Science and poetry: what they have in common

While confronting — on the page and in person — those who wield shotguns and bulldozers, John Kinsella in Poetry drops in a fascinating digression about what poetry and science have in common:

The language of poetry, even in its most lyrical modes, is a
language of specific usage—poetry is about arrangement, selection, and
presentation as much as what’s said. That process of knowledge
regarding expression is, to me, scientific.

Science per se is a process of investigation, observation, patterning
through to hypothesis, and rests in the scrutinizable and systematic
acquisition of knowledge. That’s what a poem is to me too.


No poem really knows a
truth, but it has knowledge and offers ways of approaching truth. The
use of language is precise, even when it gives a semblance of the
unconscious, even when it is automatic wr


For me, because of this, poems can stop bulldozers. Not because they just say “stop bulldozer,” but because the intricacies of language challenge, distract, and entangle the bulldozer.

In his next breath, Kinsella argues that too often science tries to control the world, and profit from it.

Point taken — yet one can sense beneath his anger an abiding respect.

Both science and poetry search for the truth of the world. Both fundamentally believe in this most old-fashioned of notions. (Unlike economics, pedagogy, politics, theology, bureaucracy, and post-modern disciplines, which to me seem to have no real faith in the world, only in their own framing.)

[Photographer juli modul puts it another way when she asks: Is beauty science?]


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

One thought on “Science and poetry: what they have in common

  1. Gary Paul Nabhan wrote a fine book, “Cross Pollinations- The Marriage of Science and Poetry”. Nabhan is a botanist and a great writer. Here’s a link to his books:

    I also like the novels of Rudy Rucker, who is a mathematician and novelist. Most of his books are science fiction, but he has also written poetry and mainstream fiction. He’s also a pretty good painter and photographer.

    Here’s a link to his blog, which includes links to most of his books.


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