A Portrait of the Scientist as a Young Poet: #esof2012 goes lyrical

T. V. Padma

T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net

In the land of James Joyce and William Butler Yeats, it was only natural that the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) officially kicked off on Wednesday with some poetry inspired by

A statue of James Joyce

‘There is no past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present’ – Joyce’s take on the science of time

science. This was in addition to some foot-tapping Irish dances, uilleann pipes, and the useful tip that it is best to hold a science conference a week after the discovery of the Higgs Boson, when science holds the interest of both the public and newspapers.

Meanwhile, the worlds of science and poetry are not entirely dissimilar, as Ireland’s president, Michael Higgins, reminded the audience at the ESOF opening ceremony on Wednesday. Poets and scientists both respond to nature and may also “be the beneficiaries of serendipity,” Higgins said.

The conference asked 20 Irish poets to write on science in 12 lines. The resulting book of 20 poems included in our conference kits also symbolised the value in bringing together the creative potential of science, the arts and culture.

One of the contributors, Maurice Riordan, had remarked in 2001 that most poems on science tended to focus on ‘heavenly bodies and lower forms of life’.  Not so in the collection of poems at ESOF, some quirky and some lyrical. The poets dwelt on the moon, stars, light, time, quantum physics, zebrafish, whale fall ….. and a microchip planted in the brain.

My pick would be the poem titled ‘Eureka’ — by poet and playwright Celia de Freine — which ends with typical Irish humour:

‘I had a choice once between science

and domestic economy: before long

I found that I preferred to feel pastry

Against my palate and poplin on my skin

Besides a day spent slaving in the lab to prove

An aul lad ran down the street stark naked.’

This blog post is part of our ESOF 2012 blog which takes place 11-15 July, 2012. To read news and analysis on themes related to the conference please visit our website.

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