The Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency has given a $500,000 grant for a 100 year project to envision a mission to a nearby start system (http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/starship-dreamers-launch-100-year-mission-with-darpa-grant/2012/05/22/gIQA2k8wiU_story.html). Putting poets on board this project, from its inception to its launch might be one of the most important things DARPA could do. Yet NASA doesn't even list 'poet' as an occupational category anywhere in its organization. In our opinion, that's a very serious oversight.
[also see the sister petition, 'Mission Accomplished' at http://www.change.org/petitions/save-nasa-restore-the-vision-and-glory-it-once-had ]
American poets, from Concord bridge and "the shot heard round the world," to "The Road Not Taken" have served as the guardians and pathfinders for the visionary soul of our nation. Yet, curiously, they do not even appear on the list of occupational titles within one of the most visionary projects our country ever engaged - NASA and its many spaceflight missions.
WHERE ARE THE POETS? WHERE ARE THE POEMS?
It is our American poets, among the best in the world, who are most able to inspire, celebrate and advance the vision of the future. It is they, more than any, who are able to portray the people, events, ambitions and, yes, even failures of those projects that carry the dreams of America forward. To neglect to include them from the very outset as specifications in one of our most ambitious undertakings, ever, is an oversight with serious consequences, for ourselves and our future.
TO HEAL THE HEART AND REPAIR THE SOUL OF AMERICA
For half-a-century, NASA served as the central repository of America's visionary soul. NASA is now being dismantled. It's assets are being liquidated; much of its staff, among the brightest and best in the world, are being scattered to the winds, teams broken, jobs lost. There are many reasons for this happening, but the fact remains, it is happening and it endangers America's future. American poets, also among the best in the world, were never on NASA's staff. There was not even an occupational category for them. Had they been there from the beginning, they might have created the words, the poems, the documents and celebration that would have inspired all of us and prevented this short-sighted mistake of a nation unmindful of what actually propels its visions.
DARPA's announcement to fund an initial look into the future potentials of star-travel is in the same spirit. Establishing a public 'Office of Poetry' (within DARPA or the AMES/NASA organizations) is of critical importance; now, and at its very inception. As President Kennedy said, "...ask, why not?"
PUT POETS IN PUBLIC PLACES
Let us not, as a nation, as a leader in promoting visions for our future generations, make the same mistake twice. Create an "Office of Poetry", make its first assignment be to have poets report and celebrate the activities, people and progress of the DARPA starship initiative; to preserve the visionary soul of our country and to inspire the world.
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