Dorothea Lasky and Alex Dimitrov only fight about one topic: the moon landing. Whether it actually happened is a topic of frequent debate among the New York poets, also known as the Astro Poets, the duo behind the popular, cult-favorite Twitter account @PoetAstrologers.
“As poets, the moon is always this really important thing,” says Lasky, an Aries, author of five books, and assistant professor of creative writing at Columbia University. “It’s always this funny thing where using the moon in your poem is a no-no. It’s a cliché. For poets, the moon does become this big argument.”
Since creating their shared account just over a year ago, the Astro Poets have attracted more than 262,000 followers. Together, the pair mix snarky humor and pop culture references with moments of sincerity about the sun and the stars. They are known for their horoscopes, posted every Sunday, as well as their recurring “series” features.
One week they might be tweeting the signs as Walt Whitman lines (Sag: “You will hardly know who I am or what I mean”), next they might be tweeting the signs as passive-aggressive email sign-offs (Capricorn: Cheers!) or pieces of living room decor (Aries: Overhead lighting). This month, they have already featured some gems: the signs as poetic forms (Aquarius: limerick) and the signs as Frank Ocean songs (Cancer: “Thinkin’ Bout You”).
Sometimes the proclamations come as bigger-picture statements. “The moon is a gay icon,” they tweeted in December. (It was retweeted more than 5,000 times.)
The moon is a gay icon
— Astro Poets (@poetastrologers) December 5, 2017
Dimitrov—who is a Sagittarius—says the power of astrology lies within its ability to bring people together: “It’s really all about realizing people are so connected to one another.” As an only child growing up in Detroit, he found a Sag pendant around the house that fascinated him (his parents are also Sagittarians). He wore it frequently, and grew fascinated with astrology even though he didn’t totally understand it.
“And then of course the internet happened,” he laughs. In the sixth grade, he’d frequent AOL astrology chat rooms to learn more. “I kept it hidden. … It felt like this thing I had to keep to myself because people just didn’t really understand.”
Dimitrov, 33, has written three books since 2013 and has taught creative writing at several colleges, including Columbia University, Rutgers, and Marymount Manhattan. Dimitrov previously worked as the senior content editor at the Academy of American Poets, where he edited the popular Poem-a-Day series, dedicated to publishing more than 200 new poems every year.
Though his past books haven’t explicitly dealt with astrology, he considers them steeped in his astrological identity: “I really identify with the idea of of Sagittarius as a wanderer, a traveler, an adventurer,” he says. “In my first book, there was a lot of imagery that had to do with this kind of person who is always in flux [and] completely preoccupied with freedom.”
For Lasky, 39, astrology didn’t enter her life until graduate school, when a friend used it to help her better understand the elusive Gemini she had a crush on. “It opened up a world of understanding people that I had never had access to before,” she says. “I always had a deep interest in psychology. So to me, astrology was like a type of psychology. … Thus began a long road of love, obsession and study of astrology.” Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Lasky has published five full-length collections of poetry along with chapbooks and literary journal entries.
The duo met at a party one night after one of Lasky’s readings. She immediately asked his sign; they entered a long chat about what it means to be a Sagittarius and an Aries, and the friendship compatibility of the two signs.
Before they met, Dimitrov had read a piece of Lasky’s writing where she declared that anyone who doesn’t believe in magic is boring. “I thought, I really have to meet this person,” Dimitrov says. “We just laughed so much the whole night. I felt like I just met someone really important.”
Lasky, who is passionate about poetry education, feels having this expansive social media presence has created a useful way to advocate for everyday poetry reading and writing; to help her “bring poetry to as many people as possible” and “bring people poetry they can relate to.”
“I’m a strong proponent that our educational system needs major reform,” she says, adding that schools tend to treat poetry as overly precious. “For a lot of people, poetry remains this sort of untouchable thing. You’re told it’s difficult, or you have to be really smart, or in AP English. … I really believe most people are poets. I think it’s something that everybody can love.”
When a Libra takes you on a date to watch something really deep https://t.co/TjPLfCTqH3
— Astro Poets (@poetastrologers) February 10, 2018
Last fall, reading and talking astrology before a sold-out crowd at the New York Public Library, the pair celebrated their Twitter account’s first anniversary. Though they take poetry and astrology seriously, if there’s anything the NYPL event reminded fans, it’s that the Astro Poets are also very funny. “Humor has been part of my life always, as a queer person,” says Dimitrov. “There’s a certain type of queer survival through humor. Really early on as a queer person you realize that you have to create a way for yourself to exist in this world. There are many ways to do that, and humor is really one of them.”
Of course, there are limits to an entirely Twitter-based project. To Lasky, it’s basically a form of performance art. “I love and hate social media,” she says, though as someone who often feels like a frustrated actress, she appreciates the performance space. She sees the Twitter personality as a way to act out a persona that’s partially real, but partially not. “Don’t you think that’s what everyone is doing on social media?” she asks.
Lasky points out that social media does help combat some of the solitude inherent to the solitary act of writing. “You just get this immediate reaction … feeling like you’re not just writing something into outer space,” she says. “I first started writing poems when I was a little girl alone in my room and just wanted to have something to do, because I was thinking and I didn’t want to go to sleep. I wasn’t sure who I was writing to, but I knew they were people who felt like me. … There’s a comfort to that. But ultimately there’s a loneliness.”
Though the Astro Poets tweets have been known to give every astrological sign a hard time, that’s part of the beauty of astrology: being able to look at those stereotypical personality traits, laugh about them, and face them head-on. “It’s really how life works, too,” Dimitrov says. “You have to be able to look at things that are pretty frightening. … All of us are equally struggling and making mistakes and have parts of our personalities that are really ugly, or parts of our personalities that are really tremendous. … For me, it’s about accepting.”
Dimitrov and Lasky are working on a book for Flatiron Books, which will continue expanding their project beyond the confines of Twitter. (They also pen columns and horoscopes for W.) There are elements of the Twitter account in the book, but they confirm it will be very different. Each sign will get a chapter, functioning as an “astrological bible” of sorts, one that “people can lose themselves in and go to when they are thinking about dating someone, or a certain friend, or if they have a really difficult relationship with their Cancer mom,” says Dimitrov. Linda Goodman’s Love Signs and Sun Signs are a big inspiration.
The moon will be 14% brighter than usual tonight. It's in Leo. It wants to be looked at.
— Astro Poets (@poetastrologers) January 31, 2018
Some might call Astro Poets a phenomenon, one that speaks to a more general contemporary cultural obsession with astrology, and to how great poets are at Twitter. What does it all mean? “People are in need of love,” says Lasky, noting that a feeling of nothingness, purposelessness, and distrust in systems have come to define existence. “This hopeless feeling has been percolating for a really long time in the last century.”
The PoetAstrologers first tweeted on November 26, 2016, just a few weeks after the election. “I think there was something that happened potentially with the election that maybe made that rise completely to a boiling point where people needed to feel connected,” Lasky says. “And to feel like there is some larger structure that’s based in acceptance and tolerance of who you are. Astrology is a belief system that can do that.”
“Astrology has an element of mystique and mystery that poetry has always had,” Dimitrov says. “And poetry has always been interested in the occult. … Poets always believe that there is something else. That the nature of reality as we see it is really one way of being in the world.” He notes examples like poets James Merrill and W.B. Yeats, who were fascinated by the occult.
To Dimitrov, the universe is abstract, but that open-endedness is exactly what poets obsess over, and investigate through imagination: “It just makes a lot of sense to me why creative people are really drawn to astrology.”
“Here is Earth from 3.7 billion miles away, a pale blue dot, as photographed by Voyager 1,” @PoetAstrologers tweeted last month, with a fuzzy, impressionistic photo. “The rest of it too is very beautiful.”
The Astro Poets are hesitant to reveal which is the moon landing skeptic. They’d rather we use our imaginations. “One of us believes and one of us doesn’t,” Lasky says slowly. “Maybe it’s better we leave it a mystery.”
On Thursday, February 22, Alex Dimitrov of Astro Poets will consult with guests as a “future-forecaster” at “The Future Is Fluid Fete” at the Rubin. Buy Dorothea Lasky’s “Milk” here, and Alex Dimitrov’s “Together and By Ourselves” here.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 12, 2018