It may often seem that poetry and science are at odds with one another—the former typically associated with subjectivity and emotion, and the latter with objectivity and facts—but poets have long looked to scientific endeavors and discoveries for inspiration. Whether one chooses to write about quantum entanglement or bioluminescence, the weather on Mars or nanotechnology, the science of language or the language of science, the merging of science and poetry often leads to dazzling results (you might say they have good chemistry!), in part because scientific discoveries open doors into new realities and unfamiliar ways of understanding the world. This one-week intensive workshop will consider the potential yields of this creative relationship. Through a series of exercises and experiments, we will write poems that respond to the findings of contemporary science, using poets who incorporate scientific material into their work as our guides. As we write these poems, we will pay attention to the ways in which “researching”—using concepts derived from specific sources, and looking outside our immediate experience for poetic material—affects the way we write poems more generally. We will also consider the intermingling of form, content, and figurative language in our work, and contemplate the ways subject matter does (or can) dictate the unique construction of a poem. At the end of the week, I will email each student a letter of detailed feedback on the poems written during the course.
Sara Eliza Johnson's first book, Bone Map (Milkweed Editions, 2014), was selected for the 2013 National Poetry Series. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in the Boston Review, Ninth Letter, Pleiades, Meridian, the Best New Poets series, Salt Hill, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award, two Winter Fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, a scholarship to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and an Academy of American Poets Prize from the University of Utah. She is currently the managing editor of Quarterly West.