According to Marcel Gleiser, Carlo Rovelli’s Reality is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravitiy “is a gem. It’s a pleasure to read, full of wonderful analogies and imagery and, last but not least, a celebration of the human spirit, in ‘permanent doubt, the deep source of science.’” What it is not, however, is a beach read. (Krista Tippett’s interview with Rovelli here is worth listening to.) That didn’t stop me from picking it up at the library a few weeks ago. While some of the science confused me, the poetry of Rovelli’s prose was immediately apparent. I decided right away that this book was perfect for the “Collaborative Cut-Up” exercise, shared by Anne Waldman in The Practice of Poetry, that my critique group partner, Margaret Simon, shared on her blog last week.
Rovelli’s text definitely “utilize[s] a vocabulary not [my] own.” Less apparent was what lines of my own I would “intercut” them with. Then, as I sat on my porch one afternoon, the answer was obvious. My yard and the woods and fields around it are a riot of green at this time of year, and I asked the question out loud. Lucy, my trusty beagle, looked up at me, but had no reply.
How Many Greens Can One Day Hold?
How many greens can one day hold?
I’m not sure.
As many greens as blades of grass, lit by sun-
light falling on a surface like a gentle hail shower?
Or ferns, reaching toward the sky, forming
small diaphanous clouds
of vibrant, growing green.
Nothing stays still.
Glossy green treetops
tremble like the surface of the sea.
Step into the unknown,
where coolness hides.
The truth is in the depths
of shadowy green pines.
Fireflies’ neon green signals
speak with the voice of nature,
blink on and off, whisper goodnight,
accept living immersed in mystery.
© Catherine Flynn, 2017 (italicized lines by Carol Rovelli and translators Simon Carnell and Erica Segre)
If quantum gravity isn’t a topic you’re anxious to learn more about, this book isn’t a good choice. But in the last chapter, “Mystery,” Rovelli asks some serious questions about the nature of knowledge and what we can know with certainty. He states “to seek to look further, to go further, seems to me to be one of the splendid things that gives sense to life.” Splendid, indeed.
Please be sure to visit Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link for the Poetry Friday Roundup.