Friday 21 October 2011


When I was in London recently I took the time to look at the Yuri Gagarin statue, which is outside of the British Council offices in Spring Gardens. The statue had been given
to the British council by the Russian Federal Space Agency to mark the 50th anniversary of Manned Space Flight. I had heard about the statue via the website Yuri’s Day , which exists to celebrate Yuri Gagarin and the work of Sergei Povlovich Korolev, the great scientist who developed the hardware that took Yuri into space.
I wonder if you have to be a certain age to be excited by human’s attempts to go to outer space? I grew up during the Space Race and followed every development, I remember hearing that a human being had circled the planet and safely landed, I was five and I never forgot the name of that man – Yuri Gagarin. I was twelve when he died in a plane crash, thirteen when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon.
Now we have turned our backs on the stars and I for one I am sorry that we have. I know there are some questionable aspects to humanity’s journey into outer space, the use of Nazi technology at the outset, the questionable rehabilitation of Werner Von Braun by the Americans, the pollicisation of the whole endeavour during the Cold War, but for all of this-great deeds were done.

This is a poem I wrote after the event. A word or two of explanation, I stayed with some friends in London, sleeping in their spare room, which is also where they keep all their vinyl. I spent the night on a futon surrounded by racks of albums. It was very nostalgic, I have to admit I had sold most of mine years before and had forgotten the beauty of acres of LPs.


I had dreamt of long players,
Slept under shelves of stacked albums
On a friends wooden floor,
Lost in the spiral of the black vinyl,
That welcoming blackness that
Had held such wonder.
The sky clouded when we reached your statue,
The greatest and the bravest of us all,
You stand held in the loving curve
Of the galactic arm.
It occurs at once, unbidden:
We acknowledge you too late,
Thirty three and a third years dead today.
Our species now hugs the earth,
Bankrupt and dreamless
We have wasted your chance.

OK it could be argued that Yuri is standing on the world and the ellipse is the orbit of his space flight, but I prefer to view it as I have written, with the galactic arm holding him. I think it is poetic license, do you ever do that, change events to fit the poem/story?
You can find another poem I have written about Yuri on the Yuri’s Day website. It’s an old poem I wrote in the 1980’s. I would also recommend the graphic novel Yuris Day,The Road to the Stars, if like me you are besotted by the idea of humans in outer space.


  1. It makes me sad we have turned our back on space exploration, too. At least for the time being. I know they are putting a hold on it because they want to put all their funding into ships that can travel much greater distances, but the fact that kids right now can't grow up to be astronauts makes me sad. Your poem is a fabulous tribute!

  2. Hi Peggy, I have to echo your sadness, it is sad that children today cannot aspire to be cosmonauts,or astronauts-call them what you will. I can't help but wonder if, as a species, we have missed an opportunity.

  3. I agree. It is sad that people aren't exploring space the way they used to.

    I love the poem.

  4. I was talking with someone yesterday who listed all the private companies that now exist to take people into space, it seems now that the oceans above are head are to be playground of the mega-rich. That too will change. Glad you liked the poem. i have just checked the final settings for my second book of poetry, it will be out soon. Very excited.

  5. That statue is exquisite. I love the lines and the texture. I grew up during the Space Race too and was fascinated at the thought of traveling to other planets -- or the thought of 'people' from other planets traveling to ours. I was always looking to the sky waiting for something wonderful to happen.

    Beautiful poem. I loved those black vinyl records. I still have many of mine -- but no means of playing them. Ah, nostalgia. Wonderful thing.

    Congrats on the upcoming release of your second poetry book!