The First Artist on Mars
Well, the first professional artist
There were scientists who, you know
but NASA sent us —
me and two photographers —
to build support for the program.
The best day?
That was in Marineris.
Those canyons are huge
each wall a planet
turned on its side.
I did a power of painting there.
You can see all my work
at the opening. Do come.
Hey, they wanted me to paint propaganda —
you know, ‘our brave scientists at work’ —
but I told them
you’ll get nothing but the truth from me
I just paint what I see
and let others worry
what the public think.
Still, the agency can’t be too displeased.
They’re sponsoring my touring show.
That’s coming up next spring.
Would I go back? Don’t know.
It’s a hell of a distance
and my muscles almost got flabby
in the low G. Took me ages
to recover — lots of gym and water time
when I should have been painting.
But Jupiter would be worth the trip!
Those are awesome landscapes
those moons, each one’s so different.
Mars is OK — so old, so red,
so vertical. Quite a place
but limited, you know?
Credit note: “The First Artist On Mars” was first published in Blackmail Press 15 (May 2006) and was included in my second poetry collection, All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens, where it forms part of a sequence about the exploration of Mars called Red Stone. That sequence was inspired by Kim Stanley Robinson’s superb Mars Trilogy, but this rather conceited artist is entirely my own invention.
Tim says: That note first appeared on Helen Lowe’s blog, on which she kindly published “The First Artist on Mars” as a Tuesday Poem in 2010. I wouldn’t normally ‘re-use’ a Tuesday Poem in this way, but it seemed appropriate this time, because TFAOM was also included in Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, the anthology Mark Pirie and I co-edited in 2009 which was published by IP, and … (drumroll please!) …
P. S. Cottier and I have An Announcement: We are going to be jointly editing an anthology of Australian speculative poetry, to be published, all being well, by IP in 2014. Like Voyagers, it will have both a historical and a contemporary component – so we will be trolling the archives for the history of Australian speculative poetry, but also calling for submissions from contemporary poets – though it will be a while before that call is issued, so (if you happen to be Australian) please don’t send your poems to us yet!
Unlike Voyagers, it won’t be restricted to science fiction poetry, but rather will cover the full range of speculative poetry, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, and magic realism. We’ll say more about that in the call for submissions, too.
I am really looking forward to our working on this project together, as if I were the Barney Gumble to her Linda Ronstadt, though I hope no snow-ploughs will be involved in this one. Keep watching the stars, and the market listings!
The Tuesday Poem: Is not a thing of rags and patches, nor yet a wand’ring minstrel, but rather a still point in a turning world.