14 December 2017

Poetry Thursday - Microbial Museum by Maya Chowdhry

Gas bubbles in Antarctic ice. Photo: NASA
"reservoirs of extinct creatures" (via)
Microbial Museum
April ship sets sail, sea freezes ripples, leaves Rothera
behind. One hundred and fifty thousand years of snowfall in
cylindrical samples, bubble-wrapped, boxed in styrofoam,
cores wrenched from ice caverns to Immingham.
Drill incises annulus ice cuttings spiral surface. Statistics
held in water vapour measure up to eons of weather.
Blueprints of other lives, the oldest ice sequesters
reservoirs of extinct creatures resurrected.
Suspending cable sonars frozen microbial cells
immortal bugs from bacteriasicles emerge, grow, divide.
Prehistoric pestilence thaws, allows ancient genes to mix with
modern ones. Skiing genotype slaloms through DNA markers,
mutating the ocean, creeping into the unsuspecting cells
of species climbing the ladder to life.
The future is thawed, dispatched into a white out.
- Maya Chowdhry (via)

"Finding the poetry in scientific vocabulary, this work is alive to the marvels of its discoveries as well as the ecological peril it reports" is how the Guardian, where this poem appeared, sums it up. Here, Carol Rumens gives background and gently unpicks the poem, helping us make sense of the terse style (like a scientist's notebook). The comments from readers, at the ed of the article, often take a poetic route themselves.

Maya Chowdhry devotes her recent poetry collection, Fossil (2016), to investigating, "with wit and precision", unusual geological phenomena and the life cycles of various species, but her larger goal is public and eco-political. Her recent work explores the juxtaposition and conflicts of new technologies with the ‘natural world’ - she uses film, text, animation, photography, augmented reality and the web. Her work has been exhibited in and around canals, in public gardens, theatres, galleries, the web and on television. See some of it here.

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