Monday, September 21, 2009

Martians, H.G. Wells and Poetry

Google is celebrating the birthday of H.G. Wells with a special illustration, shown above (and below!), on its home page.

We will celebrate with Martian Poetry, an English poetry movement from the late 1970s and early 1980s. By looking at things with an "alien" eye, the poet can capture a particular perception of an item or idea, almost like describing something without using its name.

Here is one of the most well-known poems of the Martian Movement:

A Martian Sends a Postcard Home

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings

and some are treasured for their markings -

they cause the eyes to melt

or the body to shriek without pain.

I have never seen one fly, but

sometimes they perch on the hand.

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight

and rests its soft machine on ground:

then the world is dim and bookish

like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.

It has the property of making colours darker.

Model T is a room with the lock inside —

a key is turned to free the world

for movement, so quick there is a film

to watch for anything missed.

But time is tied to the wrist

or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,

that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it

to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet they wake it up

deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to suffer

openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.

They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt

and everyone's pain has a different smell.

At night when all the colours die,

they hide in pairs

and read about themselves —

in colour, with their eyelids shut.

by Craig Raine

published in the Christmas 1977 issue of New Statesman

(with thanks to Rice University's Computer Science Department)

And thanks to Google:

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