Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Genesis: an Epic Poem about Mars

Liz Henry of Feminist SF – The Blog! posted a nice passage from Genesis: an Epic Poem (1988), by poet Frederick Turner.

Composed in iambic pentameter and 10,000 lines long, Genesis describes the human terraforming of Mars from the year 2015 to 2070. According to one critic, it is “a full expression of Fred Turner's metaphysics, scientific philosophy, and theology, as well as being an action-packed science fiction narrative of war, family inheritance, betrayal, and gigantic technological achievement.”

Here’s another, more bookish, passage from Genesis. It begins to describe the gardening of Mars by its master gardener Beatrice Van Riebeck:
It is a matter very practical:
The gardening of crater planetscapes.
Few books record its arts and its techniques;
Yet Cicero’s landscape gardeners would know,
When they laid out his grounds by Lake Lucrino,
And the patricians of the Alban Hills,
Who set their villas by the crater-lakes
Of Nemi and Albano clad in vines
And let their grottos give a prospect on
A glimmering water, framed in shady pines--
They’d be worth asking, if she might invoke
Their gentle, haughty shades for such discourse;
Yet they passed on their wisdom, as the Greeks
Did to the Romans and the Romans to
The masters of the Renaissance; they taught
The gardeners of England how to shape
A sylvan walk to imitate the trials
Of Hercules or sharp Odysseus,
Instruct a guest-Aeneas how to choose
The way of piety and fortitude.
And they, in turn, taught the Americans:
The gardens of Dumbarton Oaks, and those
The Du Ponts planted outside Wilmington
Carried the same hermetic wisdom on
Across the oceans, and the garden-worlds
That glitter in a necklace round the sun
Bear the same history, the land of shades
Transformed to paradise, to fairyland,
To purify the dreaming of the tribe.
It seems that Beatrice must write the book,
Though, and reveal its secret name as Mars ...
Frederick Turner also wrote A Double Shadow (1978), a science fiction novel about Mars.

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