Writing Science Poetry

Executive Summary about Science by Susan Shaw and Shawn Carlson

Writing Science Poetry

Science poetry or scientific poetry is a specialized poetic genre that makes use of science as its subject. Written by scientists and nonscientists, science poets are generally avid readers and appreciators of science and “science matters.” Science poetry may be found in anthologies, in collections, in science fiction magazines that sometimes include poetry, in other magazines and journals. Many science fiction magazines, including online magazines, such as Strange Horizons, often publish science fiction poetry, another form of science poetry. Of course science fiction poetry is a somewhat different genre. Online there is the Science Poetry Center for those interested in science poetry, and for those interested in science fiction poetry The Science Fiction Poetry Association. In addition, there’s Science Fiction Poetry Handbook and Ultimate Science Fiction Poetry Guide, all found online. Strange Horizons has published the science fiction poetry of Joanne Merriam, Gary Lehmann and Mike Allen.

As for science poetry, science or scientific poets like science fiction poets may also publish collections of poetry in almost any stylistic format. Science or scientific poets, like other poets, must know the “art and craft” of poetry, and science or scientific poetry appears in all the poetic forms: free verse, blank verse, metrical, rhymed, unrhymed, abstract and concrete, ballad, dramatic monologue, narrative, lyrical, etc. Even metaphysical scientific poetry is possible. In his anthology, The World Treasury of Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics, editor Timothy Ferris aptly includes a section entitled “The Poetry of Science.” Says Ferris in the introduction to this section, “Science (or the ‘natural philosophy’ from which science evolved) has long provided poets with raw material, inspiring some to praise scientific ideas and others to react against them.”

Says Ferris, “This is not to say that scientists should try to emulate poets, or that poets should turn proselytes for science….But they need each other, and the world needs both.” Certainly those writing scientific poetry like those writing science fiction need not praise all of science, but science nevertheless the subject matter, and there is often a greater relationship between poetry and science than either poets and/or scientists admit. Science poetry takes it subject from scientific measurements to scientific symbols to time & space to biology to chemistry to physics to astronomy to earth science/geology to meteorology to environmental science to computer science to engineering/technical science. (Subsequent poets mentioned are also from this anthology.)

Science poetry may make use of many forms or any form from lyrical to narrative to sonnet to dramatic monologue to free verse to light verse to haiku to villanelle, from poetry for children or adults or both, for the scientist for the nonscientist or both. There are poems that rhyme, poems that don’t rhythme. Think of all the techniques of poetry and all the techniques of science. Does a star speak? Does a sound wave speak? What figures of speech, metaphors, similes, metaphor, can be derived from science. What is your attitude toward science and these scientific matters?

Read. Revise. Proofread. Shall you write of the history of science? Of scientific news? Read all the science you can.Read all the poetry you can. You are a poet. You are a scientist. What does poetry say to science?What does science say to poetry?

Secrets To Writing A Winning Science Fair Project Report

First you found a killer, then you did a great science project. Your written report is the single most important part of any science fair project. A well-written report can make a pathetic project look pretty good, and a good project look exceptional. The winners know how to write up their science fair project reports in a way that shows off their know-how and impresses the judges.

Your readers should absorb your prose effortlessly as fast as their brains can decipher the words. The topic sentence isn’t even a real sentence. Each idea thereafter flows naturally into the next. This is how you should strive to write every paragraph of your science fair project report.

Whatever you do, don’t overwork your sentences! Each sentence should contain just one complete idea. Yes, I know that virtually every science paper ever written is clogged thick with passive sentences, but that’s not style. Because passive voice is mind-numbingly boring! If you rely too much on passive voice, few science fair judges will have the stamina to find whatever gold you may have hidden deep inside your science fair project report.

So, instead of “This project was undertaken to …” consider “I undertook this project to…” Reducing passive voice in your science fair project report and writing in clear declarative sentences is a wonderful way to separate yourself from the herd. The word “data” is plural! If you need the singular form then the word you are looking for is “datum”. Data is a collection of two or more datum. Data isn’t an “it.” Data is a “they.” “The data shows” is incorrect.

A datum shows (singular verb) something, but the data show (plural verb) it. The correct usage of data and datum is a huge pet peeve for some science fair judges. Getting this right consistently throughout your science fair project report will bring approving smiles to the faces of many judges, especially the curmudgeons. I’ve read hundreds of science fair project reports (and at least as many professional research papers) in which the writers believed they could hide their ignorance or poor technique behind a smoke screen of obtuse language.

Believe me, science fair judges know all the tricks, and we can spot smoke signals miles away. Science writing doesn’t have much “personality” because scientists like it that way. Jokes and witticisms or clever word plays almost always make it harder to see the science in your paper. Your science fair project report needs to have the following parts:

* Title Page: Must include your science fair project’s title, your name and contact information (address and school), your grade and the name of your science teacher.

(If don’t think your experiment is interesting, give up now.

* Experiment: Describe in detail the method you used to collect your data and organize your observations.

* Conclusion: Summarize your results. For the accepted format, see the rules for your particular science fair competition.


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