Of all the zodiac signs, Aquarians stand out as the hardest to describe and the hardest to pin down. If you follow popular zodiac meme pages, you might see this sign depicted as an alien, a fabulously flamboyant drag queen, a spiritual yogi, or a roommate who’s always filling your home with new, unexpected items and interests. After all, Aquarians are known for their independence and originality.
These air signs, born between Jan. 20 and Feb. 18, also possess a head-in-the-clouds, forward-thinking spirit: When they’re spacing out, they might just be in another world after all — but one that’s several wavelengths above ours. As humanitarians, they’re often imagining how the society they find themselves in could be better and more evolved. Though we might not all be “sci-fi brainiacs,” Aquarius season invites us all to embrace our own strangeness, not shy away from it. Here are five poems to awaken the delightfully odd, visionary genius in each of us.
“One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop
Aquarius poet and visual artist Elizabeth Bishop, born on Feb. 8, 1911, embodied the tranquility and observational nature of her sign in both her poems and her paintings. In “One Art,” a villanelle that considers loss as its own art form, Bishop adapts the breezy level-headedness characteristic of Aquarians, writing, “Lose something every day. Accept the fluster / of lost door keys, the hour badly spent. / The art of losing isn’t hard to master.”
Later, Bishop elaborates on this to ruminate on deeper loss: “I lost two cities, lovely ones. / And, vaster / some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent. / I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.” Oftentimes, Aquarians attain a reputation for being detached, but astrologists insist that this is their analytical nature, a trait Bishop’s recipe for loss definitely exemplifies. Unique Aquarians can also be described as “avant-garde.” Like the speaker in Bishop’s poem, they see their whole life and the world around them, including its small moments, as a work of art and a part of a bigger picture.
“Aliens” by Amy Lowell
What could be more fitting for the “alien of the zodiac” than this poem by Aquarius poet Amy Lowell? Born in 1874, Lowell devoted her life to defining modern poetry, pushing past the traditions of the past in true Aquarian fashion. In fact, she helped found the poetic tradition of imagism alongside other well-known writers such as Ezra Pound. Lowell’s work regularly challenged the conventions of its time, striving “to create new rhythms” and “allow absolute freedom in choice of subject” according to her own criteria.
In “Aliens,” Lowell demonstrates Aquarius’s characteristic affinity for sci-fi and worlds beyond themselves. Her writing pushes past what the eye can see, imagining, “The chatter of little people / Breaks on my purpose / Like the water-drops which slowly wear the rocks to powder.”
“Stanzas in Meditation” by Gertrude Stein
Like fellow Aquarius Lowell, Stein’s work often befuddled other poets of her time. Stein was known as an avant-garde poet, so much so that her house in Paris became a gathering place for writers and artists of this movement, including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and James Joyce.
In “Stanzas in Meditation Stanza 1,” an excerpt from an ambitious work that spanned five parts, Stein delves into one of Aquarius’s most beloved past-times: getting lost in their own vibrant and intricate imaginations. This train of thought begins with “I caught a bird which made a ball / And then they thought better of it.” Here, Stein displays high-level Aquarian observance, taking an image many people would look past and, instead, uses it as inspiration — with a bird as a fully-fledged, complex character.
“Tape Piece III” by Yoko Ono
Like her star sign predicted, Yoko Ono is a true original. As a multimedia artist, Ono has dared to push boundaries in her visual art, performance art, films, music, and, yes, her poetry. Ono often presents her art with accompanying poems for context and to encourage deeper thought. In many of these poems, she conjures otherworldly images and interesting, unexpected lenses through which to see what’s around us.
In her “tape piece” series, Ono explores an idea that would occur to almost no one else: to tape “the sound of the room breathing.” To replicate “Snow Piece,” she poetically instructs: “Take a tape of the sound of the snow falling. This should be done in the evening… Cut it and use it as strings to tie gifts with.” Aquarians love technology, innovation, and surprise, three ideas upon which this poem hinges.
Now that you’ve imagined the world as Aquarians see it, how can you bring unique, unconventional imagery to your poems this season and beyond?