Sunday, April 20, 2008

Art and Science and A Robin


All art presupposes some degree of scientific method. All science begins with the art of ideas. Looking out my kitchen window I see a robin. I am aware, as I watch it gently tamp the grass with both feet while at the same time making the most pleasant, airy chirps a bird can make- that I'm writing a poem of a painting.

I try to imagine this painting of a robin in its own poem, with its own premise. The robin's premise, in my poem, is sound. The breezy refrain in her song, the lack of sound in her gliding footfall across my lawn. I jot down a few lines. My words, together with their syntactic foundation, form a premise whenever I assemble them together to say something. They always aim at something, however grandiose or base, however monumental or trivial; and they always bear the subtle fruit of some kind of methodological approach, however unclear it may be to either me or the reader.

The robin must know, better than I, what she is about. But since she can't tell me in words, I have to rely on other senses to inform. And when I want to write of death, or global warming, or a disquieting conversation with a neighbor (in a poem, for example), I get to remember the sound the robin made through its tiny beak, or its silent, frustrating foray through my grass, finding no worms.

This word picture may reasonably find its way into my thinking at any moment, without ever using diagnostic words relating to the robin. Importantly, however, while pleasing to the psyche and sometimes to the heart, this approach can fall short in providing absolute information. I may speak much of a robin, but I may say less of Robin. I may describe her demeanor and talk about her successes and failures, and relate them to my own, and you may find something in the delineation of my robin that you hadn't seen in your robin. Still, we may widely disagree. This amounts to a kind of Wikipedia entry for a robin. If enough of us write robin poems and enough of us interact with each others work, we may come to understand more and more about the robin. This is beginning to sound like science.

In fact, this is about all that science purports to accomplish. It aims to observe, to write about those observations, and to make conclusions based on these observations. It aims to submit these findings to some sort of Wikipedia, some bulletin board of review, so that others can comment, agree, admire, disagree and, yes, denigrate (in a civil sort of academic way, of course!).

These methods, whether of art or science, have their own peculiar aspects of inquiry, observation, examination, discussion, conclusion and/or qualia of experience. Whether describing atmospheric pressure in a balloon, or the circular perambulations of a robin in a poem, it is necessary to make assumptions and reason your way through them toward a semblance of conclusion. Even in absurdist poetry, one is clearly making a statement based on random or nonsensical premises.

Science need not be rigorous and restricted to nomenclature to be scientific inquiry, just as art need not be diffuse and metaphorical to be artistic; we fool ourselves to think we live and operate in a world where we don't commonly think, project and/or imagine, using very distinct patterns of logic and mechanistic inquiry. These patterns of thought are subject to both our own scrutiny, as well as the scrutiny of others. To say that we can approach a definition in our art, is not to deny any kind of mystical or emotional basis to that art. Quite the converse, we give more credence to our art as it touches the senses and the supra-sense, when we acknowledge that it has a basis in reason, as opposed to being on the fringe of reason, or outside of experience altogether.

Scientific method does not (nor has it ever intended to) war against art, and vice versa. But rather, the two coexist, right beside each other, benefiting in a mutual and symbiotic process of declaration, understanding and enlightenment.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Poetry Competition


Announcing a poetry competition. Submit your poems to me personally at:

I will review all poems and once a month I will select one to appear on this blog with an introduction about the author and a short explication (by me) of the poem. Hopefully, this will generate excitement and comments for each poem selected. I look forward to receiving your submissions.

Simply email the poem IN THE BODY OF THE EMAIL (I would prefer to not receive attachments) with the subject simply saying "poetry submission," or something similar. Please don't expect an answer to the submission by email.

Warm regards,

Edward Nudelman