James Ph. Kotsybar is a local poet with an astronomical ambition. Having served the cause of literature and poetry (as well as science and horticulture) here on the Central Coast for decades, he is asking for your help to get his poetry to another planet.

NASA is sponsoring a haiku contest to find three poems worthy of putting aboard its MAVEN mission spacecraft and launching it to the Red Planet (Mars) — the first poetry from Earth to another world.

“Haiku is an ancient and respected Japanese form of poetry,” Kotsybar explained. “Its popularity in English is due to the fact that these poems must be concise. It’s a matter of less is more. When you have only 17 syllables to express an image and make a point, every word must be packed with meaning. There’s no room for flowery extravagance.

“I packed a lot of feeling and significance into my haiku entry. I hope the public agrees that it deserves to win its place on the MAVEN spacecraft, because in three short lines, I’ve fully conveyed the intention of MAVEN’s mission and alluded to the meaning of its name as an expert or connoisseur.”

The acronym, MAVEN, stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN. Its mission is to study how the oceans evaporated from Mars and how the atmosphere of the planet is thinned by solar winds.

The voting process begins July 15. Kotsybar is appealing to all Central Coast social networks to vote his poetry off the planet. Click here to vote beginning July 15. Voting ends July 29.

“What’s so exciting about this opportunity is that it’s like the ultimate time capsule,” Kotsybar said. “I’m already honored just to be included in what will one day be a valuable archaeological artifact. But to share the status to be among the first three poets to be published off world … that’s some proud achievement!”

Kotsybar, a poet at heart since age 14, has performed his poetry live at The Marquee in Santa Barbara, Llhasa Club in Hollywood, Beyond Baroque Gallery in Santa Monica, the Los Angeles Performing Arts Center and R.A.I.L. – Readers And Interested Listeners in Santa Barbara County.

His most recent publications include The Bubble (Ojai), Askew (Ventura) and the Society of Classical Poets (international print publication and website). He has also appeared on Santa Barbara Channels 17 and 22, Lompoc’s TAP TV; was a regular guest on KCSB-91.9 FM; had a sonnet produced by KDB-93.7 FM; and had a limerick on Relativity called “Off The Scale” that went viral last year, appearing on websites in Portuguese, Mandarin and German. In the last year, he has received honorable mentions from the Society of Classical Poets, Lone Stars Magazine and Tapestry of Bronze — Odes to The Olympians Contest.

“There may be other missions that will include public messages, but for me, this is the once in a lifetime opportunity to become the first poet on Mars!” Kotsybar said. “I hope people understand how much this would mean to me and will help me achieve this distinction.”