There’s an old baseball saying that states, “The ball will find you.”
It’s based on this odd predisposition for a baseball to be hit right at you if:
- You just entered the game cold (The closer and more intense the game, the more likely a screaming line drive will be soon be headed directly at your head.)
- You’ve just made an error.
- You have an injury but keep playing at less than 100%.
- You’re playing a defensive position you don’t normally play.
“The ball will find you.” is a commentary on how a flaw or weakness in a system always seems to be exposed at a critical juncture. In baseball, we often attribute such a phenomenon to the wrath of the baseball gods.
The ball will find you.
I tell you this because there must also be a Mixed-up Files version of “The ball will find you.” that the middle grade, kidlit gods apparently have decided to haunt me with.
“Poetry will find you!”
Several months ago, after the STEM Tuesday leader supreme, Jen Swanson, emailed the group to announce she had posted the upcoming monthly STEM Tuesday themes. I rushed my mouse to the MUF bookmark, logged in, and scrolled to my assigned month of April.
STEM Tuesday– Mixing Science and Poetry/Verse.
I rolled out of my desk chair to the office floor, laughing maniacally like the Joker after he’d just pulled one over on Batman. From the next room, my adult children expressed concern to my wife, who nonchalantly waved them off, “Just another of your father’s poetry fits. No worries.”
No worries. Here I am. Fully recovered. Poetry fit behind me? Well, let’s just say I’m ready to accept the sentence placed upon me by the MUF “Poetry will find you” curse.
Poetry will find me.
And you know what?
That’s not a bad thing.
I think I’ll give this poetry/science thing a go…
Roses are red
Violets are blue
When working with elephants
Don’t step in the doo-doo
Obviously, my poetry skills are lacking. I do, however, possess adequate mental faculties to observe poetry and STEM have quite a few similarities. We can even, for argument’s sake, go as far as to classify STEM and poetry as close relatives who manage to stay civil even outside of major holidays.
“What in the whiskers is he talking about this time?” you ask.
Poetry and STEM on level intellectual ground? Is this coming from a 30-year microbiologist? You must think this guy took way too many of those screaming baseball line drives to the head. (The answer is “No”. The majority of those screaming line drives went through my legs or off my kneecap, chest, shin, or various other body parts. Very few went off my noggin and even fewer went into my ball glove.)
Give me a chance to shine some light on this poetry/STEM connection with the following five points.
Both STEM and Poetry rely on elements that are quantifiable and measurable.
- One can measure the beats in a couplet, a quatrain, or a septet just as one can measure the excitation and emission wavelength spectra of a fluorophore.
- There are a definable rhythm and cadence to a poem just as there are for a parasite’s life cycle, embryo development, building a bridge, programming a robot, or quantum theory.
Both STEM and Poetry follow rules and formulas.
- Just as we have theorems and equations to help define the physical world, poems have form, patterns of sound, meaning, and meter.
Both STEM and Poetry extract meaning from observation.
- Poetry attempts to describe observations through words and form.
- STEM attempts to describe observations with hypotheses, theories, laws, code, and blueprints to name a few.
Both STEM and Poetry are ways to look at the world around us in order to gain a greater understanding.
- A poem has a thematic weight and uses figurative and connotative devices to deliver meaning.
- STEM uses a device called the scientific method to better understand the natural phenomenon.
Both STEM and Poetry are organized by classifications according to certain properties and traits.
- There are many types of poems.
- Lyric poems, narrative poems, descriptive poems.
- Odes, elegy, epic, sonnet, ballad, haiku, limerick, etc.
- Mammals, bacteria, viruses, plants, insects, atoms, orbitals, planets, electrical systems, aeronautics, etc. are all STEM groups that we classify according to properties and traits.
Next time someone (especially your favorite STEM-crazed middle grader) poo-poo’s the poetry, remind them,
POETRY WILL FIND YOU!
When it does, show them the STEM Tuesday Mixing Science and Poetry/Verse book list and tell them to give it a chance. Even the most STEM-centric mind can benefit from the beauty of a poem.
Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.com. Two of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101, are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.
The O.O.L.F Files
The Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) Files this month take a look at a connection between poetry and STEM.
- A nice overview of the nuts and bolts of poetry from Lexiconic Education Resources. Even I was able to understand and learn the fundamentals.
- “What science-bashers fail to appreciate is that scientists, in their unflagging attraction to the unknown, love what they don’t know. It guides and motivates their work; it keeps them up late at night; and it makes that work poetic.” – from a beautiful 1998 essay by poet Alison Hawthorne Deming on the intersection of science and art.
- How about a STEM-focused Technimetric Poetry Slam? YES!!!
- A Pinterest page LOADED with STEM poems for kids. My kind of poetry!
- Lesson plans from ReadWriteThink all about how to engineer a poem about…engineering!