Monica Ong, “The Star Gazer: Planisphere Poetry”

Monica Ong
Trumbull, CT

The Star Gazer: Planisphere Poetry
letterpress gold foil stamping on 1-ply flurry and navy cover stock
7.5 x 7.5″

Artist Statement

Based on the Soochow Astronomical Chart of 1193, The Star Gazer offers unique poetry depending on the day and hour, designed as a planisphere depicting the Chinese night sky as seen from the northern hemisphere. To view the stars, turn the disc to align the desired date with the hour of night. Face south and hold the planisphere overhead with the corner marked North facing north. The map will reveal a celestial poem that awaits you among the asterisms. Readers become collaborators who are invited to let their eyes wander and make lyrical connections that feel most natural to them as they read the sky aloud to someone dear.

The process of creating this piece involved recreating the historical start chart into a digital illustration and then transcribing the translations of the 253 asterisms in order to understand the celestial terrain of the Chinese night sky. From there, the author curated a selection of translations which were integrated with original poetry in order to create lyrical links among the stars. While maps of the heavens often create landscapes that center powerful men, such as the Great Emperor of Heaven, this interpretation seeks to center the reader. This poem was designed as an invitation to shared wonder, its interactivity intended to bring readers closer not only to poetry but to a personal place in the cosmos.

The artist was responsible for the astral historical research, original poetry, typesetting, and graphic design of The Star Gazer. The letterpress gold foil stamping, die cutting, and assembly were done at Boxcar Press in Syracuse, NY.

The Star Gazer was created as part of a broader exhibition, Planetaria, which is a collection of visual poetry broadsides, book arts, and installations that leverage the aesthetics of astronomy to explore feminist and non-Western star lore, boldly imagining new cosmographies where everyone belongs. Planetaria is on view at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago from April 21–June 30, 2022.