Making Art at the March for Science

Inside the Poets for Science tent, Kim Roberts was giving a workshop on poems about insects and spiders.  

The Poets for Science tent at the March for Science in Washington on Saturday.CreditAnna North/The New York Times

The tent, set up for the March for Science in Washington on Saturday by the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University, was wallpapered inside and out with poems about the natural world by such writers as Gary Snyder and Kazim Ali. Ms. Roberts was one of several poets from Washington volunteering that day, and her lesson had drawn amateur poets of all ages.

Ryder Gee, 5, had written “Ant”: “Big black ant. Crawling on the porch. Crawling near my foot.” His brother Jordan Gee, 9, had written a poem about a worm enjoying a lunch of “nutritious dirt.”

The boys want to be scientists when they grow up, said their mother, Christina Gee, a psychology professor at George Washington University.

Poems by Jordan and Ryder Gee. CreditAnna North/The New York Times

Ms. Roberts had provided the class with a handout titled “Poems on Phylum Arthropoda,” which included “Carpenter Bee” by Natasha Tretheway and “Ode to the Maggot” by Yusef Komunyakaa.

Near the tent, Brenda Cooper, a science fiction writer, and Michelle Lighton, an archaeologist, had taken shelter from the rain under some trees. Ms. Cooper’s sign, given to her by a friend, gave a shout out to George Orwell, Octavia Butler and Margaret Atwood.

Science fiction has the power to bring science home to readers, to “make it visceral, make people feel it, make people cry about it,” Ms. Cooper said. “Many times science fiction has served as a warning.”

For Ms. Lighton, it had been an inspiration. “I’m a scientist because of science fiction,” she said. “Science fiction helped define a better world.”

“Science is hope,” she added. “Our chance at a better future and a better life for everyone ultimately comes from science.”

She had never been to a march before, but had skipped a conference and flown from San Diego to attend the event on Saturday.

“The fact that I’m marching for 2 + 2 = 4 is just the most bizarre thing in the world to me,” she said, “but it’s something that’s so important.”

Ms. Cooper was concerned about the future of the environment. “If we step backwards in climate,” she said, “we’ll die.”

The march was officially nonpartisan, and many attendees carried signs reading “No Sides in Science.” But there were messages of power and defiance too — one sign read “Oceans are rising and so are we.”

One of the poems in Ms. Roberts’s handout, “Advice from a Caterpillar” by Amy Gerstler, felt like it could serve as a manual for resistance, or at least for survival.

“Behave cryptically to confuse predators,” it read: “change colors, spit, or feign death. If all else fails, taste terrible.”


POSTED: Sunday, April 23, 2017 12:00 AM
Updated: Saturday, December 3, 2022 01:02 AM