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Stars in our eyes


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?

Published inInspirationPoemsWriting

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  1. How amazing! Well, I always find stars difficult to write about but it makes me want to shout aloud when I go out to find the stars on a January night. But I can never remember their names except for the obvious ones and every January I am resolved to learn a new one every night…but they move off and i forget them! .

    • Ha! Yes I know what you mean, being in a dark place and seeing how the sky just comes alive with stars is wonderful. The only one I’m 100% sure of is Orion. I too would love to know more of the names and be able to recognise them. I suppose it takes dedication (and a telescope!) Thanks Rebecca 🙂

  2. […] few interesting things on the go at the moment. ‘Heavenly Bodies’ which I wrote about last week is gathering momentum, and there’s talk on Facebook of having a launch in Preston, or […]

  3. Elly Nobbs Elly Nobbs

    Hey Becky & Robin –

    Yes, Orion is a lovely constellation but make sure you have the fun of always knowing how to find the North Star (and of course it is a survival skill too). It’s explained here. The Big Dipper is VERY easy to find (no binoculars needed) and you use it to find the North Star. I think in the UK the Big Dipper is called the Plough (?) . Great idea for an anthology – there’s so much myth, astrology, history, science & wonder connected with the constellations.

    • Ooh, that’s fab, Elly, thanks for the link and the motivation… yes, I rather like ‘The Big Dipper’ as a name – sounds like it could be poem title. My constellation is a small, obscure one called Pictor (all the big ones had been taken, but that’s OK, I like an underdog!) I was feeling quote good about my poem until I realised that 87 other poets would also be searching for alternative words to ‘star’, ‘bright’, ‘shine’ etc – and then got a bit nervous!

      • Elly Nobbs Elly Nobbs

        Oh! Pictor – I had to check out Wikipedia – so it’s a Southern Constellation one (reminds me that I have never been Down Under and seen those skies )- oh and it’s the Painter’s easel!! That’s cool 🙂

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Robin Houghton 2021
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