Who doesn’t dig the moon? This issue of Conduit is all about that orb out there beyond our atmosphere spinning around our planet while our planet, in turn, spins about the sun. For any lunar fanatic, this issue is a must have item. While non-poetry readers may puzzle over some of the poems in here, everybody is going to be down for the Buzz Aldrin interview—yes, the very same one-time astronaut Buzz Aldrin who touched down on that astro-hunk of lunar wonder. His perspective is counterbalanced by an interview with scholar Evans Lansing Smith titled “The Myth in the Moon.” In addition, a plentiful supply of attractive artwork featuring the moon is scattered throughout these pages, ranging from Warhol’s Moonwalk (1987) (here reclaimed from being used as an infamous ad for MTV) to Caspar David Friedrich’s Two Men Contemplating the Moon (ca. 1830) along with plenty of other art in between, everything from photography to sculpture.
Among the poets included, there is a generous sampling of four poems by Bob Hicok, four poems from Noelle Kocot, three poems of Dorothea Lasky, three by John Beer, two by Matthew Rohrer, and a meaty two-pager by Alice Notley. Nearly all the writing in one way or another directly mentions the moon or lunar activity. Nate Pritts’s poem “Desolation Moonlight,” for example, focuses on that lonely, timeless feeling that comes, perhaps of a night stroll or gaze out an open window, when things feel a tad miserable and doubtful:
The whole night like a piece of shell
protecting the softest parts
of the sky. The radio can’t remember
how it wants me to feel.
Or for others, alternately, as in “Are You Crazy Brittle Glass?” by Dara Wier, the moon serves as direct allegoric and/or symbolic reference:
There isn’t air on the Moon.
There it is airless on the Moon’s surface.
The funniest thing that has ever been written:
If a circle is not round is it a circle?
If it doesn’t have the characteristics
By which it is known
It is not true to its kind.
If its circumference has gone missing.
Gazing at a picture of a mirror with your reflection
Either way, that old rock swinging around in orbit serves as Inspiration Point from which the writing leaps off.
It is the interviews, however, providing as they do alternate perspectives of our relationship to the orb and thereby the universe, that serve as dueling forces to cohesively bind the issue together as a whole. Aldrin is the hard, snub-nosed realist and Evans the Druidic, starry-eyed imaginative dreamer. The only thing that would be better than having each of them interviewed between the same set of covers in this issue is if cosmic forces (or just dumb editorial luck) had brought them into conversation face-to-face. The possibility of such a conversation is an utterly fascinating bit of whimsy.
Turns out that Aldrin’s mother’s maiden name is “Moon,” of all things! That alone would provide Evans plenty to spin off on as a skeptical Aldrin sits there resisting the chagrin tugging at his sleeve. For Aldrin, the spinning rock is mainly just that: spinning rock. So too, and somewhat disturbingly, is the rest of the universe. He has a tough luck scenario outlook on future space exploration, Mars in particular. Aldrin believes a permanent colony on Mars is the future: “I want people to realize that the first humans who set foot on Mars are not coming back. They’re going to settle there, they’re going to be colonists. And that’s the way it needs to be and that’s what I’m convinced it will be.” Aldrin sees this as do-or-die territory for the United States to act on before another country does. The Nationalism of an earlier generation shows when he’s asked why he thinks colonizing Mars is so vital:
We had a civil war that sorted out who we are and then we dealt with other nations in World War I and World War II and finally we were put in a position of confrontation in the Cold War where we learned that supremacy in science and technology is very important. . . . Certainly if we engage in the wrong kind of competition, like going back to the moon again only to be welcomed by the Chinese, that wouldn’t be a wise decision. Because while we’re spending money doing that, I’m convinced the Russians will be landing on Mars.
This is the sort of talk which too often encourages military action resulting in loss of human life. Yet, this kind of attitude does nonetheless often get things done. There is a place for it. That’s why the thought of Aldrin in discussion with Evans is so damn alluring. Meantime, even read as separate texts, each is mutually enriching.