<aside> 🗒️ First, a note to my notes:
Hi there! Please enjoy my version of author’s notes, a hopefully expansive experience that takes you deeper and further into the worlds, rabbit holes, and trails that inspired the poems in Interstellar Flower Delivery.
”But shouldn’t interpretation be left up to the imagination?”, you might ask. When I started reading poetry deeply, I found a lot of contemporary poetry too abstract and hard to understand. For a long time, that discouraged me from enjoying it. I now believe that knowledge works in tandem with imagination, that knowing more about how the world works and, in this case, what these poems mean, can further expand not just understanding but also accessibility and curiosity.
Poetry doesn’t live in isolation. As a way to experience more of the world and the same world in new ways, it can be part of larger universes, collected in smaller doses, and the start of new ways to play. Onward we go.
—Ana, Last Updated: October 12 2022
The collection of poems in Interstellar Flower Delivery was written during the summer of 2022 after a series of images from the James Webb Space Telescope started making their way around the internet. If you have internet access, you’ve probably seen them too.
There are plenty of beautiful things in the world, but as I looked at the images and read their descriptions, I, like I’m sure many others, was struck with an equally potent sense of both wonder and terror. Some of the images were terrifying, what we learned from them a glimpse of things so far away and so hard to comprehend that, were it not for math and science, the only way to explain them would be to categorize them as magic, religion, or mystery—which we justifiably did for thousands of years. But we’re here in 2022 and I can now revel in the magic of science on my iPhone.
There’s a popular adage often said to writers who don’t know what to write: “Write what you know.” What do I know about astronomy and outer space? Nothing. I am not a science writer, nor even a professional poet, for that matter. I am not a hobbyist astronomer, nor do I even go out of my way to venture into the dark when a meteor shower is in town. Even with the best of my intentions, I am still a creature of convenience.
But as these images started to come up in my social media feed in the midst of my usual daily scroll, alongside cat videos, news of the Kardashians, and more record-breaking heat waves, I couldn’t help but stop. I know it isn’t passion or love that changes us as many of us believe poetry attests to as an art form known for its romance; it’s the often slow-burning power of curiosity, or the immediate aftershock of its cousin, wonder. I do not know enough about astronomy to be any kind of expert; however, these images did all they needed: spark my imagination.
A lot has been said about the “value” of space exploration when there are so many problems on earth to deal with. It’s humanity’s very expensive hobby, something with no perceptible direct benefit to most people. We do it because we want to. We are pursuing the point where knowledge meets imagination. We are, as Star Trek says, exploring the final frontier, a reality that we can only right now, at this very specific point in time, dream of doing. We talk about all the ways that space exploration benefits us in tangible ways, but to sum it all up, what we’re really doing is trying to understand ourselves: where we come from and why we are here.
And though from my point of view, here on my computer, a speck of dust in the grand scheme of things, believe that perhaps we were never meant to understand, something in me also tells me that if that was something we could ever know, we may be close to it seeing how quickly science has progressed in the last 5, 10, 50, 200 years. I am not naïve enough to think that my understanding of our limitations is truth, as history has come to show us that this has never been the case.
As I was letting these things swirl around in my brain, I thought of flowers as the ultimate expression of sentiment, where the act of gifting them seems to transcend culture, occasion, and place. I thought of how alike flowers and stars are. Beautiful, of course. Mostly mundane yet universally cherished. And of course, both bound to a cycle of life and death. Maybe that’s why we cherish them the way we do, though they are just, scientifically speaking, weeds and gas.
As with anything beautiful, we could never leave flowers alone. We have forever been figuring out ways to preserve their beauty, known not only to the eyes but to the nose. Smell is the sense most closely linked to memory and emotion, and though outer space is for the most part, cold and empty, and our relationship to it more closely linked to science and technology the more we come to know about it, in writing these poems, I kept coming back to themes of time and memory, how these are always felt, and it is not enough to simply understand what time and memory means. I wanted to capture and express the dichotomies between wonder and terror, silence and noise, technology and sentiment, softness and starkness. With that in mind, a theme started to develop that formed a narrative that almost reads like fiction, a string of poems that tell a greater, cyclical story. I unearthed a symmetry and parallel between scientific exploration and poetic articulation, and between astronomy, flowers, and fragrance. Not your usual metaphor, I get it, but the more I got into the headspace, the more tangible and obvious it was. (Then again, I think the longer you look at anything, the more you see in that very thing whatever you want to see. But I guess that’s what art is; the unique lens we see the world through, and this is mine.)
Perfumes are sentiments we aim to capture and preserve though smell, just as poetry are sentiments we aim to capture and preserve through words. Both are considered luxuries and leisure except to their creators: the poet and the perfumer. Both, in my mind, can be likened to astronomy, though mileage of justification to the masses depends on how far they fall on the scale of art vs science vs commerce.
In other words, we’re entering our second space race as corporations join in, with much more money on the table than governments can afford. Poetry has only recently gained mainstream appeal due to the rise of more democratic forms of publishing not gate-kept by poetry experts, ushering in a new era of commercial viability and diversity. Perfumes, well, they’ve always been around because besides offering the promise of creative self-expression, they offer the possibility of furthering one’s allure in the ongoing biological marathon. While how well you can sell comes down to love and money, what poetry, perfumes, and astronomy all offer and have been throughout history, are ways to strengthen the conviction of who we are and how we are free to interpret the meaning and purpose of our existence through the ways we keep and measure time beyond watching clocks—and that’s really what this project has represented most of all for me.
The design of the cover is inspired by vintage books that I fell in love with while browsing bookstores this summer, particularly from the 1960s, a nod to the last great space race before the one we are embarking on now. I designed my own homage featuring an abstract rendering of a perfume bottle and the fading blue of the sky as the known world of day eases into the darkness of night, where there is no longer a line between us and space and all its mysteries. This very specific time of day is known to many as the time to retire activity, but it also happens to be the same time of day where our imaginations come alive, not so coincidentally blanketed by stars we can only make out due to the temporary absence of the sun. It’s a reminder that endings can be beginnings, that there may be a literal infinity of possibilities that exist but simply cannot be seen yet, that our perception of space, time, even direction is relative (Are we descending into darkness or ascending into it? Are we looking up or down?).