Poetry and Science
North East

Partner: The Newcastle Lit & Phil

In the North East of England, we started with the following hypothesis: "Poets and Scientists are the same: just people trying to understand the world and their place in it."

As part of its celebration of National Poetry Day the Lit. & Phil conducted The Poetry Experiment with scientists and poets to explore the interface between the Arts and the Sciences. Some of the Experimenters kept a blog which you can read here. We then followed up with The Poetry and Science Conference in Newcastle.

And finally, we have started a list of poetry and science-related resources. Please feel free to email us further suggestions for this list.

The Poetry Experiment

Thanks to support from the Arts Council England and the Northumbria Branch of the British Association, the Lit. & Phil conducted two innovative experiments with poets and scientists, the results of which formed an evening event on National Poetry Day 2005.

The first experiment involved four poets, each working with a group of scientists from across the region, aiming to communicate their subject area to a lay audience in a new and fresh way - that is, through poetry. The poets and scientists worked together throughout September in anticipation of a presentation of their findings on National Poetry Day.

Group One

  • Lisa Matthews  - Poet
  • Dr Anne Borland - Reader in Molecular Plant Physiology
  • Prof Michael Reeks - Prof. of Multiphase Flow
  • Tom Bramald - Geomatics.org.uk Project Officer
  • Anthony O'Neill - Professor of Microelectronics

Group Two

  • Bill Herbert - Poet
  • Ian Singleton - School of Biology
  • Kostas Hrisos - Computer Science
  • James Bathurst - Institute for the Environment & Sustainability

Group Three

  • Linda France - Poet
  • Jon Aumonier - Institute for the Environment & Sustainability
  • Lucy Ward - Doctor & Ethicist
  • Suresh Thennadil - Chemical Engineering

Group Four

  • Maureen Almond - Poet
  • Dr Ashleigh Fletcher - Northern Carbon Research Laboratories
  • John Lazarus - Psychology, Brain & Behaviour
  • Malathi Natarajan - Specialist Registrar, Public Health Medicine

The second experiment was demonstrated during the second half of the evening. Several poets were each given an hour to write creatively (while experiment one was being revealed) on any given aspect of science (the audience was asked to provide ideas on the night).

The Poetry and Science Conference

The conference was held at the Lit & Phil Library and the Mining Institute next door, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The conference aim was to extend The Poetry Experiment in different directions, such as by comparing poetic and scientific methods and exploring the implications for educational approaches. Some of the Experimenters were present at the conference, sharing their ideas and progress.

The conference included papers by Tom Shakespeare (PEALS), Anne Osbourn (John Innes Centre) and Andrew Willoughby and Bob Beagrie (Ek Zuban Publishing); a presentation by Lisa Matthews, on The Poetry Experiment and a panel discussion with WN Herbert (Newcastle University), Leslie Iwanejko (Liverpool University), Lisa Matthews and Professor Duncan Murchison (Northumbria BAAS).

To round off the day of discussions and debates, two of the Experimenters - Maureen Almond and WN Herbert - shucked off their lab coats and delivered a public reading.