Back in my good old tumblr days (aka high school), I came across a poet named Elisabeth Hewer who I became obsessed with. Something about her words really struck me. Who knows how this happened in the muck that was based entirely on fandom, but I came across the words none the less. (On an entirely different tangent, there were many gems to be found in that mess of that social platform, but that’s a topic for another day.)
After many years I recently rediscovered Hewer’s work, having found her poetry collection “Wishing for Birds” on amazon. In my re-reading of her work, many things still strike me the same way – and one in particular titled “Space Race”. I don’t remember this piece specifically from when I first read her work in high school, but it speaks to something in my bones on another level.
I wouldn’t call it her best work in the collection, but it stands out for an entirely different reason. I’d like to think it calls to something our younger generation feels intimately – though that may just be me. I’ll include the most poignant excerpt below:
But here we are, too late to explore the Earth
and too soon to venture into space.
I want to sleep until the universe is open.
I want to sleep until I can pour myself into it
and never look back; chase galaxies
like sailors once chased ports.
“Okay Kat,” you say, “We’re totally building and working on getting into space – look at Elon Musk!” and to that I say – not really. Could I, a mere girl of 24(5) with literal no desire to get in shape enough to become an astronaut through NASA or earn Tesla level money to build my own space ship, go to space? No, the answer is no. And yes, I am romanticizing the age of exploration and probably glossing over the fact that as a woman I wouldn’t be allowed to do anything. But do I care? No.
I think the point is not the hope of something out there in general – or a scientific understanding of the possibility that yes – physically I could get there. But that something new is on the tip of your finger, just beyond the boundary of your city. That you could find exploration by walking with enough gumption.
The poem speaks to every adventure novel I have ever read, where the hero can go off and start entirely anew, learn and grow, find the wild places. Anyone who has seen a Ghibli movie knows what I mean (and any Disney movie for that matter).
If I could fall asleep and wake to find that space travel was as normalized as hopping on a plane, I would be tempted to take the opportunity. Maybe this is why I am so apt to let my phone die, I want a taste of disconnection – of being alone in an unknown place.
But to sum it up, I find this poem to be very compelling – it speaks to why we read, why we travel, why people even bother to build space ships. And maybe that wasn’t Hewer’s intention, but it speaks to me – and that’s the whole point of poetry.
I would heartily recommend Hewer’s book, which you can’t find in the Seattle Library – but a quick google search will help you find it. (Honestly just buy it so you can read my other favorite piece of hers, “The Great Space”.)
The Kat Wynns
P.S. I really need to figure out when the period should go inside or outside the bracket. But that’s a google for another day.