Sunday, April 20, 2008

Elegant Worms and Feminist Poetry

Well, April is half over and it took posts by PalMD and GrrlScientist over at Science Blogs to remind me that we're in the middle of National Poetry Month (I am so ashamed). So, in honor of those cultured scientists, the first poem I will be posting for Poetry Month will feature C. elegans.

The poem below was penned by Doctor Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, the current poet laureate of Virgina and one of my personal heroes. Throughout her life, Doc has been not only an inspired poet and artist, but also a tremendous inspiration for young women searching for the confidence to explore their artistic voices and the world that surrounds them. Her most recent collection, River Country, includes this simultaneous poem:

Elegant Worms
Thousands of C. elegans aboard the shuttle Columbia as part of a science experiment survived the crash on February 1, 2003. These pinhead-size roundworms share many biological traits with humans.

The sky’s an estuary blue
Are we not like you?
when suddenly air sucks

thousands of you

through a bloom of particles.

You spiral downward

sometimes slithery,
in a manmade coffin

that catches flashes of fire,

we feed on
glints, metal bits

rot and decay,
tumbling toward chaos.

on earth.
All of you give birth

We illuminate,
before dying, something

to leave behind

come spring when we open

your silver-lined canister:

more of us:
each of you under a microscope

smooth-skinned, cylindrical,

tapered, elegant

among rotting plants.

Hear distant bells?
You thrive, granting us

wisdom in laboratories,

roots of lilies
crusty black pearls

call us
clinging to your shoulders

to loosen
while you tug and pull

red-bellied clay
at bruised vegetation.

in the hollow dark.
How did you manage

the fall from grace?

we saved ourselves,
Did you curl into yourselves,

and in a freefall

micron by micron
imagine a snake’s charm

from the wheeling fall,
and twirl? Did you clip

pieces of shiny clouds to shape

shutting down
into parachutes?

into stasis,
Here in a Petri dish

that fills and empties

like death.
with suppositions,

We survived.
you—tiny miracles—

We—C. elegans—
carry pieces of roots

on your backs which bear

like strong rope your plunge.

remained motionless
Undeterred, you stir from sleep

to stay alive.
and go on with your lives.

From: River Country (San Francisco Bay Press, 2008)
Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

Even though I've gotten a late start, I would like to continue to post good feminist poetry, or poetry by women, thorough out the rest of April. Anyone have any best-loved poems that they'd like to see posted?


Casmall said...

Thanks for posting this, C.elegans is my most definitely my favorite worm.
I'm reading this i can't help but think of the scale of things. That these worms are very small, so small that this catastrophe was, to them, not much more them having their puddle stirred. Before that, they were in space! Which to them is not unlike not having your puddle stirred.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Hey, I'm glad you like it! Now, go buy me the book!

A reader also sent me this definition of simultaneous poetry today, which is much more complete than the one on Wikipedia:

"A simultaneous poem is one in which two or more independent lines of discourse, each essentially self-sufficient, weave in and out of each other creating an additional discourse. One of the best-known examples is Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair/Canticle: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.” In this poem the second voice is sung simultaneously with the first--i.e., the voices overlap, thereby enhancing the duality of themes, such as war vs. peace, and suggesting the polarity of all existence."