The Art of Expressing Science Through Poetry

Sherry-Ann Brown, MD, Ph.D., is a physician-scientist in the fields of preventive cardiology, cardio-oncology, and heart disease in women. Additionally, she is successful in, and passionate about, expressing science and medicine through poetry. Crastina contacted Dr. Brown for an interview.

1. Please tell us briefly about your scientific background!
I was offered a research scholarship upon completion of high school, as part of my college experience at Wesleyan University in Middletown Connecticut, where I completed a Bachelor of Arts in Physics with much liberal arts exposure, followed by a largely research-based Master of Arts in Physics with a concentration in Biotechnology.

2. How did you get into the area of science and poetry? 
In 2017 at the annual national American Society for Cell Biology research conference, I was intrigued by the event CellSlam. With a burst of inspiration, in half hour I composed a poem that was too long for the 3-minute requirement imposed by the competitor organizers, but thoroughly tantalizing to the audience. The poem compared my research findings to an experience I had just the night before in a restaurant in Washington, DC, the host city for the conference.

It was so much fun to conceive, write, and deliver the poem! Subsequently, I ended up writing a series of poems to complement the scientific manuscripts for my PhD thesis. All of those poems have now been published or are currently in press, including the very first one written in Washington, DC. Since then, I’ve continued to write about science and medicine, and the best part is being able to share the works with others.

I first started writing poetry in high school. I continued this through college, graduate school, medical school, and advanced medical training. I am so glad that I have found this incredible outlet, that it inspires so many, and that it’s a tremendous medium for learning for so many around the world. I hope that more and more educators will embrace creative expression as a form of learning in science and medicine, and that learners will continue to nurture their various art forms.

Science and poetry are like two sides of the same coin.

3. What are your thoughts about the connection between science and poetry?
Science and poetry are like two sides of the same coin; you can look at the same coin or the same phenomenon from two perspectives and describe the same thing. It’s still a matter of perspective as we describe what we see, learn, hypothesize and perceive.

4. How would you describe a haiku?
A poem that’s a little bit short and sometimes just right.

5. According to your research and experience, how can creative expressions, such as writing haikus and other poetic approaches, influence student learning?
Students have to really understand the science to write a good and accurate poem. Writing helps you to delve more deeply into your understanding of the science in order to appropriately explain it to someone else. It also helps you to enjoy the process of learning and bring others on the journey with you!

6. What advice do you have to scientists or science students who are curious about poetry and writing haikus?
Give it a shot. Don’t let anybody stop you. If they try, show them these two blog posts and dare them to argue against them. By the time they’re done reading those blog posts or your own poetry, they may be converted. No one can stare in the face of truth and deny its existence for very long. In fact, this summer on Amazon, I may be releasing several small Kindle eBooks and paperback books of poetry related to science and medicine. So if they need more convincing, stay tuned!

Read more from Dr. Sherry-Ann Brown:

About Ellinor Nilsson

Nutritionist from Sweden, passionate about science communication, sustainability, singing and delicious food.
1 reply
  1. Edward Maliszewski
    Edward Maliszewski says:

    Science Vs Poetry :
    Polish poet Juliusz Słowacki [1809-1849] wrote between 1843/4-1846? a mystical prose poem entitled “Genesis from the Spirit” published in 1871. If we reduce the mystical parts of the poem to a minimum and leave only the purely « objective » parts, we arrive at his poetic description of the “Big Bang” :

    “…The Spirit… turned one point… of invisible space into a flash of Magnetic-Attractive Forces. And these turned into electric and lightning bolds – And they warmed up [in the Spirit… You, Lord, forced him…] to flash with destructive fire… [You turned the Spirit… into] a ball of fire and hung him on the abysses… [And here… a circle spirits… he grabbed] one handful of globes and swirled them around like a fiery rainbow… “

    This is how poetic intuition could anticipate the scientific discoveries…

    This is all the more interesting since probably these two cosmogonies of Poe’s « Eureka » and Słowacki have (to a certain extent) a common inspiration – namely another cosmogony, that of Adam Mickiewicz [1798 – 1855], professor at the Collège de France in Paris between 1840 and 1844. The latter presented it in his famous improvisation which took place on Christmas Day 1827 in Saint Petersburg.
    Thus, the analogy between Poe’s “Eureka” and Słowacki’s “The Genesis of the Spirit” which still intrigues today is no longer so mysterious…
    (see :,big-bang-according-to-the-19th-century-polish-poet-j-slowacki )


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