Hat Tip to Poe(try)

In the annals of literature, is there any greater nod to the actual art of rhythmic composition than Edgar Allan Poe? He is, in essence, the personification of poetry. As we observe this 24th day of National Poetry Month 2024, it’s a fitting occasion to mention Poe’s contributions and lasting legacy.

More than a decade ago, I wrote a post about Poe (1809-1849) on the date of his 205th birthday. Yes, he lived a long time ago! The man lived a short and somewhat varied life, dabbling in several different occupational endeavors. Rather than rehash an old post, I’m making something of a right turn by focusing on one specific poem he wrote.

I feel a mild comaraderie with Poe, not just because he wrote poetry but because he wrote some unusual sonnets. One particular sonnet from 1829 (screen-capped here from the Poetry Foundation website) is titled Sonnet – To Science.

Poe – Sonnet to Science

This sonnet reads as if it might have been penned by a writer of the post-Covid era! Our 21st century fixation with elevating Science to the position of deity apparently was nothing new for Poe. He was conflicted about the worshipful attitude some of his peers expressed. Though he himself was fascinated by science (small S), his poem personifies science as a Vulture, unable to allow space in the universe for imagination and creativity.

The tension between poetry and the study of science is especially pronounced when individuals suggest “science” cannot be challenged. When I was a student, I recall the Scientific Method included asking questions, observing and collecting data, formulating hypotheses, testing those hypotheses and drawing rational conclusions … but those conclusions were always up for review and the consideration of new questions. It was never a one-and-done method because new information was (is) always possible.

I’ll be the first to admit my lack of specific knowledge when it comes to science. However, like Poe, I think about the conflict he expressed. The sonnet below reflects my thoughts on the subject. Deceased astronomer Carl Sagan once proclaimed “we are made of starstuff.” While it’s true there are elements in our human bodies which are also in the stars, in my view we are much more than those elements.

Psalm 139:14 tells me I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” The final line of my sonnet references Mark 4:35-41 where the God of the universe in human flesh (Jesus) stills the wind and seas. Science offers no hypothesis for this amazing (miraculous) feat. Poe said there is treasure in the jeweled skies, but science fails to notice because it does not acknowledge important spiritual aspects like beauty and majesty.

Sonnet – To Science and Poe

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