The Detroit News headline for Monday, July 21, 1969, reads, “Footprints on the Moon!” I can still vividly recall watching, as a young boy, it happen on black and white TV, along with my family and the many millions around the world. It fired my young fifteen-year-old imagination like nothing else I had known. I had always been thrilled by the entire space program, my father having worked on making the heat shield for one of the re-entry capsules. And then the incredible event itself, in prime time TV, “one giant leap for mankind.” I was there with the astronauts, walking on the moon.
My family saved the complete front-page section of The Detroit News for that day. Eventually, it became my copy of the great event that dad and all the nation had worked for, the greatest technological achievement of human history. As the years went by, I found myself still thinking about our human visit to the moon, going back and re-reading that section of The Detroit News, as it has increasingly yellowed and frayed and brittled. The writer of the main front page article made one revealing comment which he seemed to think everyone would understand and agree with: “it was not necessary to send poets to the moon.” What? The falsehood and injustice of that comment increasingly struck me, as my study of poetry and culture deepened with the years. Who did these Johnny-Come-Latelys think they were? The hubris and arrogance of scientism seethed in that one sentence, the “two cultures” implicit in it.
Poets have been on the moon for millennia.