I was fortunate to meet John C. Mannone though the Facebook group, Science Fiction and Poetry Association (SFPA) and he has ben a supportive mentor ever since. Being an author that is still trying to get their name out there can be intimidating. And John has been kind enough to offer me his advice after being published in numerous publications. I wanted to repay his generous guidance but highlighting one of his poems entitled Ursa Major.
John C. Mannone has work in Artemis Journal, Poetry South, Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Peacock Journal, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, Pirene’s Fountain, and others. He’s the winner of a Jean Ritchie Fellowship in Appalachian literature (2017), a Weymouth writer in residence (2016 and 2017) and the Celebrity Judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018).
He has three poetry collections: Apocalypse (Alban Lake Publishing) won 3rd place for the 2017 Elgin Book Award; Disabled Monsters (The Linnet’s Wings Press) featured at the 2016 Southern Festival of Books; and Flux Lines (Celtic Cat Publishing)—love-related poems using science metaphors due out in 2018.
He’s been awarded the Horror Writers Association Scholarship (2017), two Joy Margrave Awards for Nonfiction, and nominated for several Pushcart, Rhysling, Dwarf Star and Best of the Net awards. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex, Silver Blade, and Liquid Imagination. He’s a professor of physics near Knoxville, TN. http://jcmannone.wordpress.com
The Big Dipper is really Santa’s sled
freewheeling around the North Pole
through frosty stars and a red nosed
bear taking pointers from Rudolf as
his reins arc to a super-giant red-eye
star, coursing through the circumpolar
tinsel of stars, a garland of firelights,
but avoiding the unwinding glittering
coil of that dragon, Draco, whose cold
aspic heart, Thuban, thumps the night,
but it’s a certain Santa & his Bears
who bring all those stardust wishes
full of hope sifted from a special star
that’s twinkling in the silent night.
John thought that Santa’s sled and reindeer could fit the outline of the Big Dipper, and this creating an original concept. In the Nordic tradition, it’s a wagon. So, in that spirit, a drawn sled is consistent with that image. And with Santa, being in the North Pole, it is fitting that the sled points to the North Star, Polaris [the two pointer stars—Dubhe (Arabic for bear) and Merak (Arabic for loins of the bear) are aligned with the back of the sled].
Polaris is a variable star, so John imagine that this pulsating variable could have undergone a catastrophic perturbation which caused it to suddenly shine brightly, as if the Star of Bethlehem. The Big Dipper is a circumpolar constellation, which means it revolves around the pole star, so it is visible throughout the night. But he loved the symbolism of making the pole star the Star of Bethlehem. Santa Claus, that benevolent gift-giver to children and travels all around the world while always pointing to that bright and shining star.
In star-hopping lingo, we use the Big Dipper handle stars to locate a red supergiant— “arc to Arcturus” a convenient proxy for the guiding red light. In the image, there’s poetic license because Arcturus would not be that close to the Big Dipper, nor would it be glowing that big and that bright!
Also, not shown in the image is another circumpolar constellation, Draco, whose brightest star, Thuban, is the serpentine dragon’s heart. It is in contradistinction to the goodness implied by the Star of Bethlehem. Of course, the allusion at the end of the poem to that wonderful German hymn, “Silent Night,” has special seasonal significance for some beyond the peaceful gift giving.