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This article is taken from PN Review 187, Volume 35 Number 5, May - June 2009.

Resonant Images and Staunch Imaginings John Whale

The publication last October of Maurice Riordan and Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s Dark Matter: Poems of Space is the latest in a long line of recent collaborations designed to remedy the supposed opposition between poetry and science. Other notable examples of such creative interaction between the two activities include Robert Crawford’s Contemporary Poetry and Contemporary Science (2006), ‘Poetry and Science North East’ (2005), an event sponsored by the Poetry Society and the Newcastle Lit and Phil, and the ongoing work of Liverpool University’s Centre for Poetry and Science which collaborates with researchers at Cardiff University. As long ago as 1984 John Heath-Stubbs and Phillips Salmon edited a Penguin anthology entitled Poems of Science (1984); and, of course, as contributors to Crawford’s volume of essays point out, there has been a long-standing and fertile interaction between poetry and science since ancient times. Simon Armitage, writing in the same volume, makes the brief but intriguing claim that: ‘Science, like poetry, deals in likeness, similitude and equivalence’. This perception of a convergence of interests helps us understand two notable collections of 2008: Jon Glover’s Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Jeffrey Wainwright’s Clarity or Death!

Glover and Wainwright demonstrate in their different but related ways how some of our best contemporary poetry continues to engage with recent advances in science, not simply by reaching out to it as separate, specialised and exotic, but by seeing it as part of the fabric of our lives. They make particle physics, neuroscience, medical imaging, mathematics, and ...

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