Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Guest Post: Mary Alexandra Agner

This is a guest post by Mary Alexandra Agner for the "Couplets" project for National Poetry Month.

I write about women in science because I was one and the past is the source of all my poems, no matter what tense I write them in.  I write poems about women in science because I wish their stories were more well-known, because I wish they had been available to me as I went through academia.  I write poems about science because I find it beautiful, full of metaphor for understanding the parts of life that do not follow mathematical rules, and equal to the mindfulness required to steep oneself in a poem.

My newest book, The Scientific Method, highlights the lives of women scientists.  Some of them are well-known, like Grace Hopper, some of them were found in obscure corners of the internet devoted to perserving the achievements of women, like Mary Sears.  There are also poems about science rather than scientists, celebrating moss, my favorite equations (Navier-Stokes), plate tectonics.  They came out, one at a time, over a period of many years, accumulating great mass before I would let myself realize that this part of my life was a fertile ground for poem seeds. Now, I cannot stop them.  (Indeed, now they even come out as prose: http://tinyurl.com/7gnl3aq.)

In "Song of Steel", I write about Clara Haber's choices in life and how they are a lesson for the narrator of the poem.  But as I conceived it and as I revised it, her choices and that lesson became an inspiration to me. If the narrator of the poem could take to heart what Clara's life taught, then so could I.  It's unlikely that any appreciable number of women scientists or women students in science will read my poems but inspiring or introducing a like-minded role model to just one would be incredible.

Tags: gender studies, holiday, poetry, reading, science, writing

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