Craig Raine's "A Martian Sends a Postcard Home" is probably the best-known example of "Martian poetry," a British movement from the 1970s and 1980s. Its speaker, as the title suggests, is a Martian visiting Earth. Reporting back to Mars, the speaker describes various things on our planet—including rain, clocks, and dreams—from an alien perspective, making everyday phenomena seem strange. The poem's metaphors and imagery cast human life in an unexpected light; at times, the Martian's descriptions even feel like puzzles for the reader. "A Martian Sends a Postcard Home" was collected in Raine's 1980 volume of the same title.
Caxtons are mechanical ...
... their markings –
they cause the ...
... shriek without pain.
I have never ...
... on the hand.
Mist is when ...
... under tissue paper.
Rain is when ...
... making colours darker.
Model T is ...
... for anything missed.
But time is ...
... ticking with impatience.
In homes, a ...
... with a finger.
Only the young ...
Adults go to ...
... a different smell.
At night, when ...
... their eyelids shut.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
The Poem Read Aloud — Listen to a reading of "A Martian Sends a Postcard Home."
Martian Poetry — Read more context on Martian poetry, the movement spawned by Raine's poem.
History of the Model T — Get caught up on the history of the Model T, the car that Raine's speaker identifies with all automobiles.
Biography of Craig Raine — Learn more about the author's background and other works.
Biography of William Caxton — Learn about William Caxton, the first English printer, whose name gives the Martian a curious new word for books.
1Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
2and some are treasured for their markings –
3they cause the eyes to melt
4or the body to shriek without pain.
5I have never seen one fly, but
6sometimes they perch on the hand.
7Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
8and rests its soft machine on ground:
9then the world is dim and bookish
10like engravings under tissue paper.
11Rain is when the earth is television.
12It has the property of making colours darker.
13Model T is a room with the lock inside –
14a key is turned to free the world
15for movement, so quick there is a film
16to watch for anything missed.
17But time is tied to the wrist
18or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.
19In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
20that snores when you pick it up.
21If the ghost cries, they carry it
22to their lips and soothe it to sleep
23with sounds. And yet, they wake it up
24deliberately, by tickling with a finger.
25Only the young are allowed to suffer
26openly. Adults go to a punishment room
27with water but nothing to eat.
28They lock the door and suffer the noises
29alone. No one is exempt
30and everyone’s pain has a different smell.
31At night, when all the colours die,
32they hide in pairs
33and read about themselves –
34in colour, with their eyelids shut.