What follows is the text of a short speech I gave to a room full of teachers recently. That should explain the majority of the grammatical no-nos and distracting asides. Cheers.
“Thank you all for being here. I’m very grateful to Dranoff for giving us this time. We’re about to wrap up, so I thought I’d say a few words. I know better than to lecture a room full of teachers about poetry- so I won’t. I’ll instead muse a bit about science- and the connections one might make to it using poetry.
Science can be dry. There aren’t many ways around that. In order to come to grips with natural phenomena that have puzzled greater minds than ours, we follow a process. A method. How does one, then, extract the emotional sustenance necessary for poetry from the embalmed husk of scientific research? I don’t know.
Being a graduate student, however, I am quite qualified to speak on the subject of ignoring the rules of the scientific method. Because that’s what needs to be done when poetry is on the mind. You don’t see many sonnets written about well-informed hypotheses- or any syncopated free verse that sings of testable predictions.
So what do we mean when we say we want to write poetry about science? That, in my opinion, comes back to poetry- the powerful form that allows its consumer to glimpse the emotions of whoever put pen to page in an act of creation.
It is the source, then- the object of the artist’s affection- that makes all the difference (as Robert Frost might say). Scientific poetry is the translation of the emotional response evoked by natural phenomena into verse (or prose, for you prose poem enthusiasts out there).
I could write a series of equations that describe the fluid mechanics at play when an ocean wave feels the shore and shoals up, scraping the beach (and, admittedly- the limits of linearity that allow us to properly describe such a phenomenon). But, maybe a haiku is better-suited to translating the awe inspired by one of nature’s rawest displays of power?
I believe the answer is somewhere in between- poetry that’s aware of the language used in the scientific community, but not hamstrung by its rigid methods or robbed of the soul that makes the medium so effective in the first place.
That could be advice given to a scientist just as easily as it could be advice given to a poet. The idea really is the same: to be aware of the message- the emotion- the soul- of the task. And to let that soul inspire the work, not limit it.
That is why I pursue science. And that is why I try to write poetry. I thank you all for your time, your patience, and your attention. And I thank you for helping the next generation of scientists and poets find what inspires them in their creative endeavors.”