The Moon. NASA photo: One of the nice things about running a blog is that you can conveniently republish things that people have asked for. Another is that you can sometimes republish things that hardly anyone has ever requested … like this.

Among my childhood vices was the writing of poetry — sometimes quite quirky, like the first exemplar, sometimes pretty banal, like the second. (The best thing about the banal ones is that I quite often got some editor to buy them.)

I wrote “!” for the very first magazine I ever edited (and published, and ran off on the mimeograph machine, and bound), a tiny semi-fanzine called Mind of Man. It is also the very first thing I ever wrote that got favorable comments from people as astute as Cyril Kornbluth and James Blish, who memorized it and was known to recite it at parties.


         ,   ,   &
        ! my frand
        ;  $
        – – . . . . . . . 

The second poem is significant even to me only because it is the first thing I wrote that some editor bought and published and paid cash to me for.

Elegy to a Dead Planet: Luna

Darkness descends and the cluttering towers
Of cities and hamlets blink into light.
The harsh, brilliant glitter of day’s bustling hours
Gives place to the glowing effulgence of night.
The Moon, that pale creature, the queen of the sky,
Peeps wistfully down at the life forms below,
Thinking, perhaps, of the eons rolled by
Since life on her bosom lapsed under the snow.
A dead world and cold, this satellite bleak,
Whose craters and valleys are airless and dry.
No flicker of motion from deep pit to peak,
No living thing’s ego to shout, “I am I!”
But once, ages past, this grim tomb in space
Owned living things on its surface now bare
Till grim Time in his flight, speeding apace,
Swept life, motion, thought away, who can know where?

All right, all right, the Moon isn’t a planet and it never had any living things, or snow, either. Sue me. When I wrote it I was a fairly ignorant fifteen.

Then, when I was sixteen, the editor of Amazing Stories, T. O’Conor Sloane, Ph. D., accepted it, and when I was seventeen he published it in his October 1937 issue, and when I was 18 he paid for it. Two dollars.

Related post:
Verse Decoded


  1. William says:

    Would you mind explaining how you’d recite “!”? I could think of a variety of ways, and I’m curious to know which you had in mind.

  2. Jeff says:

    If people only knew what they create when they give encouragement to fifteen year old writers.

    Occassionally, it works out for the best.

  3. adepsis says:

    I perceive it as similar to a cheer –

    comma, comma, ampersand!
    exclamation point my frand!
    semicolon, dollar sign!
    hyphen, hyphen, dots in a line!

    Would be especially fun after “loosening up” a bit at a party.

  4. Kent Cline says:

    Before I clicked through to read the comments, I was doing the “Exclamation Point Cheer” myself and wondering if I was getting the spirit of the meter. It is reassuring to know that adepsis had a similar reaction to the poem.

    Good fun.

  5. Mike Schilling says:

    It’s not a poem, it’s the APL code to calculate pi.