Look to the stars with L. Luis Lopez
Just in time for National Poetry Month is L. Luis Lopez’s new book “Andromeda to Vulpecula: 88 Constellation Poems.”
The title refers to the first through the last in an alphabetical listing of constellations — those personified patterns in the stars.
In the book’s introduction, Lopez explains his early interest. “The night sky with its spangle of stars and the moon has always fascinated me. When I was about eight or so, our parish priest pointed to the Northern Cross in the summer sky and claimed it a representation of the crucified Christ — actually Cygnus the Swan. Someone else told me that a very small jewel like object in the winter sky was the Little Dipper. ‘No,’ my grandma corrected, ‘es el rosario de nuestra virgin’ (it is the Virgin Mary’s rosary) — actually the Pleiades in Taurus.”
Lopez’s previous poetry collections are “Musings of a Barrio Sack Boy,” “A Painting of Sand” and “Each Month I Sing,” in which he featured poetry inspired by the 12 zodiac constellations. That book won the American Book Award in 2008 and first place in poetry from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association.
“Andromeda” is a natural extension of his book on zodiac constellations, but to include all 88 constellations was an “enormous undertaking,” Lopez admits, “but one filled with fun. I’m a mythologist, so I should know a lot of that stuff already, but you’d be surprised how much I learned.”
Lopez is a professor emeritus from Colorado Mesa University. He taught Ancient Greek, English, Latin and Mythology, and led the Honors Program. His Ph.D. is in Medieval English.
Though cultures have different stories for star groupings, Lopez mostly confined his to the Greek and Roman tradition, with a few Sumerian, Hebrew and Christian stories sprinkled throughout.
Wanting to make each page an art object, Lopez planned from the beginning to hire an illustrator but decided to take up the challenge himself, creating simple line drawings to illustrate the lyrical and narrative poetry. That proved fortuitous as it forced him to look into each poem more deeply, Lopez said.
A timely selection:
Lepus, Orion with shield and club
stands between you and his dogs.
Did you know that you were once
a bird? Ostra, goddess of Spring,
changed you into a hare, allows
you to lay eggs once a year on her
feast, Ostern, German for Easter —
may Orion’s dogs never see you.
Lopez said he hopes readers take away from the poems an appreciation for the night sky. “I want them to know the night sky and I want them to know the stories,” he said. “The night sky is the original storybook.”
Local astronomers Jim Fuchs and Danny Rosen assisted Lopez in his research, particularly with the southern constellations. David Goe of Grand Junction designed the book cover. “Andromeda to Vulpecula” retails for $15.
Lopez has three readings in the near future.
■ 6:30 p.m. Friday at Grand Valley Books, 350 Main St., with Frank Coons, author of “Finding Cassiopeia.”
■ 7 p.m. April 29 at the Colorado Mesa University Center.
■ 7 p.m. May 16 at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 2451 Patterson Road.
National Poetry Month started in 1996, according to the Academy of American Poets. It is celebrated every April, “when schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers and poets throughout the United States band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture. Thousands of organizations participate through readings, festivals, book displays, workshops and other events.”
The academy’s website, poets.org, has many resources, including suggestions for 30 Ways to Celebrate the month, a Poem-A-Day service that delivers contemporary poems via email, and even downloadable commemorative posters.
Local ways to celebrate include:
■ Barnes & Noble has been hosting poetry events for local elementary students showcasing their special projects. Wingate Elementary School third-graders will read their work at Poetry Jams at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.
■ Teens can make their own magnetic poetry kits at a Magnetic Poetry workshop 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Mesa County Central Library Teen Center. The library also will feature winners of its Poetry Contest on the library’s website in May.
■ Grand Valley Books has a special collection of the works of local and regional poets including Frank Coons, Kyle Harvey, Lopez and Jack Mueller.