Amy Catanzano

Quantum poetics

Orbital resonances

A false-color image of Saturn's A Ring, taken by the Cassini Orbiter using an Ul
A false-color image of Saturn's A Ring, taken by the Cassini Orbiter using an Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph.

With poets using the Earth itself as a mode of composition for textual erasures and explorations of physical systems in relation to poetics, I imagine a future where an astronaut-poet might plant an adamantine sound poem in the icy particle rings of Saturn to see if it could withstand bombardments and pressures from the cosmos. Perhaps the icy particles would play the decomposing sound poem, changing as it decays, to a live audience on a nearby space station. Maybe the poem would be titled after the language of celestial mechanics: “Orbital Resonances.”

All origin stories are Newtonian, part 2 of 2

The Dianthus Kaleidoscope scarf was made using flower-shaped cuttings of collage
The Dianthus Kaleidoscope scarf was made using flower-shaped cuttings of collages from textiles and hand-painted Indian saris as well as scans of peach and pink-colored roses. From Basically Boutique, http://www.basicallyboutique.com/.

From cultural narratives to religion to comic-book characters to conceptions of self, origin stories often serve to explain belief systems and histories within the context of a defined beginning, middle, and end. Origin stories are narrative devices steeped in limitations of both form and content.

All origin stories are Newtonian, part 1 of 2

From The Secret Books: Writings by Jorge Luis Borges, Photographs by Sean Kernan
From The Secret Books: Writings by Jorge Luis Borges, Photographs by Sean Kernan. Courtesy of Matthew Baird.

One of my first encounters with poetry that overtly addressed theoretical physics and cosmology was Frederick Seidel’s book, The Cosmos Poems (FSG, 2000), which I read, without any knowledge about the author, as soon as it was published. This would have been a year after I graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, when I was teaching innumerable sections of freshman composition and a literature course in fiction. In my copy of The Cosmos Poems, the corner of the page of the poem, “Who the Universe Is,” is turned down, and I drew a small star on the corner. Or is that an x?

R.U. Sirius

The dog door to the observatory projecting a live-feed of Sirius
The dog door on the observatory projecting a live-feed of the dog star Sirius from a telescope mounted on the roof of The Franklin Institute. From Demetrius Oliver's installation, Canicular, at The Print Center in Philadelphia.

It is not every day that after your science-informed literary reading, you, the other writers who read science-informed work, and the audience for the event climb through a dog door into a small, astronomical observatory that was constructed in the art gallery where the reading took place to see a live-feed projection of the dog star Sirius — the brightest star in the night sky and so nicknamed due to its containment in the constellation, Canis Major — from a telescope mounted on the roof of a nearby science education center.

'The binary is only a metaphor' — SS Prasad

The snail's shell is a spiral, a repeating pattern in the natural world
The snail's shell is a spiral, a repeating pattern in the natural world

I began this commentary by writing about poetry and quantum supercomputers as well as the failure of Western science from before Democritus to the present day in perpetuating the belief in elementary particles, spanning from the atom as the central concept of materialism in Greek philosophy to the open and closed strings in contemporary string theory. (More on this later.)