By Christy Tidwell
April is National Poetry Month, and although people may not always think of poetry and science together, a wealth of poetry exists that addresses science, technology, and various STEM topics.
In his 2006 poem “Science” (read full poem here), for instance, Robert Kelly writes that “science is the same as poetry / only it uses the wrong words.” Science and poetry are both ways of looking carefully at the world, expressing those observations, and helping us all understand the world more fully – piece by piece, experience by experience.
Kelly also writes that “Science explains nothing / but holds all together as / many things as it can count.” Poetry, too, does not claim to explain the world so much as show it to us. And poetry frequently works by juxtaposing meanings, holding together ideas and images to give readers an opportunity to find new meanings in their combination.
Although neither claims the ability to explain the whole world, one significant difference between poetry and science is that where poets are explicit about their attempts to not only reflect but create meaning, scientists often wish to remain objective, which means they see themselves as merely showing the truth instead of shaping it. One part of the beauty of science, though, is that it provides new ways for us to see the world and to live in that world. That certainly shapes the world and its possibilities.
I will be sharing poetry related to STEM throughout the month, and I hope that it encourages readers to see the ways that science is creative and poetry is precise. The two worlds are not so far apart, after all.
If any readers have suggestions for favorite poems addressing STEM topics, please share! I’d love to be able to share a list of ideas later in the month.