There was an episode of ‘Girls of the Playboy Mansion’ in which a new ingenue is welcomed into the Playboy ‘family’ with the gift of a star named after her. “Ooooh, you’re a STAR!” says Kendra to the upstart, somewhat mockingly. I watched the show for moments like that.
What is it about stars? Most of us don’t really know what they are (distant solar systems? Is our own a ‘star’ when seen from a star?) But the stars are all over poetry. The moon and the stars. Stardust, starlight. Those mythical creatures and characters parading across the night sky. We throw a few stars into a poem as if they were familiar old friends. I’m guilty of it – I have to stop myself on a regular basis from calling up Orion or the Pleiades AGAIN.
Then there are the metaphorical stars of course – film stars, poetry stars. We seem to have fewer stars in popular culture these days – a plethora of celebs, the odd national treasure, the rather doughy-sounding star bakers … it’s pleasing to feel that a genuine star is still something rather special.
So here’s my current challenge – to write a poem about (or inspired by) a named constellation. In my case, it’s ‘a small and faint constellation in the southern sky’ (Wikipedia) with an ‘extrasolar planet’ – which is apparently very interesting to astronomers.
It’s all part of a poetry project called Heavenly Bodies, involving (so far) 88 poets, each of us having chosen a specific constellation as our muse. It’s being coordinated by Rebecca Irvine on Facebook, the idea being to produce an anthology of star-spangled, star-studded, star-gazing poetry. I feel the challenge is on to get properly under the skin of those pesky ploughs, archers, myths and visions. Can’t wait to see where the work takes us – to infinity and beyond?