The Multiverse

The infinity in language

Plant (1960) by Remedios Varo
Plant (1960) by Remedios Varo

“Poiesis, in the deepest sense, is cosmology.” —Adam Cornford

In addition to poets using science as a source for metaphor, poets claiming science as a type of poetry, and poets conducting science as poetry, there are poets who are making science a determining element of their worldview. One such poet, Adam Cornford, whose poetry and critical works intersect with evolutionary biology, physics, cosmology, and more, and who Andrew Joron has called a “cosmo-surrealist,” has said in our recent conversations that his aim is to discursively imagine science as a way to “(re)imagine that which we know, especially that which we know indirectly, that is, by way of instrumentalities and mathematical schemata.”


“Poetics as a Theory of Everything." Maria Damon and Ira Livingston.
“Poetics as a Theory of Everything,” cross-stitched by Maria Damon and quoting Ira Livingston. Damon made the piece to serve as the cover image for Livingston’s book, Poetics as a Theory of Everything, forthcoming, 2014. Image courtesy of Ira Livingston and Maria Damon.

One of the central unified field theories of quantum gravity is string theory or superstring theory, where spacetime is conceived of as an ambiguous ecology. In string theory, the known universe is thought to be part of a larger wilderness of universes, the multiverse, which is comprised of multiple and perhaps infinite dimensions of space and time that are created by collisions between subatomic, vibrating membranes of energy known as open and closed strings. The theory defines the evolution of space and matter from the connections between these vibrating membranes of energy. String theorists aim to reconcile quantum mechanics and relativity into a single description of physical reality that is often referred to in contemporary physics as a Theory of Everything.

Upon reading Christine Wertheim’s mUtter-bAbel (Counterpath Books, 2014), where Wertheim tells the “story of language and some bodies of the word made flesh in a child’s imagination” through visual poems often highlighting the letter “o” that sonically treat words as “vocal organs,” I thought about the open and closed strings in string theory and wondered if the author was—consciously or without intent—responding to the colliding, subatomic, vibrating membranes of energy that string theorists think create the multiple dimensions of the multiverse.

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