate beauties back to the careful observer
Poetry is well known as a literary key to the intricacies of the human heart and the beauty of the natural world. In “Outer Space: 100 Poems,” a new volume curated and edited by Midge Goldberg, the power of poetry is used to scan the heavenly firmament and finds that it reflects those same intricate beauties back to the careful observer.
Goldberg, who has been writing and publishing poetry since the turn of the century, has published three poetry collections including “Snowman’s Code,” featuring a Maxfield Parrish painting from the Currier Museum as its cover art, that won the Richard Wilbur Poetry Award in 2015. Along the way, one of her poems was published in the “100 Poems” series of the Cambridge University Press. This connection eventually led her to suggest they broaden the focus on illuminating specific poets, or eras of poetry, and tackle something as big as a view of the star-filled cosmos on a clear night.
“People will often say my poetry is accessible,” says Goldberg, “which is either very good or very bad.” She says it was that poetic instinct that led her to propose such a commonly shared fascination as outer space for a theme for 100 poems by 100 poets. “I like poetry and all the metaphor it contains, but like it to start somewhere real,” she says. With the 50th anniversary of the moon launch in 2019, plus the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope and all the private space efforts under way, she says, “There are a lot more people paying attention to space.”
And for those who have been paying attention to space for a long time, the book provides some gratifying recognition of the pleasures of star-gazing. When Goldberg discovered a poem on the first woman in space, written by Dr. Alice Gorman — an internationally recognized leader in the field of space archeology — she knew she had to use it. “When I contacted her to have her poem appear in the book, she said it was the most exciting thing that had happened to her. I said, ‘Alice — you have an asteroid named after you.’”
Along with Goldberg, herself a Granite State resident with an MFA from the University of New Hampshire, there are numerous local connections contained in “Outer Space,” including a poem by Robert Frost (“The Star-Splitter”) and one by Goldberg’s poet husband, Robert W. Crawford (“Olber’s Paradox). Crawford also happens to be director of Frost Farm Poetry. The book’s finale is a short poem written for NASA by Charles Simic, former U.S. Poet Laureate and a winner of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry who lived in Dover, N.H., until his death on January 10, this year.
With poems dating back to the Psalms and the Iliad, all chronologically presented, most of the poets who appear in the pages of “Outer Space” have returned to the stardust from whence we all came. With permission, we include Simic’s poem (above) as a tribute and as a bridge to that infinite anthology of our hopes, dreams and aspirations that can only be written in the heavens.