27 May 2008

Twittering Robot Lands on Mars

Here’s three poems about Mars from All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens to celebrate the arrival of NASA’s Mars Phoenix Lander spacecraft on Vastitas Borealis, where it’s now Twittering from the Martian surface. (Hmmm, robots blogging from Mars. Where’s Sarah Connor when you need her?).

These poems are from the “Red Stone” sequence: the first one, the last one, and the cynical one in the middle. “Stone” was first published in Astropoetica and “The First Artist on Mars” in Blackmail Press 15.

A Mars-related poetry event is coming up: the guest reader at the AGM of the New Zealand Poetry Society is Chris Orsman, whose third collection, The Lakes of Mars, has just been released.* Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to make this meeting, but I am looking forward to getting my hands on Chris’s book.

*I have a suspicion The Lakes of Mars may have more to do with Antarctica than Mars, but no matter - I like Antarctica too.


and all over iron

erosion shaped
of the warm wet days

sitting on this
arid plain
for the last
two billion years

standard Martian
red-brown drop
in a rust ocean.

The First Artist on Mars

Well, the first professional artist
There were scientists who, you know
but NASA sent us —
me and two photographers —
to build support for the program.

The best day?
That was in Marineris.
Those canyons are huge
each wall a planet
turned on its side.
I did a power of painting there.

You can see all my work
at the opening. Do come.
Hey, they wanted me to paint propaganda —
you know, 'our brave scientists at work' —
but I told them
you'll get nothing but the truth from me

I just paint what I see
and let others worry
what the public think.
Still, the agency can't be too displeased.
They're sponsoring my touring show.
That's coming up next spring.

Would I go back? Don't know.
It's a hell of a distance
and my muscles almost got flabby
in the low G. Took me ages
to recover — lots of gym and water time
when I should have been painting.

But Jupiter would be worth the trip!
Those are awesome landscapes
those moons, each one's so different.
Mars is OK — so old, so red,
so vertical. Quite a place
but limited, you know?

Red Canvas

Red to white-blue-green
a thousand years, a million
doesn't matter really

we will see it when it comes.
The God of War will grow
a coat of many colours

and life will paint another
tribute to the sun.

UPDATE: See this remarkable photo of the Phoenix Lander descending, taken by another robot, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Awe-inspiring! Skynet would be proud ...

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