Sunday, July 03, 2016

A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes

22856182A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes / Madhur Anand
Toronto: McLelland & Stewart, c2015.
112 p.

Some months ago now, I was sent a copy of this book of poetry for review, after noting how much the combination of poetry and science would appeal to me. The cover is gorgeous, and the poet is a scientist with a literary flair.

It was a great book to dip into again over this long weekend. It focuses on science & technology in a way that appeals to the senses, for example, with a poem about hex codes -- but also takes the ideas further, into a prediction of catastrophes both broad and personal. 

The language plays with scientific constructs in a way that is not off-putting to the non-scientist, rather it's the use of a particular vocabulary that enchants. Anand takes concepts and ideas and expands them into themes with multiple shadings of meaning. Like with other more traditional nature poetry, the scientific content stands in for other things even while having its own presence. I love the combination of science and art so for me this was a perfect mix.

The poems are brief and vivid. Some of them pull more from an individual event - for example, one poem I loved was about her mother's sewing. Sewing is another fine example of the blend between technology and art, one that I value highly, and so I found this poem personally memorable. But the language is so engaging in itself that anyone who reads poetry just for its sound will enjoy this too.

Anand has created a scientific guide that just happens to be written in poetry; she describes the natural world beautifully, and writes that she uses a 13 syllable line in many poems, reflecting the atomic mass of carbon (which I didn't know, or notice - it is in the notes!) And she includes one of my favourite things, the found poem; in this case, she is using lines pulled from scientific articles, all sources footnoted of course.

I recommend this beautiful and down-to-earth book of poetry; it's stimulating, accessible, and provides a new perspective on many daily things. It's also lovely to browse through again and again, to discover new favourites each time.

Read two poems from this collection at The New Quarterly.

View a brief interview here:




Further Reading:

Another poet & writer who melds science and poetry well is Alice Major - her book of essays Intersecting Sets: A Poet Looks at Science is a wonderful read. And she has a new book of scientifically inspired poems, Standard Candles, which I'm currently reading.

Alissa York's The Naturalist is a new novel but it also appeals to the science-minded in its exploration of the ecosystem of the Amazon, through Victorian eyes. If want to experience another writer who can describe nature gorgeously, this is the one to pick up.

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