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Time itself, it seemed, had stopped the second Armstrong had uttered those unforgettable words. The score was the United States had landed, and the USSR had not — game over. It was as if a new millennium had opened up for the world to embrace with awe and wonder. solutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.” … The 528 million moon-mad global citizens who watched the historic spectacle on TV delighted in human achievement. It was as if America’s sins in Vietnam had been forgotten for a while. The astronauts wandered only a few hundred feet from the Eagle. But they opened up the moon for future travelers. “This is the greatest week in the history of the world since the creation,” President Nixon enthused to the astronauts with a broad grin of satisfaction. “As a result of what you’ve done, the world has never been closer together before.” NASA had beaten by five months President Kennedy’s pledge to put a man on the moon by the decade’s end. After more than eight days in space, the Apollo astronauts splashed into the Pacific. At Mission Control in Houston, a sentence from JFK’s May 25, 1961, special message to Congress flashed on the large headquarters screen: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” An Apollo 11 logo also appeared on the NASA screen, offering the greatest honor of John F. Kennedy’s public career: “Task Accomplished July 1969.” At around that time, an unknown citizen had left a lovely bouquet of flowers on Kennedy’s Arlington grave with a thoughtful card that read simply: “Mr. President, the Eagle has landed.”

Excerpt of “American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race” by Douglas Brinkley, used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

The Book of LIFE Joseph Campana Tupelo Press, 2019

IN THE OPENING POEM of his latest collection, Rice English professor Joseph Campana describes an encounter with a box of crumbling LIFE magazines destined for the trash bin — and the sudden impulse to save them. “And the years kept passing, all the pages/ passing so swift and delicate they might tear/ as I touched them. Didn’t I want them to tear?” he asks. “Didn’t I want history to rip itself open/ and take me in?” The poems that follow frame an individual life within the larger context of the historic events documented in LIFE. Many of those events — the Great Depression, the Korean War, the Cuban missile crisis, the Kennedy and King assassinations — predate Campana, but all are part of what he calls “my America,” noting that “Walt Whitman called America the greatest poem ever written.” And they continue to shape our collective and individual consciousness. “The past isn’t really ever past, which is why my reading of those magazines was, at times, so haunting,” Campana told Rice News. “I’m thinking especially of a poem I wrote [‘Count’] about the University of Texas clock tower shooting. When I read that poem some years back on campus — before I even knew this would become a book — someone in the audience had been in the plaza that day. I think that poem must have been hard to hear — to relive those memories. As I recall, that person still has a notebook with a bullet hole in it.”

Looking into The Book of LIFE Much traveled, yes, always in realms of yellowed paper, black and white and blue: the whole a globe in a book in a box and on each page a face, a name, some wonders of use and want. Was this how it began? A boy who stared at stars, a boy in love with the moon. A swirl, some sheer and stirring roundness that was sky. Apollo, now that I have opened the book, it is so quiet I can hear beneath the dense and layered noise of life. So little of my body that will last, and those I love now fade to black before my eyes. You pass. Far-darter, light-bringer, tell me what’s true: Living is not coming to be but passing away.

“Looking into The Book of LIFE,” reprinted from “The Book of LIFE” collection by Joseph Campana. Published by Tupelo Press, used by permission.


Profile for Rice University

Rice Magazine | Summer 2019  

Rice Magazine | Summer 2019