I hear it’s National Poetry Month, but poetry is way out of my skill set. I was sent this interesting poem about Darwin today, though, so that will be my contribution.

If you want poetry with themes similar to what I write about, I suggest you read Phawrongula. It’s still being updated with new stuff!


  1. fusilier says

    Very Nice.

    I’m involved in a BB discussion with an antievolutionist who is throwing up the usual Argument from Consequences garbage. I may just cite this.

    –not that it’ll do any good, I understand–

    fusilier, who who’s been involved in Earth Day from the beginning and needs to get downtown
    James 2:24

  2. says

    I doubt whether Darwin read novels because “he’d had enough of dying species” and “the endless struggle to survive”. I think it more likely that it was an escape from writing his books and answering all the letters he used to get (and maybe even from his large family!).

  3. Skeptyk says

    Check out “Birthday”, PZ, she asks “what about octopodes”! Her translators are amazing. I don’t read Polish (my husband does), but it is a very phonetic, WYSIWYG language, so just read some lines side by side out loud to appreciate the rhythm and the translators. http://www.arlindo-correia.com/wislawa_szymborska_2.html#Urodziny_

    I love Szymborska. I have a beautiful handmade book (from Ediciones Vigia in Cuba) with her “The End and the Beginning” in Polish, Spanish, English and French, and once gave a bilingual book of her poems to my husband.

    Thanks, PZ, for inspiring me to reopen my several volumes of her work, prose and poetry. She is a terrific essayist as well (in Clare Cavanaugh’s translation).

  4. says

    Darwin and evolution (or various versions of social darwinism) have been rattling around in writers’ imaginations almost since “The Origin of Species” appeared, although it was “The Descent of Man” that really got the ball rolling. Here’s Robinson Jeffers, writing in 1941 to tell us why we shouldn’t fret about WWII:

    The Bloody Sire

    It is not bad. Let them play.
    Let the guns bark and the bombing-plane
    Speak his prodigious blasphemies.
    It is not bad, it is high time,
    Stark violence is still the sire of all the world’s values.

    What but the wolf’s tooth whittled so fine
    The fleet limbs of the antelope?
    What but fear winged the birds, and hunger
    Jeweled with such eyes the great goshawk’s head?
    Violence has been the sire of all the world’s values.

    Who would remember Helen’s face
    Lacking the terrible halo of spears?
    Who formed Christ but Herod and Caesar,
    The cruel and bloody victories of Caesar?
    Violence, the bloody sire of all the world’s values.

    Never weep, let them play,
    Old violence is not too old to beget new values.

    Among the most interesting evolution-themed novels are Samuel Butler’s “Erewhon,” H.G. Wells’s “The Island of Doctor Moreau,” Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild,” and Greg Bear’s “Darwin’s Radio.”

  5. says

    Frankly, I would like to see more people write poetry who think that poetry is out of their skill set and who are bored to tears by it. I am suspicious of anyone who goes around saying, “I’m a poet.”

    Poetry is not rhymes and fancy-dancy language, but brevity and wit. Wamba, who are you? I liked that haiku!

  6. says

    Well, since I have an MFA in poetry coming in may, let me say that it warms my heart to see a poem posted here, and to see such productive conversation from scientists, visual artists, poets, and the like.

    Ah, those who read and work across disciplines deserve much praise.

    PS: Matthew Arnold’s poem “Dover Beach” can be read as a response to Darwinism and the rise of the “Age of Reason,” and is one of the most famous poems of the era, besides.

  7. says

    It is the 35th anniversary of John Kerry’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in which he called for an end to the Vietnam war.

    “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

    Kerry’s speech yesterday at Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall received a standing ovation.

    “I have come here today to reaffirm that it was right to dissent in 1971 from a war that was wrong. And to affirm that it is both a right and an obligation for Americans today to disagree with a president who is wrong, a policy that is wrong, and a war in Iraq that weakens the nation,”

    Read the whole speech HERE:


    and then remember the colossal blunder that America made in 2000 and 2004 in the prophetic words of Bob Dylan:

    “Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
    Bury the rag deep in your face
    For now’s the time for your tears.”

  8. says

    Evil Bender, “Dover Beach” can indeed be read as in part a response to Darwin–just as Anthony Hecht’s delightful “The Dover Bitch” can be read as a response to the pompous Arnold. Personally, I’m with Hecht (and Darwin).

    Both poems in full:

    Dover Beach
    by Matthew Arnold (1867)

    The sea is calm to-night.
    The tide is full, the moon lies fair
    Upon the straits; — on the French coast the light
    Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
    Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
    Come to the window, sweet is the night air!
    Only, from the long line of spray
    Where the sea meets the moon-blanch’d land,
    Listen! you hear the grating roar
    Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
    At their return, up the high strand,
    Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
    With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
    The eternal note of sadness in.
    Sophocles long ago
    Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
    Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
    Of human misery; we
    Find also in the sound a thought,
    Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

    The Sea of Faith
    Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
    Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d.
    But now I only hear
    Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
    Retreating, to the breath
    Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
    And naked shingles of the world.

    Ah, love, let us be true
    To one another! for the world, which seems
    To lie before us like a land of dreams,
    So various, so beautiful, so new,
    Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

    Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
    And we are here as on a darkling plain
    Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
    Where ignorant armies clash by night.

    The Dover Bitch
    A Criticism of Life
    By Anthony Hecht (1967)

    So there stood Matthew Arnold and this girl
    With the cliffs of England crumbling away behind them,
    And he said to her, “Try to be true to me,
    And I’ll do the same for you, for things are bad
    All over, etc., etc.”
    Well now, I knew this girl. It’s true she had read
    Sophocles in a fairly good translation
    And caught that bitter allusion to the sea,
    But all the time he was talking she had in mind
    the notion of what his whiskers would feel like
    On the back of her neck. She told me later on
    That after a while she got to looking out
    At the lights across the channel, and really felt sad,
    Thinking of all the wine and enormous beds
    And blandishments in French and the perfumes.
    And then she got really angry. To have been brought
    All the way down from London, and then be addressed
    As sort of a mournful cosmic last resort
    Is really tough on a girl, and she was pretty.
    Anyway, she watched him pace the room
    and finger his watch-chain and seem to sweat a bit,
    And then she said one or two unprintable things.
    But you mustn’t judge her by that. What I mean to say is,
    She’s really all right. I still see her once in a while
    And she always treats me right. We have a drink
    And I give her a good time, and perhaps it’s a year
    Before I see her again, but there she is,
    Running to fat, but dependable as they come,
    And sometimes I bring her a bottle of Nuit d’Amour.

  9. says

    Starry Skies
    by Charlie Wagner

    My life was like a canyon
    As deep as it was wide
    And I, a lonely traveler
    Just looking for a place to hide.
    My path was filled with darkness
    And emptiness ahead.
    Night after night, under starry skies
    I wished that I was dead.
    But then you came into my world
    And darkness turned to dawn.
    Your essence swept into my life
    Helping me to be reborn.
    Your specter crept into my dreams
    Each and every night.
    You wandered in my brain from room to room
    Turning on each light.
    You’ll probably never realize
    How much it meant to me
    That you were there beside me
    Helping me be free.
    And you’ll probably never realize
    The emptiness inside
    That comes to me each night you’re not
    Sleeping by my side.
    But I’ve still got those memories
    That swirl before my eyes.
    Of you and I lying peacefully,
    Beneath those starry skies.

    “Now they asked me to read a poem
    At the sorority sister’s home
    I got knocked down and my head was swimmin’
    I wound up with the Dean of Women
    Yippee! I’m a poet, and I know it.
    Hope I don’t blow it.” – Bob Dylan “I Shall Be Free #10”

  10. says

    My father’s been sending out a daily quote for years, and he often pays attention to these declared monthly themes and whatnot, so he’s been trying to find short poems lately. This is what he sent out on Thursday:

    A mosquito was heard to complain
    That a chemist had poisoned his brain
        The cause of his sorrow
        Was paradichloro

            — Dr. D. D. Perrin (?-1998, Australian medical chemist)

    (paradichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane is more commonly known as DDT)