July 31, 2022

Physics for Poets

As an undergraduate English major, I wanted to take a physics course because I was fascinated by all the discoveries being made in quantum physics and because I have always had this interest in time and space. My well-intentioned high school guidance counselor had steered me away from physics because I wasn't a good math student. I'm not sure she was correct, especially since she sent me into AP biology which was a big mistake.

In college, I had no room for physics in my schedule and probably would have had issues with the math but I thought I might be able to audit a class. There was a section for non-science majors that was known as "Physics for Poets." I asked the department head if I could audit the class and was told I could not. But it was big lecture hall class and I was sure no one would notice my presence. I went to the first class, got a syllabus and picked certain dates that I would attend. I attened most of the classes. I often wrote poems or notes for poems during class. I even asked and answered a few questions along the way. I skipped the tests and exams, of course. 

I came across an article this past week, "Physics and Poetry in Radical Collaboration," by Amy Catanzano. She writes:
Quantum physics, in my view, uses unacknowledged poetic principles to describe the properties of quantum phenomena such as uncertainty, observation, superposition, and entanglement. In the principle of indeterminacy or the uncertainty principle, a subatomic particle’s future position and momentum cannot be known with certainty, since its present state is measured in probabilities; in poetry, ambiguities that arise from uncertainty can be a form of artistic depth. 

The author is a professor and the poet-in-residence at Wake Forest University, and the author of three books and multimodal poetry projects involving physics. She is the recipient of the PEN USA Literary Award in Poetry and other honors.

Catanzano argues that for art-science connections to reach their full potential, the two fields should be conducted and theorized in union.

Neither physics nor poetry are totalizing efforts leading to absolute truth. When theorized and conducted in union, both fields become far more wondrous: they carry new forms of information and experience, produce new ideas and technologies, and challenge dominant belief systems about the universe. It is the evolution of our questions, and not just our provisional answers, that advances scientific, artistic, and societal progress.

Here is the opening of her poem "Higgs  Boson: The Cosmic Glyph"  (click link for full poem)

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July 24, 2022

July 20, 2022

Joy Harjo Is the Bob Dylan Center’s First Artist-in-Residence

Joy Harjo performs at her opening event as the U.S. Poet Laureate
Photo: Shawn Miller/Library of Congress, 2019

Poet Joy Harjo has begun her residency at the new Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Joy Harjo, the U.S. poet laureate and a Tulsa native, started her six-year tenure in May 2022. She will present educational programs and live performances, as well as curating special exhibitions.

In a press release, Harjo said, “When Bob Dylan stepped forward and made his path of song making, poetry, and storytelling, a path that lit a generation, he opened a creative door for others to find their way to fresh invention and imagining. I am one of those who followed. My residency will allow this legacy to be extended to the community, to encourage and share creativity. I am honored to be part of this new venture.” 

Harjo seems a good choice for the center not only because of her Tulsa connection but because she is a poet and musician.

Bob Dylan will publish a new book, The Philosophy of Modern Song, this fall. It contains 60 essays by him on songs by other artists, spanning from Stephen Foster, Hank Williams, Nina Simone to Elvis Costello, and in many in between.  

In addition to hosting events and exhibitions, the center will host 100,000 exclusive artifacts spanning 60 years of Dylan’s career, including handwritten lyric manuscripts and correspondence, previously unreleased recordings and film performances.




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July 13, 2022

Poems and Gardens

Are you a poet and also a gardener? Do you see a connection?

In a program from NPR, writers and gardeners Ross Gay and Tess Taylor consider what gardens and poetry can bring — including the reminder to breathe and nourish the body and soul.

Taylor is editing an anthology of new gardening poems which gave her a chance to think about how gardening and poems go together. 


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July 9, 2022

Billy Collins Poetry Animated

Billy Collins, former US Poet Laureate and one of America's best-selling poets, is not big on technology. As far as I know (based on a conversation way back in 2007), he was not big on using email or computers. But he recognizes the power of the web in promoting poetry. He has been doing a poetry podcast on Facebook that started in the Pandemic Times. His Poetry 180 project while he was Laureate is available online and in book form (including a sequel). 

Back when we had that 2007 conversation, there were 11 short animated films set to Billy reading his poems. There's not much information online about them. They are produced by JWT-NY. You can watch most of them on YouTube. I have embedded a few here to sample.

Here's an interpretation of Billy's poem "Forgetfulness" with animation by Julian Grey/Head Gear.


 "Budapest" is also animated by Julian Grey/Head Gear.

"Now and Then" is animated by Eun-ha Paek of Milky Elephant.


July 5, 2022

July Poets

Here are some poems by poets born in July.
Celebrate them by reading their words.

For My People” by Margaret Walker (July 7, 1915)

Nothing Twice” by WisÅ‚awa Szymborska (July 2, 1923)

The Song of Despair” by Pablo Neruda (July 12, 1904)

Sonnet” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson (July 19, 1875)

Alcove” by John Ashbery (July 28, 1927)

The Layers” by Stanley Kunitz (July 29, 1905)

I Am Bound, I Am Bound, For A Distant Shore” by Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817)

Poem for One Little Girl Blue” by June Jordan (July 12, 1817)

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