I am fortunate to work in an environment where communication between arts and science is valued. My colleague, Peter Fenn has run a ‘Science Poetry’ competition for the past three years. This is a poetry competition for students in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University. Every year, it attracts more than 160 entries. Peter’s experience with this has led him to question whether the Science / Arts ‘two cultures’ divide actually exists and look for new ways of fostering links between them. Peter is supported in this initiative by three poets: John McAuliffe at the Centre for New Writing Wendy Cope and Lachlan McKinnon.
In 2012, I worked with some of the student poets to record their poems here. The poets are students of Engineering, Maths and Science at the University of Manchester. Although the poems written in English their readings are strongly influenced by the cultures of the poets. The voices remind me of what an international environment we work in. It is inspirational to think these students are writing poetry in what may be their second or third language. The styles are very different and I had some great conversations about the meaning of the poems.
One of the Science Poets, Tom Day-Goodacre identifies ‘wonder’ as a common root of Science and Poetry saying: ‘Science is Wonder understood, while poetry describes it as nothing else could.’ This conversation between engineers, scientists and poets is definitely something wonderful, long may it continue.
This year, students were allowed to view and comment on the other poems – on the custom built website here. Some of the student poets also submitted recordings of their poems. The winning entry was by Holly Jones, who as well as being a scientist and a poet is also a talented cartoonist. Her illustrated poem is a tongue in cheek take on the trials and tribulations of postdoctoral life and can be found here. She’s got a little list…. I would like to hear someone record this poem.