“Both science and art form in the course of the centuries a human language by which we can speak about the more remote parts of reality, and the coherent sets of concepts as well as the different styles of art are different words or groups of words in this language.” – Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy (1958)
Poetry and quantum mechanics do indeed seem to speak to the more remote parts of reality as Werner Heisenberg suggests, and, as a result, both systems invite new ways of speaking, furthering what language is capable of within and outside of human experience.
While the transcripts of the recordings of the Apollo 11 spaceflight mission to the moon were released in the mid-1970s and have been publically available on the internet for years, NASA has digitally released the recordings of the spaceflight mission as MP3s, available here. Ken Hunt published Space Administration (89+/LUMA Foundation, 2014) using the transcripts of the recordings, including some of the numeric time signatures for each speaker. Hunt’s book brings poetry in conversation with one of the greatest scientific achievements that humans have accomplished as a species.
In my new novella I experiment with point of view by developing a question—“Is there a 4th person narration?”—posed by Shanxing Wang in his extraordinary work, Mad Science in Imperial City(Futurepoem, 2005). In physics, the fourth dimension of space is time. In the context of string theory, where our universe is thought to be one of a wilderness of universes comprised of infinite dimensions of space and time that are made up of vibrating membranes of energy, I imagine 4th person narration as a site for considering narrative mode in relation to higher dimensions in physical reality. To intentionally and/or unintentionally engage in a narrative mode within or beyond the fourth dimension might be to read, write, or construct texts outside of time, or in all times, making nonlinearity and simultaneity points of view and spacetime a literary device.
“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.”
What follows is Part 2 of 2 of M. NourbeSe Philip’s essay, “Black W/Holes: A History Of Brief Time,” which combines definitions from Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time with an urgent discussion about race relations in Canada and beyond in the late 1990s. This essay was originally published in Toronto’s FUSE Magazine in 1998. After sending Philip my commentary, “Physics of the Impossible,” which speculatively discusses her book-length poem Zong! (Wesleyan University Press, 2008) in relation to Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity, she sent me this essay. Since it only appears in the back issue of FUSE, I am presenting it here with her permission.