What do you get when you mix together scientists, poets, musicians, authors, historians, Nobel laureates, comedians, science writers, artists, actors, entrepreneurs, and Grammy winners?
Apparently, an annual evening celebration of science, scientists, and nature through the written and spoken word. I recently stumbled upon this wonderful collaboration, called The Universe in Verse. In it, authors read aloud poems written by scientists, scientists read verse written by poets, songwriters read tributes to scientists written by authors, and so on goes the interdisciplinary mingling. It was initially an annual in-person evening show started in 2017 by writer Maria Popova, astrophysicist Janna Levin, and the Academy of American Poets, and then went virtual in 2020. Now there is an "interlude" for 2021-2022.
Luckily, a lot of the material and recordings since 2017 are available to enjoy at your leisure on The Marginalian, linked here and here. Below are some samples. Each is preceded by a bit of backstory about the writer, the speaker, and the piece itself.
Poet Pattiann Rogers's "Address: The Archaeans, One-Cell Creatures" – read by Radiolab host Jad Abumrad
Author Neil Gaiman's poem, "The Mushroom Hunters" – read by musician Amanda Palmer.
Poet Howard Nemerov's "Figures of Thought" – read by journalist Krista Tippett
Astrophysicist Cecilia Payne's poem, "Research" – read by writer Maria Popova
Poet Denise Levertov's poem on humans and nature, "Sojourns in the Parallel World" – read by actress America Ferrera
Poet Adrienne Rich's tribute to Marie Curie, "Power" – read by musician Rosanne Cash
Poet Jane Hirshfield's "On the Fifth Day" (her poem written for the 2017 March for Science) – read by comedian Emily Levine
Poet Maya Angelou's "A Brave and Startling Truth" – read by astrophysicist Janna Levin
Author Neil Gaiman's tribute to Rachel Carson, "After Silence" – read by musician Amanda Palmer
Poet Ross Gay's "Poem to My Child, If Ever You Shall Be" – read by choreographer Bill T. Jones