Science in poetry


Join LibraryThing to post.

Science in poetry

This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.

Jan 30, 2011, 10:55pm

Perhaps slightly tangential to the group, but I hope you'll understand. Miroslav Holub was a Czech poet and immunologist, and he used scientific themes quite a bit in his poetry. Have any of you encountered other good examples of poets who have embodied an artful understanding of science?

Jan 31, 2011, 8:40am

Here's Richard Feynman included a poem in his address to the National Academy of Sciences:

There are the rushing waves
mountains of molecules
each stupidly minding its own business
trillions apart
yet forming white surf in unison

Ages on ages
before any eyes could see
year after year
thunderously pounding the shore as now.
For whom, for what?
On a dead planet
with no life to entertain.

Never at rest
tortured by energy
wasted prodigiously by the Sun
poured into space.
A mite makes the sea roar.

Deep in the sea
all molecules repeat
the patterns of one another
till complex new ones are formed.
They make others like themselves
and a new dance starts.
Growing in size and complexity
living things
masses of atoms
DNA, protein
dancing a pattern ever more intricate.

Out of the cradle
onto dry land
here it is
atoms with consciousness;
matter with curiosity.

Stands at the sea,
wonders at wondering: I
a universe of atoms
an atom in the Universe.

Edited: Jan 31, 2011, 3:20pm

Muriel Rukeyser; she was well-known for it. "The Conjugation of the Paramecium" is one of my favorites. She was an artist-in-residence at the Exploratorium, which has for a long time brought attention to bear on the intersections and parallels of art and science.

"The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms."

Islands: "O for God's sake
they are connected

Jan 31, 2011, 12:31pm

Christian Bok's Crystallography is a whole collection of poems based on/inspired by/about science, for lack of a better phrase.

Jan 31, 2011, 3:06pm

May Swenson was interested in nature and science and would incorporate bits into her poetry.

Bin Ramke is well-versed in the sciences; he even studied math with R.L. Moore (of the Moore method) in undergrad.

Susan Somers-Willett wrote a lovely book called Quiver that had a lot of science in it.

Those are the main ones that come to mind at the moment.

Jan 31, 2011, 6:56pm

Thanks to all of you! I have lots to check up on now. :)

Jan 31, 2011, 8:27pm

One more to consider: Alfred, Lord Tennyson. A poet, not a scientist, but he studied with the man of science (and inventor of the word "scientist") William Whewell at Trinity College, Cambridge, and remained interested in scientific topics all his life. His friend, the astronomer Normal Lockyer, later reported that his "mind is saturated with astronomy." A good, though academic, article on this is Anna Henchman, "'The Globe we Groan in,' Astronomical Discourse and Stellar Decay in 'In Memoriam.'" VICTORIAN POETRY 41 (2003), 29-45.

Feb 5, 2011, 12:30am

A lighter offering: Joshua M. Kershenbaum, "The ladder and the barn (in the style of Dr. Seuss)", American Journal of Physics 64, 1447 (1996). While it doesn't seem to be available through AJP's Web site, I found what appears to be a full copy here.

Edited: Feb 12, 2011, 1:53am

Admittedly not a poem, but a song about science: the elements by Tom Lehrer

Feb 12, 2011, 12:19pm

Yes, Tom Lehrer is a favorite. :)

His Lobachevsky is another goodie:
Let no one else's work evade your eyes
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes
So don't shade your eyes
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize
Only be sure always to call it please 'research'"

Edited: Feb 12, 2011, 12:25pm

From lyrics composed by Dr. Helen Davies and her microbiology students at the University of Pennsylvania:

LEPROSY (To the tune of "Yesterday," by the Beatles)

Bits and pieces falling off of me.
But it isn't the toxicity;
It's just neglect of injury.

I'm not half the man I used to be.
Can't feel anything peripherally
From swollen nerves, hypersensitivity.

Why don't leprae grow in vitro? We cannot say.
In vivo they grow very slow, once in 12 da ... ay ... ay ... ays.

Hard to get,
But the stigma hasn't faded yet.
Don't keep an armadillo as a pet.
Clofazamine and Dapsone--don't …

(Unfortunately, the rest is behind Harper's paywall...)

Feb 12, 2011, 1:01pm

There is always John Updike's poem, Cosmic Gall.

Neutrinos they are very small.
They have no charge and have no mass
And do not interact at all.
The earth is just a silly ball
To them, through which they simply pass,
Like dustmaids down a drafty hall
Or photons through a sheet of glass.
They snub the most exquisite gas,
Ignore the most substantial wall,
Cold-shoulder steel and sounding brass,
Insult the stallion in his stall,
And, scorning barriers of class,
Infiltrate you and me! Like tall
And painless guillotines, they fall
Down through our heads into the grass.
At night, they enter at Nepal
And pierce the lover and his lass
From underneath the bed – you call
It wonderful; I call it crass.

Mar 6, 2011, 7:10pm

Patti Rogers. Overwhelming, fecund, biological naming, that leaves a reader feeling very much part of the earth.

Mar 6, 2011, 7:31pm

Sorry can't think of a good example but Goethe was scientifically inclined.

Perhaps someone can giv me a definitive poem.