Featured Book - Sunspots


Book by Simon Barraclough

Simon Barraclough, Sunspots, London: Penned in the Margins, 2015.

Simon Barraclough's latest volume deals with a welcome subject - the stars, planets and space. Barraclough, who happens to be Poet in Residence at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, part of University College London. In this volume, his website tells us, he acts as our 'guide to the Sun, fusing science and literature, and channelling Shakespeare, Byron, Nabokov and more'.

And indeed he does, and with deep humour. Actually, the hundred pages of verse in this volume deal with more than the Sun. They also cover the planets and their personalities in blunt, sometimes in punkish detail (p 20: 'Mercury's right up in my face, Venus is a Hellish place'), or sometimes more whimsical (p. 38: Mercury has got no friends, Venus climbs and the4n descends'). Elsewhere Barraclough doffs his poet's cap to divinity, but with a twist: 'For I will consider my Star Sol. For I am the servant of this living God and daily serve her' (p. 15). And not forgetting the unimaginable dimensions of space and time which underpin our daily lives, he urges 'Photon, get a move on...not sure I can wait five minutes more for you to speed through space and hit my eye' (p. 14).

And ultimately he reaches the existential 'the universe hurts. But you knew that'. Shakespeare would have known that as well. But I would also see Barraclough channelling John Milton. On p. 40 we reach the wonderful words 'I had a dream, which was not at all a dream. The Moon and stars were extinguish'd'. Marek Kukula at the Royal Greenwich Observatory called Barraclough's book 'a love letter from the third planet to its parent star'. I'd agree. But I'd add that Barraclough's whimsical imagination amuses, inspires and, best of all, provokes new ways of thinking about our celestial environment.

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