Intersecting Sets: A Poet Looks at Science

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9780888645951: Intersecting Sets: A Poet Looks at Science

Poet Alice Major was given a book on relativity at the impressionable age of ten, so she never quite understood why science came to be dismissed as reductive or opposite to art. She surveys the sciences of the past half-century -- from physical to cognitive to evolutionary -- to shed light on why and how human beings create poems, challenging some of the mantras of postmodern thought in the process. Part memoir, part ars poetica, part wonder-journey, Intersecting Sets is a wide-ranging and insightful amalgam.

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Book Description:

A survey of sciences of the past half-century -- from physical to cognitive to evolutionary -- to shed light on why and how human intersect science and humanities.

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Interesting things happen at edges. We are living in one of the most exciting ages of science, shifting from the mechanistic universe that made science seem so cold a century ago to a world shaped by unfolding complexity and fractal wiggles. The probing of brains and the sifting of DNA are helping humans to truly understand how we are related to the natural world in which we evolved. As a poet, Alice Major practices an art that humans have been sharing since the dawn of language, from the campfires of the OMO people to today's rappers. All this time, poetry has been used to understand and respond to the world's patterns and to explore our central questions - who are we? How did all this begin? What is change? What is time? (And what time is it, anyway?) These are the two sets - the work of poets and the work of scientists - that she allows to intersect in this book, like spots of coloured light overlapping to form new shades of illumination for every reader who is engaged with the world. We always exist at the edge, the circumference, a perimeter. It's like the edge of the Mandelbrot set, a region in which self-similar patterns emerge as we zoom in closer and closer to its mathematical country-sprinkled curves and arabesques, small lakes of belonging and the broken coastline of longing. But fortunately, we live in a world where the fractals come to a limit. The plane bumps down and we are home. Alice Major has published nine collections of poetry, including many poems inspired by sciences from cosmology to chemistry to botany. Three of her collections have been shortlisted for the prestigious Pat Lowther Award, which she won for The Office Tower Tales. Her most recent collection, Memory's Daughter, also received the Stephan G. Stephansson Prize from the Writers Guild of Alberta. She has served as president of the League of Canadian Poets and chair of the Edmonton Arts Council, and from 2005 to 2007 served as her city's first poet laureate.

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