Monday, January 17, 2011

Science Poems for January 2011: 17

Mary and I both had a blast tuning in to Science Online 2011 from home, including the live-streamed discussions provided by the National Association of Science Writers. Thanks to everyone who made the event possible!

Last April I posted a science sonnet a day in celebration of National Poetry Month (index with links here). This month I am posting a science poem a day, written in various traditional forms, in honor of Science Online.

The "fifth annual international meeting on Science and the Web" ran from Jan. 13-16. Click on the logo below to access the conference page, which has links to posts, tweets, photos, and videos from this past weekend.

As with the sonnets, my January poems take their cues from science-based articles. I also have two works in a special science poem section (vol. 33 #5/6) of Star*Line, journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. You can read my "Ciliate Sestina" here.

Also, two sonnets from last April's collection, "In Development" and "Manipulations," have made it into Open Laboratory 2010 Click on the badge below for links to the 50 essays, 6 poems, and 1 cartoon in the collection.

(Click hereto see Andrea Kuszewski's gorgeous cover!)

Today's poem takes its cue from "Jan. 15, 1929: Birth of a Moral Compass, Even for Science" (Tony Long, Wired, Jan. 15, 2011) and "The Quest for Peace and Justice" (Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1964). Click on the links to learn more. To learn more about the traditional poetic structure used, click on the form name.

On The Threshold
(after Martin Luther King, Jr.)

(Form: Blank Verse)

Our "threshold of the future," in the past,
In nineteen-sixty-four enwrapped the crowd
As Martin Luther King intoned his words
In Oslo on a cold December night.
Of human rights he spoke, but he spoke, too,
Of science -- of how bridges "span[ned] the seas"
And buildings "kiss[ed] the skies." His Nobel Prize
In hand, he warned the technically rich
That spiritual poverty increased
Despite machines that thought and tools that peered
Into the depths of interstellar space,
Despite dwarfed distances and "time in chains."
For different chains continued to be forged
That sundered brotherhood from modern life.

He termed the "haunting problem" that we faced
A moral and a spiritual "lag,"
For how, without a soul impressed to grow
Could we survive devices we had made
Where "ethical infantilism" ruled,
In poverty and war and racial strife?
"The deficit is in [the] human will."
But science has the wherewithal to place
Necessities of life within our grasp,
And atoms in their versatility
Can point the way to "worldwide fellowship."

Jet liners over ghettoes cut a trail
And satellites are streaking higher still.
Above our heads where feast or famine rule
The self-same moon within our orbit hangs,
Reminding us today as it had then
That King's address still echoes in our midst.
Beyond his quotes within a phosphor screen,
His message glows across our World Wide Web.
The lag of which he warned us all remains.
His dream of peace and hope and love endures.

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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