Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

"Contemporary Poetry and Contemporary Science" by Robert Crawford (ed)

Poetry can use anything - even Science. Science can analyse anything - even Poetry. Poets and Scientists can share subject matter and method, but how many of the similarities are coincidental? Making a cupboard and making a meal both involve measurement, planning, and an awareness of aesthetics. Are they therefore different ways to achieve the same underlying aim? No, but they never claimed to, whereas Poetry and Science both have claims to be in pursuit of Truth. But is it even the same Truth? This book doesn't delve into such matters. It has essays by a range of Poets (Armitage, etc), Scientists (Jocelyn Bell Burnell - pulsar discoverer, etc), and Poet-Scientists (Holub).

The poets acknowledge that they are using more scientific terms nowadays - after all, science is part of the shared understanding between writer and reader. But my impression is that science analogies in poetry are less likely to ramify - mention of a "rose" will bring to mind a richer net of allusions than mention of "copper sulphate". Science terms are often end-points - even borders - of knowledge. None of the commissioned examples convinced me.

Burnside thinks "of the discipline of poetry as a slow, lyrical, and fairly tentative attempt to understand and describe a meaningful way of dwelling in this extraordinary world" (p.95). I didn't understand his chapter. Armitage thinks that "at some fundamental level ... poetry mimics the universe, and that the action of a poem intends to mirror the action of life as we understand it. I also believe this to be true of science" (p.119). He also thinks that "Life, as we know, imitates art, and science, I believe, imitates life". (p.120). Well, maybe ... but at least he was entertaining. Bell Burnell's chapter was well put together - my favorite. I learnt the most from Adalaide Morris's piece though. It compared structural devices in some recent poetry to the various recent advances in maths/science - complexity theory, etc.

No comments:

Post a Comment