Poems about Aliens
PostedJuly 02, 2007
UFO Day is celebrated worldwide in recognition of the alleged incident in Roswell, New Mexico, on July 2, 1947. And many serious poets have written poems on the topic of life beyond our world. The best of these poems work to complicate the expectations of the reader. In Stanley Kunitz's poem "The Abduction," the poet subverts the popular notion of an alien abduction by describing the event surreally and without the typical cast of characters. The common humanoid figures, thin and pale, are replaced by a pack of grey hounds, while the spacecraft itself is replaced by a royal stag who lifts the woman "stretched on his rack of budding horn." The tone of the poem is no less otherworldly, however, and in the end the maiden still finds herself in a trampled clearing and finding her way out of the woods.
Other poems take on the topic as a means for offering a fresh point of view of human life. In Robert Hayden's "[American Journal]," the speaker is himself an extraterrestrial, describing Americans from the imagined point of view of someone from another world: "like us they have created a veritable populace / of machines that serve and soothe and pamper..."
Similarly, in "The White Fires of Venus" by Denis Johnson, the speaker explains how Venutians watch us and describes with startling humor what it is they see and hear:
The Andromedans hear your voice like distant amusement park music
converged on by ambulance sirens
and they understand everything.
They're on your side. They forgive you.
The poet Jack Spicer did more than simply write poems about aliens. He famously explained that his work was written by them. Much like Fredrico García Lorca's notion of Duende—the dark force poets struggle with which "must come to life in the nethermost recesses of the blood"—Spicer reported that his relationship to his poems was similar to that of a radio to incoming broadcasts and that it was Martians who sent his poems to him through space.
Whether searching in earnest for answers or simply gazing up at the stars, poets continue to engage what lies just outside of their humanity. As Greg Delanty writes in his poem "The Alien":
Our alien who art in the heavens,
our Martian, our little green man, we're anxious
to make contact, to ask divers questions
about the heavendom you hail from, to discuss
the whole shebang of the beginning&end,
the pre–big bang untime before you forget the why
and lie of thy first place.