The Universe in Verse

This past Saturday, I watched a livestream. Perhaps my first ever. The event was The Universe in Verse, billed as “a charitable celebration of science and nature through poetry.” (Here’s a link with more info from Pioneer Works, the Brooklyn-based cultural center that puts on the show: The Universe in Verse.)

There were two names on the program that got me to tune in: Janna Levin and Rebecca Solnit. I saw Janna Levin speak at Tulane University several years ago, and picked up a copy of her book Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space. And Rebecca Solnit is a writer whom I greatly admire.

Oh, and these other names helped sell me on the prospect of spending Saturday afternoon in front of my laptop: Kip Thorne, Brian Greene, Roxane Gay, Neil Gaiman, and Jad Abumrad.

At over three hours, I was glad I was watching a livestream versus an in-person event. I could carry my laptop around with me as I did stuff around the house. And by the end, I was happy to have experienced it. It helped get my head in a better place.

Some highlights for me: watching Rebecca Solnit read a lovely poem (I don’t remember which one) in front of an oak tree, somewhere out in California, I think. I’d never seen her before, I’ve only read her, and she had a very compelling presence. And Janna Levin, who opened the event (she’s on the Board of Directors for Pioneer Works) got me thinking back to an inspiration I had, when I saw her here 4 years ago. She told a story about something that happened during the construction of LIGO (the two observatories that detected gravitational waves — one of them just happens to be here in Louisiana). I’ve only just started getting that inspiration out of my head and onto the page, and this event reminded me that I’ve got to make the time for it.

I’ll leave you with one of the poems that stood out to me — it’s a short one. It was read by Krista Tippett of the radio program “On Being.”

The Peace of Wild Things
by
Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives might be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

One thought on “The Universe in Verse

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