I had a fantastic time bringing poetry to scientists and the public during today’s Science March in Washington, D.C.
Leading a poetry teach-in for those who write and those who never knew poetry could be science-themed was so fulfilling. And even though it was pouring rain, the weather brought more people into our tent, who ultimately took up a pen and paper to try erasure, writing about insects, or personifying nature, storms, or planets. I’d estimate about 200 people came through the Poets for Science tent during our poetry teach-ins.
I want to thank Jane Hirshfield for coming up with this incredible idea, Split This Rock and Sarah Browning for recommending me as one of the workshop leaders, the Wick Poetry Center for their great staff and banners, and all the local poets who led workshops and made this such an incredible event! This was a great space where we made connections between science and poetry — because, truly, the two go hand-in-hand. They are intertwined.
Science is full of images, minute details, precision. And so is poetry. They are both vivid, raw representations of our natural world.
On Saturday, I’m humbled to be a part of the March for Science in Washington, D.C. Most likely I won’t be marching, due to chronic pain, but I will be participating in another, meaningful way. Through serendipitous chance, I was invited to be a part of the poetry teach-ins that are happening during the day. The incredible poet Jane Hirshfield is the mastermind behind the idea — and I am so grateful to be able to work with her and bring her dream to life. Make sure to read Jane’s poem “On the Fifth Day,” which she will be reading at the rally during the March.
Several local poets and staff from Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center will be leading poetry workshops focusing on insects, personifying storms, climate change, data, and more. The workshops will be from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Mall in the Poets for Science tent. Learn more about the pop-up workshops.
My workshop is Writing the Storm. I’m bringing several poems exploring weather, planets, natural disasters, and how they affect our lives. We’ll use phrases from these poems and from Patricia Smith’s poetry personifying Hurricane Katrina as a jumping off point. All are welcome, including parents and children, and no experience is required.
This opportunity is so dear to my heart because most of my poetry, and some of my prose, focuses on science in some way. I’m obsessed with space. I write about my body and medical issues. I explore the potential future in science/speculative fiction. Science and creative writing go hand in hand. Writers draw from the natural world and the rich images in science.
Jane’s work in forming Poets for Science and our teach-ins were featured in an article on Poets&Writers. Read it to learn more about the seven-foot posters of poetry that will be present at the March, as well as how this came to be. The workshops and poems are also traveling the globe and may be translated and held in satellite marches throughout the world, including the March for Science in Marseilles, France!
Join the conversation throughout the day and share your science-related poems with the hashtag #poetsforscience! Excited to see you there!
“On that one-way trip to Mars” was reviewed in Beach Sloth. The reviewer writes, “the collection neatly focuses on the sadness that comes from planetary movements from hundreds of years away to the fragile nature of humanity. In a way, it celebrates how far humanity has come in trying to better understand its place in a vast space. The idea behind much of it is how fortunate humanity has been by its sheer existence.”
Beach Sloth understands the overarching vision I had for the book, which I’m so happy has actually been effective and came across for readers. Not only did I want to write a book about myself, my body, one human on Earth in this vast universe, but I also reflected on the fact that Earth is seemingly alone in this vast universe (at least, for now).
“Over the course of Marlena Chertock’s movement from across the solar system the elements of science and of life come into focus … [the poetry] lets the small period of time that defines a human life gain a universal approach,” Beach Sloth writes.
Some of my poems in this collection focus on other life-forms, aliens, finding the Earth after we’re long dead. “Gone will be languages, the aesthetics that defined society, and the way that distance within a single country becomes so small on a galactic scale,” the reviewer writes.
Diane writes, “Not all of the poems are speculative, but even those that are not come from a place which is maybe foreign to many people … There is a physicality to some of these poems, which puts an able-bodied person in a completely unfamiliar universe.”
She explains that my poems “explore how the world is experienced through the physical filter and how others experience and treat someone with Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia.”
This year I served as the initial judge/reader in poetry for the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House Literary Prize contest. Thank you, Johnna Schmidt, for the opportunity.
Litfest is an annual literary contest and celebration. At the spring ceremony, awards are given out for the top three poems and short stories, honorable mentions, and the Writers’ House seniors graduate and receive certificates. I remember my Litfest fondly.
Four years ago I was graduating from the Writers’ House. And when Johnna announced the winners of that year’s competition, I was so surprised that my poem “An invisible middle” had won first place!
I’m thrilled to pass on some of that excitement to the next Writers’ House generation. It was very special to read almost 100 undergraduate poems as an alumna. Choosing 10 to pass along to the final judge (Ocean Vuong!) was an honor.
It was difficult to decide on the top 10 because many of the poems had great potential, voice, and imagery. I definitely saw a lot of my early writing in some of them.
The results of the 2017 Litfest are being announced this week. And I hope that even if I didn’t choose your poem in the top 10, and even if Ocean Vuong didn’t pick yours for the top winners, you’ll still continue to write. We need emerging poets and short story writers. We need champions of the freedom of expression. I’m getting all sappy because I truly believe in this vital community of writers. The Writers’ House matters — your writing and voice matter. I’m so glad to soon call you my fellow Writers’ House alumni.
This year’s Litfest is Thursday, May 4 at 8 p.m. in St. Mary’s Hall at the University of Maryland. Writers will read from the honorable mentions and top winning poems and stories. And the 2017 Stylus will be unveiled. I’ll see you there.
My book “On that one-way trip to Mars” has been nominated for a 2017 Elgin Award!
I want to thank the Science Fiction Poetry Association for the consideration. The Association’s members nominate books for the award, which is given to the best book and chapbook published in the preceding year. This year’s award chair is Josh Brown.
I have a few new poems in the Tiny Tim Literary Review, a journal dedicated to normalizing chronically ill/disability narratives and humanizing medical professionals. This is such a necessary journal, and I’m so glad to be seeing more like it in the past few years.
My poem Rikkud is about Israeli folk dancing with pain at summer camp. That’s where the above excerpt comes from. Rikkud was a magical evening where all of the campers and counselors at my summer camp gathered on the dimly lit, cracked basketball court, running and stepping in movements our ancestors might have made. It was a place I felt more Jewish than Hebrew school, than synagogue. Something about the actions connecting me to others, to the past.
I wrote tinnitus in a very different form than I normally write. I have tinnitus, and wanted to give it a more distancing/prescription sort of tone, while still having the poem be accessible to those who don’t constantly hear ringing in their ears.
A few of the other poems were previously published in The Deaf Poets Society and Noble/Gas Quarterly.