Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sonnets from The Voyage of the Beagle

 The sonnet is a song of the body as well as of the mind:
14 breaths    
5 heartbeats each breath

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to be part of a poetry reading that also featured Rick Mullin -- who serves science as an editor of the Chemical and Engineering News -- and whose latest poetry book is a collection of sonnets that offer a magical and musical retelling of  Darwin's voyage -- in Sonnets from The Voyage of the Beagle (Dos Madres Press, 2014). Here are two selections from that collection -- the opening sonnet (first of a triptych) and a later one that features geometry of birds.

     After Uranus     by Rick Mullin
      On reading Richard Holmes 


     There was an age when poetry and science
     shared the province of discovery,
     when Coleridge wished he's studied chemistry
     and Humphry Davy, in exact defiance
     of the Royal Society, blew things up.
     Beginning with the voyages of Cook,
     Romantics thought to throw away the book,
     surrendering to Nature's golden cup.
     Erasmus Darwin, poet and physician,
     founding member of the Luminaires
     of Birmingham, endowed his grandson Charles
     with the epoch's spirit, tuned to the affairs
     of natural history and vying for position.
     This was an age of lore and light and laurels.

          Distant Circles     by Rick Mullin
                In Patagonia, April, 1833

          Beyond the far range of the human eye
          the vultures glide and gain intelligence.
          And they descend.  A godly elegance
          escorts them from their round cotillion high
          above the puma's kill.  They do not nest
          but nestle in the cliff face crevices.
          I've startled 20 from a precipice.
          And anywhere that I lie down to rest
          in daylight I can see, as in a dream,
          their earthward coil, a phalanx tethering
          the Nextworld to the sky.  I see them sail
          on steady wings.  I think I hear them scream.
          Today I shot a condor measuring
          8 feet in wingspan, 5 from beak to tail.

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