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This report is taken from PN Review 272, Volume 49 Number 6, July - August 2023.

Astropoetics 2
Still in the Snug
Duncan MacKay
It’s hard to believe that a decade has passed since our small gathering of astronomers and physicists with an interest in matters literary first met at the local snug here in Canterbury (PN Review 214). Participants come and go with the financial and political tides that wash over university life year by year. The pandemic was difficult, of course, and Brexit (while apparently declared a failure) still succeeds in preventing our former flow of enthusiastic students back and forth across La Manche, to the detriment of younger generations on both sides. With the concurrent failure of the present government to support UK membership of the Horizon research funding programme, spirits can understandably flag.

In our moments of particular angst, we try to follow the down-to-planet-surface Daoist-cum-Zen advice of one of our long-time favourite poets, Gary Snyder. We have been celebrating his ninety-third birthday (8 May) in recent weeks, by reading from his selected poems collection, No Nature (Pantheon, 1992). In his elegy for fellow poet and friend Lew Welch, who disappeared in 1971 and is assumed to have committed suicide (although his body was never found), Snyder expresses the fact of life’s continuance in the face of events with the superficially simple but deeply difficult recognition that ‘life continues in the kitchen’ (from ‘For Lew Welch in a Snowfall’).

Snyder’s phrase has become our mantra as we look beyond to the stars. On the subject of which, three of us have just co-authored an academic text (Case Studies in Star Formation: A Molecular ...

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