When poets walked on earth

July 21st, 2009 by Jim

This morning’s New York Times arrived on my walk loudly announcing that MEN WALK ON THE MOON. The regular edition for July 21, 2009 had come wrapped in a reproduction of The Times produced this day 40 years ago with its famous headline and fuzzy black and white photos of Armstrong and Aldrin.

It was a special treat to actually read the coverage. What struck me most, however, was the presence in the lower left corner of the front page of Archibald MacLeish’s poem “Voyage to the Moon“. It ends with the lines

O, a meaning!

over us on these silent beaches the bright
earth,
presence among us

Amidst all the anniversary commentary bemoaning the loss of heroic challenge, national mobilization, shared vision, and a common national experience I haven’t seen much that acknowledges the loss of ‘high’ public culture. That loss was made powerfully real by seeing that poem on the front page. And our diminishment felt greater when I noticed in the lower right corner these guiding comments about the day’s issue of The Times:

“This morning’s issue of The New York Times is divided into four parts. The first is devoted to the news of Apollo 11 and includes Editorials and letters to the Editor (page 16). Poems on the landing on the moon appear on Page 17.”

Note: The facsimile was provided by Louis Vuitton with this tagline: Some journeys change mankind forever. You can see the reproduction online at this NYT Science section along with terrific context including videos.

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