This issue is dedicated to the memory of Carl Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996), an individual of searing intellect and humanity, whose stern refusal to turn away from inconvenient truths should be an example for us all. In this edition, 13 poets respond to 13 episodes of Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, each offering a compelling case for connection: between fellow humans, to the world around us, and to our place in the universe. The great legacy of Sagan and Cosmos is this reminder, that our relationship to one another and to the cosmos is not one of triviality. Instead, we find ourselves irreducibly linked, made up of the same material, floating as a single organism. This is a truth we cannot afford to forget. Sagan’s wonderment at the universe is also central to Cosmos, and part of the series’ appeal lies in this contagious spirit. Notorious for his skepticism, there is nevertheless something almost spiritual on display in each episode: the mysteries and laws of the universe working together to illuminate everything we know and may never know. Poetry can do this, too, making the universe at once very large and almost incomprehensibly compact. Cosmos offers a rich repository of inspiration, and one that proves especially evocative for poetic response. Just as Sagan sought to highlight the deeply spiritual aspects of holism, we are reminded that poetry itself is matter of the very same inventive spirit. As Sagan claimed, ‘by exploring other worlds, we safeguard this one.’ Optimism, curiosity, and a desire to critically engage with the universe in which we live, all lie at the heart of our survival. These are also attributes of great poetry, and they can be seen in each and every one of the poems in this issue. While the power of poetry might seem diminutive in scale when compared to the universe’s grander creations, it is important to bear in mind Sagan’s own view of the written word: ‘writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.’ We’d like to extend our gratitude to the poets in this issue who took this journey with us, exploring Cosmos in new and exciting ways. It is a privilege to be able to showcase their immense talents. We are also very grateful to the readers who have made Powder Keg such an exciting enterprise for us in its own right.
Zoe & Sarah