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In the Neighbourhood: Physics Meets Poetry at UBC

As part of their Contemporary Canadian Readings series, Play Chthonics at the University of British Columbia hosted a poetry reading featuring Susan Holbrook and Mari-Lou Rowley, the latter a familiar face to UBC science faculty. The readings, delivered to an audience of diverse disciplines, took place at UBC’s Green College on Wednesday, December 3. Rowley is a former editor of and current contributor to SYNERGY, UBC Science's biannual journal.

The Contemporary Canadian Readings series features interdisciplinary literature, and Rowley’s “science-inflected” poetry included excerpts from three recent books, Suicide Psalms, CosmoSonnets, and Viral Suite. These last two reveal an explicit physics influence from her work as a science writer. Viral Suite, for instance, contains poems such as “String Theory”, “D-Wave Pairing”, and “The Problem with Anti-Matter”, and includes elucidata explaining the concepts for scientific novices. The evening event brought together people from the arts and the sciences alike and demonstrated how the two areas of study can have a positive influence on each other.

As the editor of SYNERGY between 1997 and 2003, and through her current contributions writing SYNERGY research articles, Rowley has become well known to many members of the UBC Physics and Astronomy Department. Referring to Viral Suite, This Magazine wrote that “it is rare to see science and poetry mixed as seamlessly” as in Rowley’s work. An example of her poetry can be found on the Canadian Association of Physicists’ website.

By holding events such as these, universities and other institutions can help to promote understanding and collaboration across different professions and bring science to new audiences.

Kaitlan Huckabone
TRIUMF's Communications Assistant

Icon photo courtesy of stock.xchng

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Tue 2023-06-06 00:02