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I find it funny, somehow, that I learned it’s National Poetry Month by reading ScienceBlogs. ‘The web’s largest conversation about science’ seems a strange place to find contributions to a celebration of poetry, but maybe it’s not. Scientists and poets are alike in being keen observers of the world. Perception and description are the poet’s, and the scientist’s, stock in trade.

So perhaps it’s apt for a science-minded blogger to call me out of the hustle and bustle of my day for a moment, by giving me a poem that makes me percieve the world just a little more deliberately.

Following, a collection of ScienceBlog posts hailing poetry and NPM:

At Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted), GrrlScientist spearheaded the movement on April 21, with her post of the Thomas Hardy poem “In a Museum.” She followed it the next day with “Peonies,” by Mary Oliver; “The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry; “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost; and most recently, Wislawa Szymborska’s “The Onion.”

Stranger Fruit’s John Lynch takes the ball and runs with it, adding “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” by W.B. Yeats, W.H. Auden’s “Epitaph For a Tyrant,” and a tasty tidbit from Finnegan’s Wake (arguably not a work of poetry, but arguably hardly even from this planet).

Afarensis weighed in with some Poe, and also linked back to a poem of his own composing from last year.

Dr. FreeRide of Adventures In Ethics and Science went meta, sharing Marianne Moore’s poem, “Poetry,” and PZ links to another poem by Wislawa Szymborska, this one about Darwin.

Add to this the not-necessarily-Poetry-Month-related post on physics poetry at Uncertain Principles last Tuesday, and you have a very belles-lettristic week on ScienceBlogs indeed.

There’s not much I can add, except to point out one of my own favorite poets on natural and sometimes explicitly environmental themes, W.S. Merwin. Get his book Flower & Hand if you can, and treat yourself to “Questions to Tourists Stopped by a Pineapple Field.”


  1. #1 SkookumPlanet
    April 26, 2006


    Merwin’s “Questions to Tourists Stopped by a Pineapple Field” is available online. It’s a digital version of The Nation, Volume 230, Issue 25, June 28, 1980. I hate to cut a poet out of already measely royalties, but perhaps it will turn a few readers on to Merwin who might not otherwise know about him.

    Googling the poem’s title I also came across the following in an online poetics glossary.

    altercatio – rapid series of questions & answers, as in W. S. Merwin’s “Questions to Tourists Stopped by a Pineapple Field.”

    Poetry is abundant with obscure terminology of form and technique. Here are the three glossary entries following altercatio.

    amanuensis – literary secretary or person who takes dictation or copies manuscripts.

    amblysia – to reduce the effect of bad news with a prefatory statement, “you might want to sit down….”

    amphiboly – ambiguous wording caused by an effect of grammar or double-meaning, “He slapped the woman crying.”