“What Sparks Poetry” by Jacob Sheetz-Willard (Poetry ’23)

Poetry alumn Jacob Sheetz-Willard recently wrote about Srikanth Reddy’s Voyager for the Poetry Daily series “What Sparks Poetry.” Read an excerpt and find a link to the full text below:

Jacob Sheetz-Willard on Srikanth Reddy’s Voyager

In the late 1970s, Carl Sagan helped NASA collect sounds and images representative of human culture to send into space as part of the Voyager missions. The project was an ambitious act of curation envisioned on a cosmic scale, and the “golden records” are now the most distant human artifacts in the universe. The first voice an alien species would find, though, were they to play the Voyager recordings, is that of Kurt Waldheim, the Secretary General of the UN from 1972 to 1981. Waldheim famously misrepresented his wartime record during his tenure at the UN and was later exposed as a participant in Nazi atrocities. A fitting emblem of human culture, indeed.

In his 2011 poetry collection that shares the name of the spacecraft, Srikanth Reddy offers a three part erasure of Waldheim’s memoir in an attempt to reckon with “the words of a / man who by some quirk of fate had become a / spokesman for humanity, who could give voice / to… the conscience of mankind.” “Sometimes,” as Reddy’s speaker notes drily in the second section of his book, “a work is clarified by ironies.”

Continue reading here:  Jacob Sheetz-Willard | Poetry Daily