Science in poetry can be a wonderful and refreshing experience. It’s something I experiment with oftentimes whenever I write poetry, but it’s not an entirely intentional process. It’s just that when I write I pull from a pool of words that float through my mind regularly, and that is diction inevitably influenced by the more interesting subjects that consume my life—those being art and science.
Unfortunately, the use of science in poetry is not an extremely common practice in its explicit form. If you search “science in poetry,” or “scientific poetry,” you’ll find that there are lots of straight rhymed pieces that were designed to help students remember concepts or solicitations for elementary through high school students to write poems about their experiences with science. I certainly have no problem with trying to get younger audiences excited about science or poetic form, but this seems to be the largest demographic interested in scientific poetry. This kind of goes back to the general disdain that many writers seem to have for science. I will divulge that some of that disdain may be due to how tacky some of these attempts are, but there is bad poetry in every form.
I like to think that my work isn’t tacky so I’m going to mention a little about methodology.
“The greater one’s science, the deeper the sense of mystery.” ~Vladimir Nabokov
I think that there is a lot of misconception about the value of science fiction in literature. I touched on this topic last week and I just want to follow up with more concrete evidence rather than just a generalization. When Margaret Atwood is asked what she thinks of her work being science fiction, she often answers with a question or no answer at all. In an article posted last year in October titled “Margret Atwood on Science Fiction” she confronts her mixed feelings about being held within the same category as science fiction:
Are these books “science ﬁction”? I am often asked. Though sometimes I am not asked, but told: I am a silly nit or a snob or a genre traitor for dodging the term because these books are as much “science ﬁction” as Nineteen Eighty-Four is, whatever I might say. But is Nineteen Eighty-Four as much “science ﬁction” as The Martian Chronicles? I might reply. I would answer not, and therein lies the distinction.
Kurt Vonnegut vehemently refused his work being considered science fiction writing.
Technology and science are unavoidable truths that dominate our lives. For many of us, we wake up to the sound of an alarm clock and listen to music in the shower or later in the car as we drive to school or work where we text or compulsively check Facebook (even though we shouldn’t be) and use a laptop to write notes or complete tasks at work. Even now you are using some sort of technology to view this blog on a screen or on a piece of paper you have printed out. All of this has been made possible by science. It should come as no surprise then that science has become a rapidly growing influence in writing today.
I have decided to write a blog about the role science plays in both forms of literature: prose and poetry. This decision was primarily due to the fact that on a personal level it is something that I am very passionate about. I love science, and I have been fascinated by it as far back as I can remember. I also thoroughly enjoy creative writing and since about fourth grade, when I realized that I could put the two together, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with it.
What I never realized until much later in life was the stigma that our society has placed on science fiction. It’s not a genre many literary writers would ever want to be associated with. It used to be an anomaly categorized as low and socially unacceptable as Dungeons and Dragons— something thrown together by geeks for geeks. Today this stigma does — in some ways — still exist, but it isn’t nearly as prominent as it used to be. And frankly, it really can’t afford to be since technology and science shape life in the westernized world.
As I go about writing this blog, my goal is to express that science is inherently filled with logic, theories and mechanisms but it is just as rich in emotions, controversy and history as any other topic in literature. This is because science is an image of nature projected through the lens of human observation. Since the human condition is an unavoidable force filled with the inexplicable, science is by nature bound to be a powerful force in creative writing, whether it is in science fiction or poetry.