Poetry

Cosmic Poetry Competition 2021: The Winners

We are delighted to again welcome Jonathan Taylor as a guest blogger. Jonathan is the author of several novels and poetry collections, the editor of several anthologies, and Associate Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester in the UK.

I've always been fascinated by the intersections and overlaps between Creative Writing and science. It's always seemed to me that poetry and cosmology, for example, share a great many characteristics, in their methods and means of communication: they both play with, even bend, language; they both use metaphor and analogy; they both re-enchant and defamiliarize our universe, so we see it anew. Having written various poems over the years for Chandra X-Ray Observatory (in March 2010, June 2010, April 2012, and August 2016), I often find the poetry is already there, waiting to be discovered, in the language used to capture Chandra's amazing revelations.

Hence, as part of their course, we encourage our Creative Writing students at Leicester University to explore some of the fascinating overlaps between their writing and scientific research – including the work of NASA and Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Over the years, this has resulted in various student competitions (in December 2010: part one and part two; May and June 2012: part one and part two; February 2016, and February 2017). In January 2021, we held a new competition for student writers, in which they were again invited to submit poems that explore – directly or indirectly, literally or metaphorically – the language and findings from one of Chandra's press releases. You can read the two beautiful winning entries below: 'IC 4593' by Laura Sygrove, and 'A New Cosmic Triad of Sound' by Rebecca Hughes.

Poetry and Black Holes

We welcome back Jonathan Taylor as a guest blogger. Jonathan is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester, UK, along with an author and critic. He has written several poems for us in the past: “Black Hole in B-flat”, “History Lesson” and “!!**&@??”. He has also organized poetry competitions among his students, in blog posts here, here, here, here and here.

I was fascinated by Chandra’s press release of 27 June 2016, ‘Clandestine Black Hole May Represent New Population.’ The very title of the press release sounds ‘poetic,’ in the idea of ‘Clandestine’ – a concealed or secretive – Black Hole; and the findings described in the press release are even more so: having concluded that “a peculiar source of radio waves thought to be a distant galaxy is actually a nearby binary star system containing a low-mass star and a black hole,” astronomers have suggested that “there may be a vast number of black holes in our Galaxy that have gone unnoticed until now .... Because this study only covered a very small patch of sky, the implication is that there should be many of these quiet black holes around the Milky Way. The estimates are that tens of thousands to millions of these black holes could exist within our Galaxy, about three to thousands of times as many as previous studies have suggested.”

Poetry Inspired by Chandra Discoveries

Science is a distinctly human endeavour that overlaps with many other fields.

Scientific discoveries can provide inspiration for music, art, literature and poetry. As an example of the latter, over several years we have hosted the results of poetry competitions run by Jonathan Taylor, a lecturer in Creative Writing at The University of Leicester in the UK. Jonathan asks students to write a poem based on one of the results in our press or image releases.

AstroPoetry, 2012 (Part Two)

Following the success of our first poetry competition last year, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and Jonathan Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, have now run a second competition, in which Creative Writing students at De Montfort University in the U.K. were invited to write poems inspired by some of Chandra's findings. The final two entries of the four winning pieces are included here. Congratulations to all four winners.
Want more astropoetry? See these previous pieces.

AstroPoetry, 2012

Following the success of our first poetry competition last year, Chandra X-ray Observatory and Jonathan Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, have run a second competition, in which Creative Writing students at De Montfort University in the U.K. were invited to write poems inspired by some of Chandra’s findings and research areas. For the first installment, two out of the four winning entries are shown below (See also part two). All of the entries explore, in their different ways, the overlap between poetry and scientific discovery. Congratulations to the winners and everyone involved for making this unique competition possible.

You can read other student poems inspired by Chandra here and here. Jonathan Taylor's own three poems for Chandra include:

Black Hole in B-Flat
History Lesson
!!**&@??

Nickname GRS 1915

embracing
the evaporating definitions
of space and time
blurred
like the disk clothing me
matter
in a fight
of gravitation
and radiation

!!**&@??

Continuing our interest in poetry, here is a poem inspired by Chandra's image from August 11th 2011 of VV340 , in which two colliding galaxies look like a 'Cosmic Exclamation Point.' The author was fascinated by the image and the metaphor used to encapsulate it – by, that is, the whole notion of 'cosmic punctuation' – so he decided to explore these ideas further in a poem.

Student Poems Inspired by Chandra Releases (2)

Jonathan Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at De Montfort University in the UK, wrote two poems called 'History Lesson' and 'Black Hole in B-Flat,' both inspired by Chandra discoveries, and featured on Chandra's blog. Because of the success of these poems, Chandra and De Montfort University subsequently ran a competition for Creative Writing undergraduate students, in which they were invited to submit poems inspired by one of Chandra's press releases. The competition aimed to uncover the poetry inherent in the kind of scientific discovery undertaken by Chandra, and the four winning entries certainly succeeded in doing precisely that.
Here are the first and second placegetters in the competition. The third and fourth placegetters included in a previous blog posting.

Student Poems Inspired by Chandra Releases (1)

Jonathan Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at De Montfort University in the UK, wrote two poems called 'History Lesson' and 'Black Hole in B-Flat,' both inspired by Chandra discoveries, and featured on Chandra's blog. Because of the success of these poems, Chandra and De Montfort University subsequently ran a competition for Creative Writing undergraduate students, in which they were invited to submit poems inspired by one of Chandra's press releases. The competition aimed to uncover the poetry inherent in the kind of scientific discovery undertaken by Chandra, and the four winning entries certainly succeeded in doing precisely that.
Here are the third and fourth placegetters in the competition. The first and second placegetters will be included in a future blog posting.

History Lesson

Jonathan Taylor, a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at De Montfort University in the UK, wrote a poem about the cosmic 'ghost' lurking around a distant supermassive black hole. His poem also appears in the literary magazine Acumen, issue 67, http://www.acumen-poetry.co.uk/. Jonathan is not only a poet, but a memoirist and novelist.

HDF 130

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has found a cosmic ‘ghost’ lurking around a distant supermassive black hole ....
                            (Chandra X-Ray Observatory, 28 May 2009)

Telescoped, the universe is a vast memory,
an over-long school-lesson in cosmic history,
background radiation droning on and on
from 300,000 years after the big bang,
remembering anything big enough (not us);

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