Exploring Science through Poetry
Dr Sam Illingworth is a poet and Associate Professor at Edinburgh Napier University whose work and research focuses on using poetry as a medium through which to develop dialogues between different publics.
During October and November of this year, Edinburgh Napier University, in collaboration with the Scottish Poetry Library, embarked on an innovative journey. ‘Science Communication through Poetry‘ was not just an educational programme; it was a bridge connecting two seemingly disparate worlds.
My research and work in this area served as the foundation for this course, focusing on several key concepts:
- Poetry as a powerful communicative tool in science. We often view poetry and science as two different spectrums. However, poetry emerges as a powerful medium for disseminating scientific knowledge and fostering participatory learning.
- Diversity in poetry and science. The idea was not just to use poetry to diversify science but to ensure that the poetry itself is diverse. This approach helps in reflecting a multitude of voices and perspectives in scientific discourse.
- Poetry as creative data. Poetry is not just an art form; it can be a methodological tool and a form of creative data in scientific research.
- Interconnectedness of poetry and science. Through this course, we explored how poetry and science together can unravel truths about nature, humanity, and the cosmos, highlighting their interconnected nature.
Initially, I anticipated about ten registrants. Astonishingly, the course attracted 75 participants from across the globe, spanning from the west coast of America to the east coast of Australia. This diverse participation underscored the universal appeal and relevance of combining poetry with science.
Over four weeks, participants engaged in reading, sharing, and writing poetry. The sessions were not just about learning; they were about exploring the role of poetry in diversifying and communicating science. This collaborative environment facilitated a unique blend of scientific understanding and poetic expression.
The course culminated in a graduation event at the Scottish Poetry Library. Here, participants, both in person and virtually, shared a selection of poems they had developed, a testament to the power of poetry in science communication.
Personally, the course was a profoundly enriching experience. It reinforced my belief in the complementary roles of poetry and science in helping us make sense of the world. The interaction with participants and their diverse perspectives added layers of understanding and appreciation for both fields.
The poems compiled from this course represent an insightful, creative, and inclusive approach to communicating science. Each poem, penned by participants, offers a unique lens through which we can view and understand scientific concepts.
‘Science Communication through Poetry’ offered a novel approach to bridging the gap between art and science. It provided a fresh perspective on how we can communicate and comprehend scientific concepts. By integrating poetry with empirical knowledge, the initiative gently nudged open a door to new possibilities, allowing for a more nuanced appreciation and understanding of the intricate and diverse aspects of our world.
Dr Sam Illingworth is a poet and Associate Professor at Edinburgh Napier University whose work and research focuses on using poetry as a medium through which to develop dialogues between different publics. You can find out more about his work via his website www.samillingworth.com.