Poetry and Science: Two Great Things that Go Great Together
Summary:Like peanut butter and chocolate, science and poetry are two great things that go great together, an idea that has been celebrated since 2017 by The Universe in Verse. Originally published on April 23, 2020
Do you remember the ads for Reeces Peanut Butter Cups from the 1980s (if not, you can view one here) where two people, one who loves chocolate and one who loves peanut butter, bump into each other, and the peanut butter gets all over the chocolate? The ads end in the jingle “two great tastes that taste great together.” Well, hold onto your hats, because that is what April 25 is going to feel like.
Scientists, are you aware that April is national poetry month? Poets, do you know that April 25 is DNA day? Like peanut butter and chocolate, science and poetry are two great things that go great together, an idea that has been celebrated since 2017 by The Universe in Verse. According to Brainpickings, “Since 2017, The Universe in Verse has been celebrating the natural world — the science, the splendor, the mystery of it — through poetry . . . bypassing our habitual barricades of thought and feeling to reveal reality afresh.”
This event has traditionally been a face-to-face, ticketed charitable event, and this year’s profits were meant to support Pioneer Works and their efforts to build the first ever public observatory in New York City (how has this great city never had a public observatory?). Because of COVID 19 and shelter-in-place orders, The Universe in Verse will be broadcast free at 4:30 PM EST this Saturday, April 25, 2020. According to their promotional materials viewers can expect readings of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich, Pablo Neruda, June Jordan, Mary Oliver, Audre Lorde, Wendell Berry, Hafiz, Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, and others, performed by a cast of scientists and artists, astronauts and poets, Nobel laureates and Grammy winners: Physicists Janna Levin, Kip Thorne, and Brian Greene, musicians Rosanne Cash, Patti Smith, Amanda Palmer, Zoë Keating, Morley, and Cécile McLorin Salvant, poets Jane Hirshfield, Ross Gay, Marie Howe, and Natalie Diaz, astronomers Natalie Batalha and Jill Tarter, authors Rebecca Solnit, Elizabeth Gilbert, Masha Gessen, Roxane Gay, Robert Macfarlane, and Neil Gaiman, astronaut Leland Melvin, playwright and activist V (formerly Eve Ensler), actor Natascha McElhone, entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, artists Debbie Millman, Dustin Yellin, and Lia Halloran, cartoonist Alison Bechdel, radio-enchanters Krista Tippett and Jad Abumrad, and composer Paola Prestiniwith the Young People’s Chorus.
If, like me, you think science and poetry are two great things that go great together, tune in. And if, like me, you think New York City needs a public observatory, make this an occasion to donate to Pioneer Works.
And, of course, if the spirit of the day moves you, craft a poem of your own celebrating the nature of the universe and put it in your pocket, because by then, we’ll only be 5 days away from Poem in Your Pocket Day.