Poetry, Astrophysics and Stephen Hawking

Public domain image of fractal


It takes special genius to contemplate the intimate relationship of poetry and astrophysics. Poet Sarah Howe, a Fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute is such a genius and her poem Relativity (below) subtly probes human experience by locating us in the nearly incomprehensible, ever-expanding universe (“a universe that dopplers away like a siren’s midnight cry.”) Howe created the poem in honor of Stephen Hawking of Cambridge University. Her short piece in a recent issue of The Paris Review explains her approach to the subject and illuminates some of the astrophysical concepts underlying the poem. A few minutes spent with Howe’s poetic tour of our physical universe renews our sense of wonder at what’s evident about our world – and reminds us of how much remains unfathomable to even those with a metaphysical bent.

Check out the poem “Relativity” over at Medium.

Steve Harty

Photo Credit: Public domain image of fractal

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1 comment on “Poetry, Astrophysics and Stephen Hawking

  1. Edward Maliszewski

    Science vs Poetry :
    Polish poet Juliusz Słowacki [1809-1849] wrote between 1843/4-1846? a mystical prose poem entitled “Genesis from the Spirit” published in 1871. If we reduce the mystical parts of the poem to a minimum and leave only the purely « objective » parts, we arrive at his poetic description of the “Big Bang” :
    “…The Spirit… turned one point… of invisible space into a flash of Magnetic-Attractive Forces. And these turned into electric and lightning bolds – And they warmed up in the Spirit… You, Lord, forced him… to flash with destructive fire… You turned the Spirit… into a ball of fire and hung him on the abysses… And here… a circle spirits… he grabbed one handful of globes and swirled them around like a fiery rainbow… “
    This is how poetic intuition could anticipate the scientific discoveries…
    (see :,big-bang-according-to-the-19th-century-polish-poet-j-slowacki )

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