Poems of Dark Matter

April 7, 2010

I see that BBC Four, in its ‘Beautiful Minds’ series, is beginning with Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell tonight. Last night we were privileged to meet her at the SPL, where she and another distinguished astrophysicist, Paul Murdin, read and talked about the poetry of the cosmos, a welcome collaboration with the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Here that old division between the cultures of poetry and science was dissolved, because both write of immensities with a lovely precision. Like the dark matter about which both astrophysicists and poets speak so eloquently, poetry itself can be invisible to the naked eye and yet cause disturbances, effects, that are felt on a large scale. Nick Laird’s poem for Paul Murdin, ‘The Effects’ described this beautifully. Although Dame Jocelyn chose Walt Whitman’s poem ‘When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer‘ which mocks the dry abstract scientists and contrasts them with the effect of walking out beneath the stars, in fact these two learned astronomers dazzled us with their discoveries.

~ Robyn

2 Responses to “Poems of Dark Matter”

  1. sunnydunny Says:

    She was great on the telly. Shame I couldn’t meet her in person.


  2. […] We’ve been eventing in all kinds of ways, most recently just last night with a Nothing But the Poem session here with Ryan, Stewart Conn’s launch and the week before with Dark Matter: Poems about Space. […]


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