Exhibit explores connection between science and poetry

Reagan Ritterbush

The Alchemy of Mind and Spirit exhibit, which explores the interplay between poetry and science, opened Sept. 26 in the Perry-Castañeda Library.

This exhibit questions the assumed divide between the study of science and the creation of art by displaying the work of poets who incorporate the laws of physics into their poems and scientists who write poetry about nature and everyday life as a means of meditation.

Biomedical engineering sophomore Ben Chen said the exhibit was interesting because it showed how science and art view one another. 

“Poets and scientists come from polar opposite environments, and it’s easy to assume that they have no influence on one another and that isn’t the case,” Chen said.

According to the UT Library’s website, the exhibit’s title comes from acclaimed writer Diane Ackerman’s book, “An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain.” The exhibit drew inspiration from Ackerman’s dissection of the “left-brain versus right-brain” debate. She concluded that one person can utilize both hemispheres and engage in both scientific discovery and poetic expression.

Gina Bastone, the humanities librarian for English literature and women’s and gender studies at the PCL, selected the books for the exhibit. She said she hopes the exhibit teaches students about the connection science has with poetry.

“There are some poems in the exhibit written by Ancient Greece scientists who studied art because they wanted to be able to relate to multiple fields of work,” Bastone said. “We want students at UT to read these poems and realize that science and art can be studied together.” 

Information studies graduate student Mitch Cota, who curates the Poetry Center and helped Bastone select the books for the Alchemy exhibit, said he wants to expose students to a vast array of poetry at the library.

“This exhibit is meant to inspire people who don’t usually come to the library and may not know anything about poetry,” Cota said. 

Computer science junior Jack Ceverha said the exhibit gave him the opportunity to read about fellow scientists who take on everyday life through poetry.

“As a scientist, I’ve never been able to write about philosophical themes,” Ceverha said. “I never would have imagined that other scientists would be able to write like that.” 

The exhibit, which features works such as “Quiver” by UT alumna Susan B. A. Somers-Willet, “Silent Anatomies” by Monica Ong and “Quantum Lyrics” by A. Van Jordan, is open for viewing until January 13, 2017.