Spectral Lines: Poems about Scientists

I was lucky enough to receive a free download of this book during SmolFair 2021.

Not knowing what to expect, I was able to freely enjoy this collection of poems about scientists, written by more than 60 poets and curated and edited by Leah Angstman. The author’s experience levels ranges from ‘debutante’ through ‘award winning’ and ‘Pushcart nominated’ and writing professor. Most, but not all, are American. Each author was permitted 50 words in addition to their poetry to explain their choice of scientist-topic.

Over sixty poems there is a lot to enjoy, and if you think that it won’t take much time to read 126 pages of mostly short poems, (most are no more than a page) you might find yourself surprised and taking more time than you expected, to give each poem time.

Michael H Levin’s ‘Trinity’ is excellently chilling. There are several contributions about Marie Curie from Kathy Ackerman, Ilan Mochari writes a longer poetic tale from which I learned that Santa Anna spent time in New York City, Sarah Mooney finds worlds of possibility while scrubbing a ‘Bathtub’, Wilda Morris takes us to Egypt with Gertude Caton Thompson, Charles Kersey manages to write not only a poem about scientists, but also one that rhymes, it’s ‘Elemental’. Catharina Coenen’s poem, along with the contributions of Tani Arness, Carrie Purcell Kahler, Elosham Vog stood out for me, as did Neil Rhind’s ability to use ‘axolotl’ in poetry. The first half of Carol Barrett’s poem, ‘Milk’, brings the urgency of discovery disgracefully discounted across to us through decades and Leah Bishop’s poem ‘Pharmaceutical Chemistry’ brings a somewhat anonymously personal and fitting end to the collection.

While a few of these poems aren’t quite as spectacular as others, and there is a bit of repetition of ‘the usual suspects’ of modern pop science heroes (Alan Turing shows up more than once, as well as Madame Curie) there are also scientists here that I’ve never had the pleasure of learning about before. This is a poetry collection that I recommend, particularly if you are able to get a copy during one of Alternating Current’s sales or promotion events. I am grateful that I was able to get a copy during SmolFair. Thanks!

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