Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Darwin Poetry Project

My poem, Transmutation, set to music by composer Andrew Litts, has been selected to be performed by Network for New Music as part of its Darwin Poetry Project on February 19 and 21, 2009. (More information and tickets are available here.) A second setting of the poem by composer Alexis Ford will be given a reading and recorded later in March.

Months ago, I wrote this poem in response to the Dialogues with Darwin exhibition at the American Philosophical Society. These poems were posted online and a select group of student composers chose poems to set to music. These 13 composers then competed for one of five slots to have their work performed by Network for New Music.

For those of you who are aware of my wonky Darwin poetry series, it comes as no surprise that this project caught my eye and captured my imagination.

There is a beautiful letter from Darwin's wife, Emma, in which she writes to him,

"May not the habit in scientific pursuits of believing nothing until it is proved, influence your mind too much in other things which cannot be proved in the same way, & which if true are likely to be above our comprehension...there is danger in giving up revelation..."
Transmutation is inspired from this letter and other writings by Charles Darwin as he wrestled to reconcile his science and his faith.


All of this and all I know are branches,
nature’s chance encounters,
roots of choices, echoed voices speak.

My faith is in the questions.

All of this and all I know are islands,
isolation is illusion,
currents making messengers of seeds.

My faith is in connections.

All of this and all I know is instinct,
habit and inheritance, strict as tides,
modified by reason.

My faith is insufficient.

All of this and all is contradiction,
a shadowy depiction of changing truth
defying proof of vision.

My faith is reconciled.

All of this and all is still unknown.

My faith is endless

All of this and all is possibility.

in endless forms most beautiful.

Copyright: Beth Feldman Brandt 2009