Amy Catanzano

quantum poetics

Magical correspondences, part 1 of 6

Image by Andrew Joron of eclipsed sun-images filtered through trees, casting zer
Image by Andrew Joron of eclipsed sun-images filtered through trees, casting zeros and almost-zeros on nearby objects.

What follows is part one of six written exchanges between me and Andrew Joron about poetry and science in 2012. Joron’s creative and critical work have been highly influential to me. When I contacted him after The Poetry Foundation’s Harriet blog ran an article,“From the Golden Age of San Francisco Science-Fiction Poetry to the New Age of Quantum Poetics,”about our shared interest in poetry and science, he generously responded to my poetry and speculative essays on quantum poetics published by Jerome Rothenberg on his blog, Poems and Poetics. Joron and I have decided to present our conversation here for Jacket2. 

See also parts two, three, four, five, and six.

'Not like normal stars'

Image of brown dwarf star 2M1207 and a companion object, 2M1207b. The image may
Image of brown dwarf star 2M1207 and a companion object, 2M1207b. The image may be "the first extrasolar planetary-mass companion to be directly imaged and is the first discovered orbiting a brown dwarf." Courtesy of ESO and Wikipedia: http://www.eso.org/public/images/26a_big-vlt/

The impulses that inspire poets to think through science span from investigative, speculative, conceptual, documentary, and more to impulses that use science as a form of address to and from the notion of the other. Lila Zemborain, in Mauve Sea-Orchids (Belladonna, 2007, trs.

'In truth the subtle web of thought / is like the weaver's fabric wrought'

Image from a 1987 French-English Visual Dictionary, courtesy of Matthew Baird
Image from a 1987 French-English Visual Dictionary, courtesy of Matthew Baird

“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.

Translation Controller, Neutral

First page of the Apollo 11 onboard voice transcript, courtesy of NASA.
First page of the Apollo 11 onboard voice transcript, courtesy of NASA.

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.

4th person narration

Wang Hao at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Photograph: Oded Balilty/AP. Courtesy of
Wang Hao at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Photograph: Oded Balilty/AP. Courtesy of The Guardian.

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.