Tuesday, March 12, 2013

NASA Month: Poetry in Space

All this month, I'm NASA! This means every weekday in March will feature a new post about NASA, and I'm hosting a giant giveaway in order to encourage people to spread the NASA love. For more information on the giveaway, check out this post.

Today we have a special guest post by author Alma Alexander! A veteran science fiction writer, Alma's poetry was selected as part of a special NASA promotion. She's here to tell us all about it.


Poetry in Space
by Alma Alexander

Back in 2002 I was an active and intensive part of a webzine that went by the name of Swans – its primary focus was mostly commentary of a political nature, but my own contributions ranged well beyond that, to thoughtful essays, once even a short story, and once, in a series of posts, a linked sequence of poems that went under the umbrella name of “Going Home”.  These were published individually, a poem at a time, by the site back in 2002 – and #4 in the cycle was entitled “Memory of Dream”. The full poem is still up on the Swans archives – you can read it here.

The poems were published, and I moved on to other things.

Then, four years later, an email was forwarded to me by the guy who runs the Swans site, an email that he had just received from someone at NASA. The email read, in full, with names redacted to protect identities:

On 30 Jan 2006 at 16:09, REDACTED@nasa.gov wrote:

> We are creating a poster honoring 13 women who wanted to become the
> first US female astronauts and would like to have part of Alma A. Hromic's "Going Home
> iv - Memories of Dreams" poem in it.   The poster is about how 13  women
> dreamed of becoming astronauts.  It includes the first graduating class
> of astronauts, as well as the first female pilot and commander of a  shuttle.
> The part we want to use is:
> There are times that my memories are vast,
> my knowledge greater by far
> than what could be confined
> in a single mind.
> I dream the dreams and the memories of my race -
> and I dip my grail into the waters of that old river
> and raise it brimming with wine -
> in homage,
> in love,
> in a dream that is memory,
> in memory of dream.
> Please let me know as soon as possible if we can use the poem.
> Thanks.

When I received this, for the first incandescent moments all I could do was sit and stare. And then I screamed. And then I cried. And then, after I tapped out a permission slip and sent that back, it began to sink in for real.



I was, at least vicariously, finally going into space.

When I gathered enough composure to form complete sentences, I wrote about this in my blog:
I could weep, from joy and from pride. 
NASA is preparing a poster commemorating the first 13 women astronauts who graduated from its program, including the first woman who was a shuttle pilot - women who looked up at the sky, and saw stars, and desired them - saw them, perhaps, with the same dreaming eyes that I have always lifted up to them. 
I just got an email requesting permission to use a fragment of one of my poems on that poster. 
I'm not sure to what purpose the poster will be put, but I feel certain that at least part of it is educational - and the thought that some girl-child's eyes will be filled with the same stars that have always stirred my own spirit, and that my words might have helped to put them there, makes me feel... oh, I don't even know how it makes me feel. It's indescribable. For a writer, I'm awfully incoherent right now. I just feel like someone has poured all those stars into my cupped hands, and let me hold them all, just for a moment - and then gave me leave to pour them all into the expectantly cupped palms of the child at my feet, the generation to come. 
I feel... grateful.
NASA commemorative poster for the Mercury 13

They sent me a copy of the poster, when it was made – and I have framed it, and it hangs in pride of place. This is one of shining moments of my life, a pinnacle, and a joy that is a new and star-bright thing every time my glance falls on that poster – the poster that commemorates the yearning of other women to go into space and to touch those stars that I myself so love, the poster that NASA made, the poster that bears words that I have written. To this day I remain barely able to believe it, I don’t know what providence guided them to Swans where they would trip over the poem they thought was perfect to encapsulate their message – but if there is a higher power out there then for sure it was working for me on the day that whoever it was that was responsible for this poster found “Going Home” and discovered something in it that resonated.

I treasure this. Of all the things I had published, it gained me, quite possibly, the least in terms of either exposure or lucre – but what it gave me in terms of pure intoxicating joy is beyond price. It is, in those terms, perhaps the most valuable thing I have ever penned.


Alma Alexander's life so far has prepared her very well for her
chosen career. She was born in a country which no longer exists on the
maps, has lived and worked in seven countries on four continents (and
in cyberspace!), has climbed mountains, dived in coral reefs, flown
small planes, swum with dolphins, touched two-thousand-year-old tiles
in a gate out of Babylon. She is a novelist, anthologist and short
story writer who currently shares her life between the Pacific
Northwest of the USA (where she lives with her husband and two cats)
and the wonderful fantasy worlds of her own imagination. You can find
out more about Alma on her websites (www.AlmaAlexander.org or
www.AlmaAlexander.com), her Facebook page or her blog.______________________________________

This post is a part of the month-long celebration of NASA I'm hosting on my blog. In order to encourage people to celebrate NASA, I'm also hosting a giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive all the books in the recent Breathless Reads tour, as well as ARCs of two anthologies and a signed Breathless Reads poster:

As well as swag from NASA, courtesy of Kate @ Ex Libris:

To celebrate NASA creatively: you could blog about why you like NASA, you could reach out to an astronaut for an interview, you could make space fan art, you could sing a song about NASA, you do a vlog, you make a list of all the ways NASA rocks...any of this counts! Just celebrate NASA in some awesome way, post it online, and include the link in the Rafflecopter. I even set that part of the entry open for multiple entries, so you could blog and vlog and Facebook and tumblr and Pinterest about NASA and they all count. The only requirements: post a link back to this contest, and put the full URL of the site in the Rafflecopter. Full details here.

To enter: be sure to read the full rules and terms of the contest here. Then fill out the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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