Poetry and Philosophy Recommendations
March 17, 2016 11:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for collection of poems, or non-fiction, or philosophy books about stars, universe, astronomy. The more literary, the better, but not fiction.

Bill Bryson is fine, but I'm looking for less-known writers. I'm not looking for fiction at the moment.

I read this interview and have bought the corresponding book. I thought it was very beautiful and looking for more mind-expanding beautiful pieces like this, whether it is in poetry or non-fiction.
posted by moiraine to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A quote that Victor Hugo claimed Galileo spoke to him in a séance:

"You know what I would do if I were in your place? I'd drink from the milk basin of the Milky Way; I'd swallow comets; I'd lunch on dawn; I'd dine on day and I'd sup on night; I'd invite myself, splendid table-companion that I am, to the banquet of all the glories, and I'd salute God as my host! I'd work up a magnificent hunger, an enormous thirst, and I'd race through the drunken spaces between the spheres singing the fearsome drinking song of eternity."
posted by effluvia at 11:45 AM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Albert Goldbarth, poet and essayist. This bio link covers his works. I suggest his poetry books Original Light and Heaven & Earth, as well as his essays Great Topics of the World.
posted by barchan at 11:53 AM on March 17, 2016

stars at tallapoosa
by Wallace Stevens

The lines are straight and swift between the stars.
The night is not the cradle that they cry,
The criers, undulating the deep-oceaned phrase.
The lines are much too dark and much too sharp.

The mind herein attains simplicity,
There is no moon, no single, silvered leaf.
The body is no body to be seen
But is an eye that studies its black lid.

Let these be your delight, secretive hunter,
Wading the sea-lines, moist and ever-mingling,
Mounting the earth-lines, long and lax, lethargic.
These lines are swift and fall without diverging.

The melon-flower nor dew nor web of either
Is like to these. But in yourself is like:
A sheaf of brilliant arrows flying straight,
Flying and falling straightway for their pleasure,

Their pleasure that is all bright-edged and cold;
Or, if not arrows, then the nimblest motions,
Making recoveries of young nakedness
And the lost vehemence the midnights hold.
posted by flourpot at 12:00 PM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Please look up Charles Wright's poetry. The subject matter isn't always astronomical but there's a reason "sidereal" is a word more than one critic's used for his work.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:59 PM on March 17, 2016

Galileo's Daughter is a great biographical sketch of Galileo, with special emphasis on his relationship with his daughter. It is about his discoveries, as well as their lives together (and apart), and the whole historical/cultural context surrounding them.
posted by meese at 1:28 PM on March 17, 2016

a random walk in science has more than astronomy, but might be appropriate. it is fairly old / respectable, which implies "literary" in some sense.
posted by andrewcooke at 1:37 PM on March 17, 2016

Lucretius, De rerum natura has to be the classic text.
posted by dudleian at 1:51 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

On the poetry collection tip: check out Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith. There are a lot of space motifs, along with mortality, family, and David Bowie. Here's a poem from the book.
posted by torridly at 1:52 PM on March 17, 2016

So I guess you could argue that The Old Astronomer is about human nature or death but it's also about astronomy and a sort of spiritual connection to the night sky and there are two lines that I just find wonderful:
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.
They have also been beautifully set to music as a round.
posted by Wretch729 at 2:04 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Mary Barnard's Time and the White Tigress
posted by clew at 2:20 PM on March 17, 2016

Walt Whitman's When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer:

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Ooof. The extraordinary contrast between all those unscanned, prose-like lines and the perfect iambic pentameter of the last line never fails to make me catch my breath.
posted by jesourie at 4:46 PM on March 17, 2016


by Sara Teasdale

Alone in the night
On a dark hill
With pines around me
Spicy and still.

And a heaven full of stars
Over my head
White and topaz
And misty red.

Myriads with beating
Hearts of fire
That aeons cannot
Vex or tire

Up the dome of heaven
Like a great hill
I watch them marching
Stately and still.

And I know that I
Am honored to be
Of so much majesty.
posted by Oyéah at 9:25 PM on March 17, 2016

Alan Shapiro - Reel to Reel. Not all of the poems are about the cosmos, but my favorites are. Check out Gravity .
posted by diamondsky at 12:41 AM on March 18, 2016

Look at John Leslie's stuff--Universes, for one. (It's philosophy, which is my profession. He also has a good edited collection on why there is something rather than nothing.

Quentin Smith and William Craig have a book on Big Bang cosmology.

Neil Manson has a good Ed. book on the design argument. It has, iirc, stuff by Robin Collins, who works a lot on philosophical issues surrounding cosmological.

Feel free to memail me.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:09 AM on March 18, 2016

Falling Stars

Do you remember still the falling stars
that like swift horses through the heavens raced
and suddenly leaped across the hurdles
of our wishes — do you recall? And we
did make so many! For there were countless numbers
of stars: each time we looked above we were
astounded by the swiftness of their daring play,
while in our hearts we felt safe and secure
watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate,
knowing somehow we had survived their fall.

— Rainer Maria Rilke (Trans. Albert Ernest Flemming )
posted by Haruspex at 7:50 AM on March 18, 2016

Dance for Two by Alan Lightman. They're not poems but...you'll see.
posted by KwaiChangCaine at 8:08 PM on March 18, 2016

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