Elegy for a Poet by Herb Kauderer

June 2021 | Utopia Science Fiction Magazine

Utopia Science Fiction Magazine
2 min readMar 11, 2023

“The poet’s voice need not merely
be the record of man, it can be one
of the props, the pillars to help him
endure and prevail.”

  • William Faulkner 1950

An apocryphal poet makes the future shock of televised war

an indictment, while no engineer has ever figured out
how to stop humanity from warfare.

An environmental poet gives solace for the destruction
of Earth’s biosphere, but an engineer builds
a new biosphere elsewhere in the solar system,
on another planet’s moon.

Survival poets inspire colonists to flee, while engineers
take them on their way to the dizzying gravities
among Jupiter’s satellites and the safety of Callisto.
One last mournful poet remains on the dying Earth,
elegizing, until her own death overtakes her.
No engineers are so impractical.

The remaining poets chronicle new gravities
and their unseen effects on the soul while
genetic engineers try to modify the soul
to endure more distant sunlight.

Political poets expose the useless ethics of interplanetary war
while engineers build defenses and weapons
and methods to make Jupiter’s moons uninhabitable.

The existential poet signifies the individual and their need
for meaning-making on a one to one basis.
Engineers enable the millions to spread
from broken Callisto to promising Titan
adjusting to even more distant sunlight.

Evolutionary poets create cultural memes tailored to allow
Terran minds to change and adapt
to the vast spaces of the outer solar system.
Engineers try to tame radiation poisoning
hoping to slow the tide of madness
that creeps from the gas giants
and make ready for the leap to colonizing the Oort.

In the end, poets can only
make the end of each world bearable
while Engineers can take humanity to a new world.
But there is always one poet left behind…


Originally published in the June 2021 issue of Utopia Science Fiction Magazine.

Herb Kauderer is an English Professor at Hilbert College and a prolific author who lives on the eastern end of Lake Erie. He has both scientists and artists among his four children. More can be found at www.herbkauderer.com .