Patricia Keeney reading "Shakespeare in Space" York. U. April 7, 2012
What inspired the poem is contained in the little headnote under the title. That first (for me) conference in Houston with the Oxfordians was a revelation. Combined with our tour of the space centre, it gave me two whole sets of languages with which to express what I think is really a call to take risks in our thinking, especially in academia which should be all about discovery and exploration, intelligent adventure!As an editor, and theater and literary critic, Keeney publishes in Canadian and international journals. She is the author of nine books of poetry and a picaresque novel, The Incredible Shrinking Wife; her works have been translated into many languages including Hindi and Chinese. Her latest English book of poetry, First Woman, was published in 2011 by Inanna Publications.
Oberon is honored to be given permission to publish the poem, "Shakespeare in Space", by Patricia Keeney.
Shakespeare in Space
(being the result of a conference on the Shakespeare authorship question held in Houston, Texas)
Houston we have a problem.
There’s an alien in the galaxy
imposter on the cultural radar
pretender to the literary throne
an English Renaissance upstart
cruising around with the classicists
Gemini and Apollo
sailing the Sea of Tranquility
cresting an Ocean of Storms
here and now
at the authorship conference
star chamber, torturing
was Shakespeare really Shakespeare?
or the Earl of Oxford?
We circle in space.
Did he sign his name
hand write a manuscript
compose the music
trumpet fanfares and an aubade
this simple man of Stratford?
his dance with Don Juan of Austria
flamboyant in Love’s Labours Lost and Othello
an intimate of France and Spain.
Could our untraveled bard step so lavishly
before the conqueror at England’s gates
light a Spanish fire in Elizabeth’s court?
Somersaulting through weightless space
we come undone
froth at the mouth when we brush our teeth
spray onto walls a pointillist painting.
The shaker of spears was any playwright
needing anonymity in a dangerous time.
Stratford kept Oxford
umbilically tethered to earth.
Reading Greek and Latin in the original
marking out verses of his blue boar bible
David and his harp, the artist at court
practicing legalities in the sonnets
this unlettered actor in his verse
sang songs of strange birds
the phoenix half-dreamer,
the siren, all-seeming
this local village man.
From mission control
our brains are bombarded
invisible relays, the tapping of keys
sending whispers through space
close as a closet, farther
than freedom or fear.
We’ve practiced for this.
dangled in partial gravity
spun in neutral buoyancy
Snub-nosed and charging
we’re riding the rocket
not easy but hard
to moonwalk again
past an oak grove of dead astronauts
when Stratford was a Roman road
and Oxford a crossing for cows.
Patricia Keeney, 2009