Happy Poetry Friday! (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.)
I recently read Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science, by Jeannine Atkins. Partially because I love her work, partially because finding wonder is my goal both in life and in writing, so how could I not be drawn to this, even if a stranger had written it.
Oh, gosh. What a lovely…novel in verse? It’s hard to know what to call this, exactly, with three separate stories (about Maria Merian, Mary Anning, and Maria Mitchell), but the poetry is just beautiful! Here’s one of my favorite poems, from the Maria Merian section:
What She Is Told
Women don’t cross the ocean,
at least not unless marries to merchants or missionaries.
No one has sailed to another continent
just to look at and draw small animals and plants.
Some travel to claim land for kinds, find treasure like gold,
or collect bark, berries, and pods to spice cakes.
But no one has sailed from sheer curiosity about the world.
Voyagers are in danger of shipwrecks, hurricanes,
sea monsters, or fires from lanterns tipped by high waves.
Those who survive under sails may die of peculiar fevers
in the New World. They might be eaten by jaguars.
Maria is told, You’re too old. You can’t go alone.
But nothing will stop her now.
–Jeannine Atkins, all rights reserved
I highlighted and typed out many other lovely bits and pieces from this enchanting project. Here are a few more:
Her art is science, which wants questions as much as answers.
Science is made of certainty, but welcomes surprise.
Their backs curve over their work like umbrellas they don’t own.
Fury is a microscope
Certainty is like a pillow she learned to live without. Doubt is crucial.
Maria loves how planets take measured places in the sky, but also hold mysteries.
There is so much to love here!
I enjoyed learning more about all three scientists–but I really wish the author’s note about what is fact and what is imagined was at the beginning of the book, not the end. I was disappointed to learn at the very end that many of the details were fictional (though based on thorough research!). I am fine with that, as long as I know going into a book that that is the case. Since this is a book about three real historical figures, I assumed the details were all true. I see now that the official info does call it a novel in verse. I read it as an ebook that I checked out because I love Jeannine’s poetry and approach, and I never actually saw flap copy before reading it. That would be my only quibble, though. This is gorgeous poetry and wonderful storytelling, grounded in scholarly research. A wonderful project!
And for more poetry goodness, don’t miss the Poetry Friday Roundup. Wonderful book and food blogger Jama Rattigan is rounding us up at Alphabet Soup today. Dig in!