Friday, May 14, 2010

522. Collection at the Intersections of Science and Poetry (and Song)

First off, to say this is a touchy subject for me... because all my poetry and lyrics are deeply embedded in thoughts and themes of science. The question is, how have science and poetry become so distinct, so divided? As I was scrounging around through the internet, I learned that a lot of early scientists and explorers expressed their knowledge through art and poetry. Haeckel is an obvious case, Darwin wrote a prose adventure novel on the origins of the species... and I encountered someone who wrote poetry about developmental biology. Scientific expression through artful means was rather common.

But then somehow through time, science and art started to split to a point in which scientists and artists in the same room would look at each other like they just sited a pack of aliens across the room. Milton Love and I even discussed this theme... somehow through time, the structure of scientific expression transformed from artful and emotionally driven to logical, robotic, emotionally-absent, highly precise, verbiage that no one intuitively enjoys reading, including scientists themselves (me being one). I told Milton that writing a scientific paper became meaningless as I discovered that it was like filling out a form and that only 10 people in the world was going to read it. But then again, as I discovered the difficulties of publishing POETRY and SHORT STORIES, I started to realize that ... well, at least I get my scientific paper published, and THANKFULLY ten people read it. I announced to Hector in the car a couple weeks back, "It is officially easier to publish a scientific article than a poem," and then my heart sunk as I scratched my head, "And a lot of the published poems SUCK, the poets already established a big name, and they say nothing in particular... geee, this is really sad." And THEN, I realized the SOLUTION to this double-edged sword (as I spoke with Barry Spacks) was TO MAKE A FILM ABOUT BEING REJECTED BY DOING SOMETHING MEANINGFUL AND BEING ACCEPTED DOING SOMETHING THAT HAS LOST MEANING OR VALUE. And that, would be meaningful! *Sigh*

Captions from Above Slideshow: Collection at the Intersection of Science and Poetry (and Song). Well?! I've written over 500 blogs, I can say it's extremely surprising that I'm covering such a topic "so late in the game." I've bene having a long-term discussion with Barry Spacks on the intersection of scientific knowledge and creative storytelling for the last two years now... and have learned sooo much... but at this point, I am paying particular attention to the inter-relationships between science and (specifically) poetry, as brought to the forefront through NCEAS'-Santa Barbara Poet Laureate gathering last June of 2009 (where Barry presented a poem, I was so excited to review it before its presentation!). In addition, as an undergraduate, I happened to run into a few oddball poems in the middle of my science textbooks and handouts... so I just started to save a few snipits of other people's work, and I sincerely hope the collection grows!

The Poetry of Science. June 5, 2009. 8pm. Fe Bland Forum at SBCC. Sponsored by The National Center fo Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. Santa Barbara City College Creative Writing Program. Santa Barbara Laureate. My professor Barry Spacks (or poetry pal?) presented a poem and the only metaphor I remember out of the whole event (a year later) is how scientists behave like swarms of bees. Some snipits of Barry's poem: “Mostly she likes to count, to fill spreadsheets, to sample populations, invent software,” he read, garnering laughs from the audience, including Ryan, who stood on stage with him. “Oh, scientists so like to count! And foremost to get it right! While we slovenly poets need wild elixir for our work..." Noozhawk wrote an article on the event HERE. :

PDF of the Poetry of Science can be found here:

"This is How Shxt Happens" Poem that I yanked off of Dr. Raul Suarez' office door to make a photocopy. We both tried to find the source of this poem but it was futile (one of Dr. Suarez' predecessors). Most likely it was an imitation of a well-known poem of "This is How Shxt Happens" in the corporate world. Fall of 2008. (probably will include in an essay in Ecology of Scale / Environmental Metaphors). Written on the Blog 105 .

"When a Fellow Needs a Friend" icthyological (fishy) poem by the esteemed Dr. Milton Love. Found in the book "Probably More Than You [Ever] Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast." This poem captures the miniscule parasitic male clamping onto the gigantous female of anglerfish. Whacky and very sexually exploritative! Uploaded Fall of 2007. Blog found at (Two and a Half Poems by Milton Love).

"Reproductio Ad Absurdum" icthyological (fishy) poem by the esteemed Dr. Milton Love. Found in the book "Probably More Than You [Ever] Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast." This poem explores the bold and edgy notion of sex changes in fishes (wrasses, basses specifically). Uploaded Fall of 2007. Blog found at (Two and a Half Poems by Milton Love).

Page 1. "Sweet Parasite Lovin'" Spoken Word by Martin Moretti, as found in my Parasitology Laboratory/Handbook from Dr. Armand Kuris' epic UCSB course... back in 2003.... Sigh... I still wish I were still an innocent undergrad... (missing poem Ode to an Alga)

"Digital" Lyrics by Mia Doi Todd. Last quarter I had the golden opportunity to watch her and Michel Gondry perform at Spaceland in Silverlake, California, though unfortunately she did not sing this song, which is potentially my favorite of hers. Though the lyrics metaphorically detail some form of intense male-female relationship, the metaphors evoke scale in a scientific fashion.

The one very weak spot in the entire tune is use of the term "plastic bag lubricated safety tube." All lyrics were surreal and metaphorical, and then this moment of precise, literal, and TACKY language destroyed the essence of the song--the worst part is that Mia ACCENTUATES these words when SINGING! I cringe every time I pass through this part.... Maybe that is why this song is not super famous, which it deserves to be. I think a more benign, and metaphorical term like "love glove" would be more appropriate... and the strange thing is that she had NO RHYMES to constrain her word choice... and still decided to use such gnarly words!

Refer to BLOG 454, an analysis of "The Fish" by Elizabeth Bishop.

"Science and Poetry" is like this whole can of worms I just opened... A can of worms so large I feel it's even worth exploring for an entire quarter, like in a College of Creative Studies Course (e.g. Bruce Tiffney and Hank Pitcher go out to Sedgwick Ranch and both offer commentary on landscapes when designing artwork depicting landscapes).

Here are some websites and names that may serve as starting points:
Classic poets address science in their works.
An attempt toward a first e-zine devoted to the intersection of science and poetry. Seems pretty dead right now, but it's certainly the right idea!

Of course, there are endless resources on Ecocriticism, "Nature Poetry" (like in Orion)... etc...

And then... just in the last hour I encoutered more than enough media classified in the "LAME" category... or "SUPER LAME" and "SUPER TACKY" category. For example, I encountered this Youtube video entitled "The Symphony of Science," and it was essentially old footage of science figureheads (Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Michael Shermer, to name a few...) with altered voices to make it seem like they were singing to some techno music track. Ummm... I'm sorry, if people were inspired by this piece (as state on Youtube comments), I could say this was more disturbing than inspirational. There was no sense of artfulness in the visual aspects, though quite a bit of technical music skills were portrayed (plus a lot of patience to dig through old video footage)! I'm trained as a scientist and I could barely watch any of these music videos. In all truth, I am appalled that there is recycling of old footage "old science icons" rather than generating new icons, characters, adventures...

Another tacky hit I got was a video called Science Cheerleader and it ended up being a bunch of ditzy blond (some were blond) high school girls waving pom poms and narrating "fun facts" about physics and chemistry and advocating that science was cool. Ummm... this honestly to me... was a bit degrading... to both parties... the cheerleaders no longer looked cool and the scientists were being associated with ditzy cheerleaders supposedly saying intelligent things (without demonstrating much comprehension of their knowledge).

So, the reason is that WHY I am in environmental media, is because the old "science and society stories" are OLD and the ICONS are the same old icons... and novelty is needed.... I'm also environmental media because I want to make Tackiness and Lame go EXTINCT.

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