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A Few Thoughts on Poetry and Science

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Galileo is said to have muttered when he was forced to recant the heresy that the earth was not the center of an Aristotelian universe, “E pur si muove.” – “And yet, it moves.”

Muriel Rukeyser, in her essay “The Life of Poetry’ asks the reader, “What is our ‘E pur si muove?’”

This question is in the context of her conviction that poetry and science are similar processes, in which we seek to learn the true relations of things.  And in both cases, she believes that the answers come in the form of questions.

Science is not static; the universe is not static: poetry is not static.  Each moves. And the motion of a poem is motion in time, like music.  Science is not, properly speaking, a study of objects.  The poem is not words or images, which can be separated for study; it is a series of relationships between words and images.

These are a few of the stimulating ideas from Rukeyser’s “The Life of Poetry” first published in 1949 and reprinted in 1996.  By her title she suggests that poetry is living, organic.  Poems do something in the world.

The poet and the scientist are on parallel paths.  I think Rukeyser’s ideas are supported by some of the developments in science since she wrote; the poets may be having trouble keeping up.

Giveaway on Goodreads Ends Soon

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Paley front coverJust a reminder that I am giving away two copies of my book, Made and Remade on Goodreads.  This pre-launch giveaway closes on July 20.

Of course, if you don’t win, you can buy a copy from me by using the contact page.

Here’s a sample from the book.  I’ve organized the poems in six sections, responding to different statements by William Paley.  One is this:

I know no better method of introducing so large a subject, than that of comparing a single thing with a single thing; an eye, for example, with a telescope. As far as the examination of the instrument goes, there is precisely the same proof that the eye was made for vision, as there is that the telescope was made for assisting it.
Natural Theology, 16

And one of my responses to that text is:

Analogies

Treasured image: curved back
of a worker bent in concentration,
watchmaker with tiny tools,

magnifying eyepiece,
or potter with clay-covered hands:
e
ach has a skill prized in its time.

When human minds are
compared to computers, no one calls
God a computer nerd, and though

bodies are treated like machines,
repaired, regulated, no one says,
We are watches.”

We break, are mended
like serviceable jars, more kin to
vulnerable clay than clipped metal.

Paul wrote “earthen
vessels” and it stuck.

Two Tanka (not a pair)

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Travelling disrupts writing just as it disrupts blog posting.  Getting back into the routine (I hope) I’m sharing two brief pieces which came from prompts.  The first was a suggestion to play with the possibilities of homonyms (two words with the same sound or spelling):

Blessings of the light:
leaves, laughter,
his even breath beside me,
the little bulb
that lifts the weight of dark.

One little bulb has a very big effect in a cottage down a dirt road far from any street lights.

Another small piece came from a suggestion to “write the spectrum,” that is, to choose one color and see where it takes you.  There could be a great deal more to say on this subject, but sometimes brevity is more fun:

The Color Purple

 

Burbly, gurgly sound,

the term purports precision:

a dye from Greek shellfish.

It purrs, in regal pose, between

red velvet and blue suede.

Some Words and their Innuendos

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Warning: This post gets political.  As we approach July 4, a couple of words have struck me with unusual force.

July 4 Parade, 2013

July 4 Parade, 2013

“Democracy and capitalism have both been hacked.”  Al Gore writes this in The Future, his current book.  I realize it is the first time I’ve seen “hacked” in serious writing without reference to computers.  So the elites who, whether from greed or ignorance, want to preserve the status quo are “hackers”?

Dictionary.com gives the original meaning of “to hack” as “to cut, notch, slice, chop, or sever (something) with or as with heavy, irregular blows.”  From this, it is clear that computer hackers were seen as cutting or chopping into (or breaking and entering) computer files.

The statement about democracy and capitalism, then, seems to mean that certain parties are bent on destroying the very structures that have made it possible for them to get where they are.  Like Jack, cutting off the beanstalk from above.  Being in the clouds may distort the perspective.

The second word example is a pair of words.  The word “iniquity” appeared in one of today’s scripture readings; it was a passage from that difficult book , the Letter to the Romans.  The reader did not pronounce the word quite clearly enough: it came to my ear as “inequity.”  What a difference a single vowel makes!  It turns out, however, that while “iniquity” is taken usually to mean wrong-doing, and “inequity” has to do with a lack of equality, both go back to the same root―Latin for not equal―and the base meaning for both is a lack of fairness.

Many of us, especially those in the middle or at the bottom economically, know that structural inequity is iniquitous. How could one make that vivid to those who have not been paying attention?

And how do you stop hackers who are supported by the Supreme Court?

Goodreads Giveaway for Made and Remade

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Paley front coverI am offering two copies of my book Made and Remade in a pre-launch giveaway on Goodreads.  Go to https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22163304-made-and-remade if you’d like to sign up.

The proper launch for the book will be in September, with readings in Las Cruces.  If you’d like to invite me to come to your area and share a reading with someone, I can do that too!  I’ll be lining things up soon.

If you don’t win the giveaway, which ends July 20, use the contact page if you’d like to get a book.

 

This is the opening poem in the collection:

Obsession

for Polly

I’m fixed on this book
like a three-year-old on trucks,
a five-year-old on dinosaurs.  You could
make it my motif, were I young
enough for birthday parties.

Language to sift and savor
artfully, skillfully portrays
a world of fixed order, art
and skilled contrivance.
This balance
wavers as I wonder
at that world’s collapse in
swings, cycles, evolving
life, shifting earth.

Mechanistic views dissolve in
reality’s wash and rub.  I
turn and read again for fragments,
museum quality gems of evidence
for a long dead argument, a fresh fix
of fine writing, proceeding
from a fine mind.

 

Summer Solstice and a Celebration

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Today is a Lowellesque June day.  It’s nice of the clouds and other natural forces to let the sun come through boldly on this longest day (in the Northern Hemisphere).  Here the day is 15 ½ hours long, sunrise to sunset.

 Trees in Sunlight


Trees in Sunlight

The solstice has gradually become more the “other New Year” for me than September.  This is partly because I now live in a place where school starts in August and other things rev up at different times.  It is also partly because I have no one returning to school―except myself, to help some elementary school students with their reading.

June Wildflowers

June Wildflowers

When I return from vacation in mid-July I am at once involved in planning, in sorting submissions for Sin Fronteras Journal, and in a thickening schedule of other activities.  So I spend June days walking on the rocky beach and wondering whether there are things I should do differently this time around.  The place where ocean touches land is said to be an edge where things can arise from the depths, perhaps displacing the set of thoughts, plans, ideas, that lead one into the same old patterns.starting off

This June day is also a great day for a party.  Deer Isle and Sedgwick celebrated the 75th anniversary of our “great green bridge” this morning by closing it for an hour, so people could walk across it.  Led by a bagpipe and drums and including a mandolin orchestra, a great crowd walked across, while a sailboat circled below and a small plane flew overhead.  A perfect June day.walkers

“Great green bridge” was our family’s name for this bridge, copied from a children’s book called “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge” which is about the George Washington Bridge connecting New York City and New Jersey.  Does anyone else remember that book?  It had, appropriately enough, a grey cover.sailboat

Journal Deadline Approaching

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Submissions for Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders Journal annual issue #19 are due by June 30 (postmark date).  Send to:

Sin Fronteras Journal
c/o DAAC
PO Box 1721
Las Cruces, NM 88004

Full guidelines are at:  http://sinfronterasjournal.com/submissions/

We use mostly poetry but we always include some prose.  And you do not need to limit your subject matter to New Mexico.  Other borders count too.

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