Beyond Earth’s Edge

The Poetry of Spaceflight

Julie Swarstad Johnson (Editor), Christopher Cokinos (Editor), John M. Logsdon (Introduction)
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Beyond Earth’s Edge: The Poetry of Spaceflight is a trailblazing anthology of poetry that spans from the dawn of the space age to the imagined futures of the universe. The anthology offers a fascinating record of both national mindsets and private perspectives as poets grapple with the promise and peril of U.S. space exploration across decades and into the present. Tracing an arc of literary skepticism during the Apollo era and before to a more curious, and even hopeful, stance today, Beyond Earth’s Edge includes diverse perspectives from poets such as Robert Hayden, Rae Armantrout, N. Scott Momaday, Adrienne Rich, Tracy K. Smith, Ray Bradbury, May Swenson, Pablo Neruda, and many other engaging poetic voices.

Beyond Earth’s Edge vividly captures the violence of blastoff, the wonders seen by Hubble, and the trajectories of exploration to Mars and beyond through a wide array of lyric celebrations, somber meditations, accessible narratives, concrete poems, and new forms of science fiction. With the dawn of the New Space movement, continued interest in Mars, and renewed excitement about returning to the Moon, Beyond Earth’s Edge is a giant leap toward bridging poetry and science.


Listen to the Planetary Society’s weekly podcast Planetary Radio episode on Beyond Earth’s Edge, featuring Bill Nye, Sasha Sagan, astronauts Nicole Stott and Leland Melvin, and others, reading poems from the anthology:

“Editors Johnson and Cokinos have created a profoundly stirring evocation of the glory and tragedy of spaceflight that lets us better see not only worlds beyond but also ourselves.”—Lee Billings, Scientific American

“Only two of the contributors to this soaring, adroitly curated anthology actually traveled in space, but nothing stops the rest of them from vaulting skyward on a pillar of words, with a potent gravity-assist from their emotions.”—Dava Sobel, author of Galileo’s Daughter and The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars

"This anthology is expansive, profound, exhilarating, thought-provoking, entertaining, and informative. For someone like this reader — who would not pick up a book on the history of space flight unless it brimmed with pretty pictures—it’s the perfect route to reviewing space flight history and considering space possibilities. And bonus: it also contains pretty pictures."—Christine Wald-Hopkins, Arizona Daily Star

“When math and prose won’t move our leadership, we hope to nudge them with poetry and song. Delightful and inspiring, kudos to editors. Now I am recharged and ready to go back to my drawing board. No coffee needed. Time to shape and tame and ride those sturdy steel fire-breathing dragons to take us to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Oh, how I wish to touch and smell the pink snows on Titan. . . .”—Madhu Thangavelu, University of Southern California

Beyond Earth’s Edge is an expansive anthology that takes on the topics of space, spaceflight, outer space, otherworldliness, and what it means to be inhabitants of Planet Earth imagining a world beyond. With an incredible aesthetic range and consistent sense of wonder, this anthology rekindles the imaginative power of poetry that both helps us see beyond ourselves and helps us see ourselves more clearly.”—Matthew Shenoda, author of Somewhere Else

“Early commentators, schooled in the art of skepticism,
Complained that the individuals assigned to
Describe space to the rest of us
Failed to capture its majesty.
Ninety-one poems later
That is thankfully
No longer true.
Journalists criticized the earliest space explorers, frequently trained as engineers. They lacked the ability to capture the poetry of space, the journalists said. Turns out the poets were always there, assembled here in a wonderful complement to all the mission reports and technical manuals.”—Howard E. McCurdy, author of Space and the American Imagination

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