A new work from U.S. Ada Limon’s poem, which she wrote for a NASA mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, was a glimpse of outer space that returned back to Earth .
The “Message in a Bottle Campaign” of NASA, which is preparing for a long journey, includes “In Praise of Mysteries: A Poem For Europa,” read by Limon Thursday night at a Library of Congress ceremony. Europa Clipper, with the phrase “In Praise Of Mystery” engraved onto it, is scheduled to launch in 2024.
In a statement issued by the Library of Congress, Limon stated that “writing this poem was not only one of the biggest honors of my career but also the most difficult task I’ve ever had to undertake.” The poem came together when I realized that by pointing to other planets and stars, we also acknowledge the immense gift of our planet Earth. “To point outward, is to also point inward.”
In a recent interview, Limon explained that she had a difficult time at first writing the poem because she could not rely on her instincts due to its official nature. She received valuable advice from her husband Lucas Marquardt after working on over a dozen drafts. He encouraged her to write it as if it was personal, “a poem that you would have written anyway.”
She said, “I remember all the times I looked down as a kid and found a whole world in the grass or a small watery wedge in the creek that was across the street.” “But then I also think that this was in conjunction with looking up at a moon.”
The seven-stanza piece begins with a tribute to the “night sky inky/with a black expanse,” which we interpret as “an unerring book of universe.” Limon says that treasures are hidden below the skies.
“O second Moon, we are also made”
Water, vast seas that beckon.
We are also made up of wonders and greatness
Small invisible worlds and everyday loves
“There is a need to shout through the darkness.”
Limon is 47 years old and has been the poet laureate of America since 2022. Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, recently gave her a second two-year term. She has written “Bright Dead Things,” “The Carrying” and other books.