Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to write a poem in honor of the King of the Dwarf Planets—Pluto—as part of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences weekly Science Café talks. NASA Ambassador Shawn Bayle provided background about Pluto and the New Horizons mission that has been transmitting stunning images of the ninth rock from the Sun.
This event was the third time the museum had invited Living Poetry members to craft poems inspired by a science talk:
- In April 2014, LP members Bartholomew Barker and Angie Kirby joined me to write poems based on Karl Wegmann’s talk on the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
- This past April, Bart, Angie and I were joined by Anna Weaver on the last day of Poetry Month to write poems in honor of the Hubble Space Telescope’s 25th Anniversary after a talk given by NC State’s Hubble Fellow, Evan O’Connor.
- For Enigmatic Pluto, Angie and I were joined by Alice Osborn, who read her whale poem at the first Poetry Scope reading, and Science Café newcomer (and my poetry-date buddy), Kelly Lenox.
I don’t think it was accidental that old King Pluto had four ladies scribing in his honor. He’s got that effect on women—ask Proserpina (aka Greek’s Persephone) and his largest moon, Charon, which is gravitationally locked in sync with Pluto’s orbit so that the two celestial bodies always face each other. Some other facts about Pluto and the New Horizons mission gathered from the talk and mentioned in the poems:
- discovered by mistake by American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 in search for Planet X presumed to exist beyond Neptune
- first object identified in the Kuiper Belt
- New Horizons took 9 years to get to Pluto; the gravitational boost from Jupiter reduced the time to get to Pluto by 5 years.
- scientists discovered two of Pluto’s moons—Styx & Kerberos—after the New Horizons spacecraft launched in 2006
I enjoy writing planetary poems already but especially at these events because I can hear similar threads in each poem while noting each poet’s unique voice. I’ll share an expert from my poem here, “New Horizons Meets Planet X,” but be sure to watch the entire talk on YouTube (poets start about an hour into the video).
Feed me your data in bits
and bytes as we shimmy
in front of Neptune to soak
up the sun. I don’t see any rings
around you, so maybe we can
make a new moon or two.