Science + Poetry –> Quo Vadis ?

Image: Pixabay (creative common license)

Recently, I read an article titled The Quantum Poet. It is about Amy Catanzano, an academic poet amalgamating poetry with quantum physics. What is impressive is that she is trying to create a platform to communicate emerging trends in quantum world through poetry. She thinks poetry can bring something unique in terms of presentation which may help us understand science in a better way.  In her own words she describes the power of poetic presentation :

“Poetry is a nuanced and complex form of language that goes beyond simple dictionary definitions of individual words. Poems use rhythm, visual structure, line breaks, word order, and other devices to explore invisible worlds, alter the flow of time, and depict the otherwise unimaginable”

Attempts to bring science and poetry together is an active effort now, as evidenced by projects such as “The Universe in Verse”, which is an emerging platform where scientist and poets not only exchange ideas but also get together to create something new. An early proponent of this philosophy is the poet Ursula K. Le Guin, who describes  beautifully why science and poetry are necessary to understand the world that is overloaded with information :

“Science describes accurately from outside, poetry describes accurately from inside. Science explicates, poetry implicates. Both celebrate what they describe. We need the languages of both science and poetry to save us from merely stockpiling endless “information” that fails to inform our ignorance or our irresponsibility.”

Whereas the above examples show how poets are embracing science, I should mention that scientist too have been active in this endeavor. Roald Hoffmann, the Nobel prize winning chemist is one of the great examples of this.

The combination of science and poetry  has interesting connection in ancient Indian tradition too. Specifically, many of the Sanskrit surtras essentially do this as evidenced in some old Indian texts. If you want to know more, I suggest you read this article by Roddam Narasimha. His work, in my opinion, is a reliable source on topics related to science in ancient India. Interestingly, many languages in India do combine poetry with puzzles. One example that immediately comes to my mind is a lyrical puzzle in Kannada by Purandara Dasa called Mullu koneya mele.

A famous essay by C.P. Snow titled “Two Cultures” observed that arts and science, which are two endeavors of human activities, have to come together for a richer intellectual human experience. A lot has been debated on this topic.  Perhaps, the above examples show that the two cultures indeed can inspire each other to create something neither of them can create individually. Of course, there is still a lot to achieve in this direction.

Science, arts and sports are three pursuits of human beings which are integral parts of our lives. Personally, I cannot imagine a world devoid of them. Let me conclude with a small poem I wrote sometime ago (this is a modified version that I had posted on facebook) :

Cycles of thought set question into motion,

it pours meaning into life as a cerebral conception.

Fathering an idea: a borrowed perception;

no endeavor is original, everything an inception.

Science, Arts and Sports are facets of inspiration;

after all, what is life without their juxtaposition.

ps : Disheartening to know the passing away of Indian actors Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor. A lot of people are sad… reinforces the importance of art and artists in human society.


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