MV#4 — Science & Poetry — Sam Illingworth

Science and poetry are sometimes caricatured as opposing paradigms: the emotional expression of the self versus the objective representation of nature. But science can be poetic, and poetry scientific. Our guest this week, Sam Illingworth, bridges these worlds. He’s researched scientists who were also poets, and organized workshops for scientists and laypeople using the medium of poetry to create an equitable and open dialogue.

In addition to being an Associate Professor at Edinburgh Napier University, Sam is the founder of Consilience, a peer-reviewed journal publishing poetry (which presents such beautifully titled gems as What You Don’t See on David Attenborough is All the Waiting) and hosts the Poetry of Science podcast where, each week, he writes a poem in response to recent scientific research.

Instead of undertaking the perhaps foolhardy (and certainly arduous) task of attempting to summarise this conversation, I will share some of my favourite quotes from this conversation and Sam’s book, A Sonnet To Science:

From Science by Robert Kelly

Science explains nothing

but holds all together as

many things as it can count

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From A Defence of Poetry by Percy Bysshe Shelley

… a poet essentially comprises and unites both these characters [legislator and prophet]. For he not only beholds intensely the present as it is, and discovers those laws according to which present things ought to be ordered, but he beholds the future in the present, and his thoughts are the germs of the flower and the fruit of latest time. 

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Miroslav Holub on the demise of his Lepidoptera collection, as quoted in A Sonnet to Science

Unfortunately the world is real.  Unfortunately within ten years all my butterflies in their twenty-five boxes were eaten by museum carpet-beetles and other parasites which nurture a grudge agains human immortality. Unfortunately all that’s left is the pins the boxes and the labels. And so I started writing poems again. Poems aren’t eaten by anything, except stupidity.

From Supposed To Fly, Miroslav Holub

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