E. G. Valens, Cybernaut: A Space Poem (Viking, 1968)
[originally posted 11Jun2001]
What truly amazes me is that Viking published this, and with a blurb from Louis Untermeyer on the back. Good lord. No wonder the major presses shy away from poetry these days.
Valens’ goal was to take the space program and make something out of it that the average human mind could identify with; to encapsulate the vast distances and utter loneliness of outer space in a book-length poem. In one aspect, he succeeds; his space traveller (an Earthling sent into deep space, to report on what’s there when he comes back) slides into insanity as the poem goes on, and when he encounters other humans again, that is quite capably presented. But there’s nothing here to distinguish the language, and it ends up reading like a cut up short story:
Can man endure immersed in nothingness?
Man’s logic tells man
He will impact himself
With those essential things which
Are feed for man’s essential parts…
It was a try, and not especially a good one. *