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Sarah Lindsay: “Origin”

In the final weeks of 2013, we featured Pushcart Prize-nominated work from recent issues of Poetry Northwest. This week, at the turn of the year: a poem from Sarah Lindsay, winner of a 2013 Pushcart Prize, introduced by the poet. Isn’t evolution fascinating? The first draft of “Origin,” called “Original Life,” was written on November 30, 2008. Before that came a half-sheet with “What if the first cell felt no need to divide?” written across it. Smaller notes underneath include a list of things the cell did not experience, a mention of volcanic eruptions, and the embarrassing possibility that I considered rhyming “wobble” with “incomparable” (but perhaps their spatial association was unintentional). Squeezed in at the bottom is what became the last line of the poem. From the first draft, that line never changed. The first draft felt no call to rhyme, and spread down the page accommodating asteroids, neutrinos, and dividing continents, all of which the poem shed in 2010 and 2011. Besides the last line, just two others—“Its endoplasmic reticulum / was a …

Timothy Donnelly: “The Earth Itself”

The unstoppable eccentric visionary antiquarian scholar-priest Athanasius Kircher is pretty high on my list of heroes. Born in 1601 outside the city of Fulda, not far from the geographical heart of today’s Germany, Kircher’s beautifully illustrated books on Egyptology, magnetism, acoustics, Kabbalah, numerology, volcanology and an array of other subjects exuberate over the world’s inexhaustible complexity, its baroque convolution of matter and spirit, sparing no detail as they reveal how all creation is “bound by secret knots.” In his Turris Babel, a treatise on linguistics by way of a compendium of pre-classical architecture, Kircher crunches all kinds of numbers in order demonstrate how doomed an idea the Tower of Babel was, concluding, among other things, that it would have required no fewer than 374,731,250,000,000,000 bricks to build.

Catherine Wing: “Self-Medication”

I hate New Year’s Day. There’s something dull and numb about it—beyond the hangover—that never fails to feel disheartening. Some years ago, when I was still lucky enough to be living in Seattle, my writing group proposed to meet on New Year’s Day as an antidote to the annual drear. Even if we had no new work to share we would at least write something and fend off the prevailing sense of the wasted day. So on January 1, 2008, we were somewhere in our pre-writing preamble when my good friend Ariana mentioned that she had decided not to drink for a while. Now, Ariana is no heavy drinker, quite far from it, and she went on to explain that she was doing so to remind herself where her edges were—because alcohol, it seemed to her, is a kind of situational softener, and she wanted to be reminded of her sharper aspects. By which she meant her more difficult—edgier—self. The poem “Self-Medication” was born entirely from this idea. What are we at our edges and …

Vis-à-Vis Society: “Scientific Method: Am I In Love?” and “Scientific Method: Noir Sestina”

Editor’s note: Our objective is to determine whether the relationship between poetry and science is field-specific, or something. We hypothesize that a sentence will grow best when infected by the same ideas, images and methods that occur within either field.  Preliminary results have been published in the Poetri Dish [experiments in verse] section of Poetry Northwest, Spring & Summer 2012 (v7.n1).  Here, doctors Ink and Owning of Vis-à-Vis Society offer further findings: — Scientific Method: Am I In Love? Question: Am I in love? Research: I sleep in a bed with another, I have held his breath in my mouth. Hypothesis: If I run away, I will know. Experiment: Fog up the window and see whose name your finger writes. Observation: Made it all the way to Vancouver: wrote one name, smudged it out. Results: It is true, the finger moves. Report: Scientists in their lab coats leap to their feet in applause! +++ Scientific Method: Noir Sestina From a broken phone booth she called our her question, under-eye circles purple as bruises told of …

Amit Majmudar: “On Richness of Metaphor”

When it comes to poetry, metaphor is cake to me, and music is icing. Personal details are sprinkles, and frankly I can do without them. The Furor Poeticus is a lit candle stuck in the cake. Or, in the best cases, a lit stick of dynamite. There are poets out there who think of metaphor as an “ornament” to poetry. They go for lush descriptions. They go for hushed statements. They go for wry non sequiturs. My eyes glaze over when I read their work. It helps if they rhyme or scan or something, but even then I get bored. Tell me the hailstorm nails a coffin shut on summer’s green shroud, though, and suddenly my mind is a dachshund flushing out the badger of meaning. I’ve noticed that the poets of my generation really love non sequiturs. Straight non sequiturs are easy. Metaphor is the non sequitur that means. English may be rhyme poor (so I am told; this has not been my experience in practice), but all languages are equally metaphor-rich. O my …

Amit Majmudar: “The Tender-Hearted Hard Science”

Editor’s note: Continuing the Science theme of the current print issue (Spring & Summer 2012, v7.n1), Amit Majmudar reflects on the ability of both poetry and science to “isolate and emphasize important information.” — When I tell people I am a doctor and a writer, the reaction usually has two parts. First comes the mild bewilderment about how I find the time. You get this reaction from other doctors and other writers alike: Both groups know how much dedication is required for competence, let alone excellence, in either field. (I don’t know how other doctor-writers do it, but I don’t sleep much, and when I’m awake, I don’t fool around.) The second part of the reaction is a loss of bewilderment. A little reflection reveals that I am not so special after all—people recall just how many of us there have been, both historical (Sir Thomas Browne, Anton Chekhov, William Carlos Williams) and more contemporary (Robin Cook, Khaled Hosseini, and Michael Crichton, who got famous just in time to avoid a residency). There are a …

Spring & Summer 2012 – The Science Issue

As languages approaching the mysteries of existence and advancing the limits of human understanding, poetry and science have more in common than you may think. The Spring & Summer 2012 issue is devoted to the theme of the sciences as poets encounter them, and vice versa. Featuring: Linda Bierds, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Timothy Donnelly, Amy Greacen, Bob Hicok, Richard Kenney, Katherine Larson, Sarah Lindsay, and many more. Subscribe now, and we’ll start you off with the best in left brain/right brain thinking. Meanwhile, catch contributors Linda Bierds and Bob Hicok at The Skagit Valley Poetry Festival, Friday & Saturday, May 18 & 19. We’ll be there too. Stop by our table and say hi!

Bob Hicok: “Fortune Teller”

Bob Hicok, whose sciencey and seriocomic poems appear in the current, science-themed issue of Poetry Northwest (v7.n1), makes a rare landing in the Northwest this May 17-20 at the Skagit River Poetry Festival in La Conner, WA.  He will read with poets Nikki Giovanni and Marie Howe on Saturday night, as well as participate in various events and conversations throughout the weekend.  See the festival schedule for more info. Here, in a web-exclusive poem–cousin of sorts to the pieces appearing in the print issue–the search for intelligent life comes to an end. — The fortune teller cannot tell me if Americans will come to believe in evolution. “You will get a sliver of cedar in your hand,” she says, kissing my palm where Christ would have had a scab, whose father made everything, including Band-Aids, according to polls. And what about the oceans? Will senators admit we’re breaking them? Her eyes roll to white, a wave of capitalism snaps her flesh to and fro in her chair, “I see a woman telling you not to …

The Science Issue — now available

As languages approaching the mysteries of existence and advancing the limits of human understanding, poetry and science have more in common than you may think. The Spring & Summer 2012 issue is devoted to the theme of the sciences as poets encounter them, and vice versa. Featuring: Linda Bierds, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Timothy Donnelly, Amy Greacen, Bob Hicok, Richard Kenney, Katherine Larson, Sarah Lindsay, and many more. Subscribe now, and we’ll start you off with the best in left brain/right brain thinking. Meanwhile, catch contributors Linda Bierds and Bob Hicok at The Skagit Valley Poetry Festival, Friday & Saturday, May 18 & 19. We’ll be there too. Stop by our table and say hi!