Monday, April 1, 2013
JANICE LEE ON SCIENCE AND POETRY
When kathryn pringle asked me to talk about how science influences my writing practice, I thought, Sure, no problem. That's easy. Though of course I started thinking about this and it started to become overwhelming. It's always overwhelming to start to think about influences and correlations in one's writing practice & philosophy.
Probably the easiest place to start would be to describe my education. I was a science major in college (actually, I was pre-med) trying to balance a double major in writing. I loved science, but I didn't love being a science major, especially being a pre-med student in a sea of other overly-ambitious and cruelly competitive pre-med students. After various events, I dropped the biology major, and instead picked up 2 minors in Film Studies and Biological Anthropology. One of my favorite classes was one in which we studied skulls and pelvic bones and learned to identity them by sight and touch.
So science, broadly put, has always been a part of my life, my writing practice, and my "belief" system. I could talk more about my thoughts on how belief today has become a strangely aesthetic category, the "either/or" mentality that seems to dominate the way we decide the world works, but I've talked at length about it here: On Spectral Psychography.
Generally though, I don't see the same distinctions between these different disciplines that others do, between neuroscience, philosophy, phenomenology, psychology, alchemy, ufology, anthropology, theology, etc. I start to see them all as different wavelengths of a broader spectrum, and my own obsessive research patterns reflect that. My writing, and thus my investigations, have thus far been very rhizomatic. I'm constantly making connections between ideas and concepts and images. My first book, KEROTAKIS, was a consequence of reading various alchemical texts, the Kabbalah, Julian Jaynes, various texts on neuroscience and consciousness studies, and my interest in cyborgs. The text is an amalgam of what I was reading, and thinking, at the time. Daughter, too, draws heavily upon biological texts about the octopus, alongside Jung, Nietzsche, Pound, and then thinkers such as Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) and Michael Persinger (Neuropsychological Bases of God Beliefs). This isn't all directly or obviously evident in the writing, but for me, it's all there.
I don't really separate science from poetry. This division isn't productive for me, and it emphasizes the differences rather than the similarities in intention. For me, being a writer means first and foremost being a thinker. And for me, that means that I have to constantly be learning something, to constantly keep an open mind, to read as much as I can (in all areas of thought, not only poetry), and keep moving forward.