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#1
Old 10-23-2003, 04:55 AM
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"should have sent a poet" - Origins?

Not a whole lot more to add, really. This is a quote I've always seen quoted as an incomplete sentence, and in a breathless manner, like "should.. have.. sent.. a.. poet". A google search basically just brings up people using said quote, and a bunch of pages about the Jodie Foster movie, Contact, which I'm fairly sure isn't the origin.
#2
Old 10-23-2003, 08:38 AM
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It does sound like the summary of the punchline of an Alfred Bester story, "Disappearing Act." The line wasn't actually used, IIRC, but it's possible the story inspired the line.
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#3
Old 10-23-2003, 10:44 PM
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It's indeed a line in the film Contact, based on the book by Carl Sagan, and breathlessly uttered by the character Ellie Arroway when she sees the alien world for the first time:
Quote:
Some celestial event. No--no words. No words to describe it. Poetry! They should've sent a poet. So beautiful. So beautiful... I had no idea.
That's probably your match. The line seems to have caught on, and you may have heard it in a different context.

For what it's worth, according to IMDb, the exact line is also in the video game StarCraft.

While Bester's story is probably not the origin, it's a beautiful story (collected among his other extraordinary works in Virtual Unrealities: The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester). The actual line here is, "Send me a poet."
Quote:
He waited and waited... and waited... while America sorted through its two hundred and ninety millions of hardened and sharpened experts, its specialized tools to defend the American Dream of Beauty and Poetry and the Better Things in Life. He waited for them to find a poet, not understanding the endless delay, the fruitless search; not understanding why Bradley Scrim laughed and laughed and laughed at this final, fatal disappearance.
#4
Old 10-23-2003, 10:54 PM
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Walter Cronkite used a similar line in his LP set "I Can Hear It Now," in which he says something to the effect (in referring to the first manned space flights) "Those of us on earth wondered how it looked to the poet's eye."
#5
Old 10-23-2003, 11:28 PM
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I'm pretty sure I saw it before the Contact movie... I'm thinking in a Bloom County strip? And even then, it seemed to be a reference to something else. But every time I've seen it, it's in a space context. Perhaps one of the early astronauts said it?
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#6
Old 10-23-2003, 11:32 PM
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I first read it in an essay on the US space program, I'd guess 20+ years ago, I believe by an SF writer. Could have been Harlan Ellison.
#7
Old 10-23-2003, 11:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Chronos
I'm pretty sure I saw it before the Contact movie... I'm thinking in a Bloom County strip?
Was it not in the book (1985)?
#8
Old 10-24-2003, 03:01 AM
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I think the exact quote, "they should have sent a poet", is from Contact, but the general idea that the things encountered during space exploration are best suited to poetic description is common both in science fiction and among actual space people (by which I don't mean Mork et al.).
#9
Old 10-24-2003, 12:32 PM
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Back at least as far as the Apollo program, and probably back to Mercury, there was talk that no professional laconic trained-to-report-the-facts-and-only-the-facts fighter pilot or scientist could possibly convey the awesomeness of being in space and seeing the Earth as a whole, without artificial nationalities and boundaries.

And I'll bet a cookie that Ray Bradbury said something like this in one of his stories too. He was devastating against the "professional spaceman" mindset in The Martian Chronicles.
#10
Old 04-23-2012, 09:33 PM
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Another shot

"Years ago, the novelist Norman Mailer was asked to sit on a television panel during the live broadcast of the first manned landing on the moon. While the rest of the panel talked in a heady fashion of the technological accomplishment represented by the landing, Mailer decried the total lack of poetry at the handling of the affair. An event that from the beginning of time was meant to fill our spirits with wonder and inspiration had been reduced to technological egoism and running descriptions of moon rocks." - Allan Combs and Mark Holland's Synchronicity.
#11
Old 04-24-2012, 01:13 PM
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Kinda sorta related - John Adams said during the American Revolution, "I must study politics and war, that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, natural history and naval architecture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, tapestry, and porcelain."
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Old 04-24-2012, 01:35 PM
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Poetry and space exploration are wonderfully tied together in a moving James Dickey poem titled "Apollo," which very concretely examines his reaction to the Apollo 8 mission.
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Old 04-24-2012, 03:04 PM
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Interestingly, here's a .pdf I Googled of an article on "Space Poems" which I *think* was published in 1985. It contains excerpts from several poems on space exploration dated 1970 in the first two pages, and part of a Dickey poem from 1968 (I can't tell if it's the one described above) on the third page.

Perhaps more to the point, the article is all about the response of the artistic spirit to the beginning of space exploration:

Quote:
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was created in 1958, after the uproar in 1967 over Sputnik, Russia's (and the world's) first Earth-orbiting satellite. NASA is a federal agency charged with carrying out government policies in specific areas for research and development in science, engineering, and technology. Unlike many government efforts, NASA has generated activities and images with wide appeal to millions of people, not only in America, but around the world. The space program and people's responses to it are phenomena unique to our time; living in our time necessarily includes coming to terms with the fact that the human species is actually moving off the planet. From the beginning of the program, many people longed for an eloquent communication from spacefarers, something more than "Everything is A-OKthe view is really great up here! Among the grumblings, the idea surfaced early that NASA ought to send a poet into space. The agency had other priorities, although it now has a valuable collection of paintings and drawings by artists who were invited to monitor its activities. An "Arts in Space" program is now in the long-range planning stage to send poets, painters, sculptors, composers, dancers, and other creative artists to the proposed Space Station to work for several weeks at their respective expressive arts. Meanwhile, American poets have been on Earth; how did they respond to more than 25 years of space exploration?
#14
Old 04-24-2012, 11:18 PM
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Related sentiment from Jack Kerouac:

To Edward Dahlberg

Dont use the telephone
People are never ready to answer it
Use poetry

(in Scattered Poems, c. 1971, according to cites around the 'net )
#15
Old 07-16-2012, 07:52 AM
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From Nancy Freedman's Joshua Son of None (1973):

"That kind of job [astronaut] is for the technician type without the imagination to be scared."

"You're wrong. What better place for a poet than space?"
#16
Old 07-16-2012, 08:09 AM
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In Roger Zelazny's "A Rose For Ecclesiastes" (1963) they do indeed send a poet - to Mars in this case.
#17
Old 07-16-2012, 09:53 AM
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Well, I think it is pretty clear that we have a consensus: Poets can wake a zombie twice!
#18
Old 07-16-2012, 10:02 AM
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More to the point of the OP, though...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slugworth View Post
Not a whole lot more to add, really. This is a quote I've always seen quoted as an incomplete sentence, and in a breathless manner, like "should.. have.. sent.. a.. poet". A google search basically just brings up people using said quote, and a bunch of pages about the Jodie Foster movie, Contact, which I'm fairly sure isn't the origin.
It seems clear that even if the idea preceded Contact by decades, that particular formulation of it is indeed from Contact. (By the way, I think the line was in Sagan's novel even before the movie was written. Does anyone have a copy of the book to check?)
#19
Old 07-16-2012, 11:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keeve View Post
(By the way, I think the line was in Sagan's novel even before the movie was written. Does anyone have a copy of the book to check?)
Google books doesn't give any hits for "poet", so I think its just in the movie.

Googling, a lot of the references to the phrase are pretty clearly taken from the film (they use more of the quote), so I'm pretty sure the film "Contact" from 1997 is the original source.
#20
Old 07-16-2012, 01:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
Kinda sorta related - John Adams said during the American Revolution, "I must study politics and war, that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, natural history and naval architecture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, tapestry, and porcelain."
Yeah, everything ends up in porcelain eventually.
#21
Old 07-16-2012, 02:54 PM
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Buzz Aldrin, in his memoir, also expressed the wish that a poet, or someone with a creative background had been sent to the moon; vs the scientific/concrete minded test pilots like himself. FWIW - I think he did pretty well with the phrase "Magnificent desolation" (a phrase he spoke to to Mission Control and the title of the aforementioned memoir )
#22
Old 07-16-2012, 04:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Politzania View Post
I think he did pretty well with the phrase "Magnificent desolation" (a phrase he spoke to to Mission Control
Not merely a phrase, but I believe it was his first words upon standing on the surface of the moon.
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