Because my latest collection is full of poems based on science, specifically astronaut Michael Collins' 1990 book Mission to Mars and various Discover Magazine articles, I think it would be a good time to start discussing writing about science.
We are seeing massive changes in our lifetime in the areas of science and technology. Understandably, this freaks us out; but as poets (and human-nature processors or a sort) we hesitate to work through this in verse.
The poems in Why Photographers Commit Suicide are about evolution, astronomy, the space program, physics, biology and psychology as they relate to the space program. And many other poets have been writing about science for quite a while. To start meeting them, I'll start by posting a New York Times article from 2009 by David Corcoran, "The Poetry of Science," about poet Kimiko Hahn who was inspired by clippings from Science Times.
Most importantly, Hahn writes about science without a scientific background. Of course she can do this because anyone can relate to living in our scientific world and there are natural metaphors we can mine from science.
Ms. Hahn, 54, says she has no science background. She fell into writing about botany and entomology and astronomy “because I find them fascinating — in the way someone might think Japan is an exotic place, for me science is an exotic place.”
The samples of her poems in the article are very humorous and whimsical. Which is another fertile aspect of writing about science, it can be naturally funny:
“The humor comes through with your science writers,” she said. “That’s part of the attraction. For me, the language and substance of the articles is so exciting that part of my challenge is to live up to the wonderful writing — how can I borrow it, how can I steal it. It’s a kind of game.”
The connection between writing about your personal experiences and writing about technology and science is effortless once you get going.