GENL 355
The Poetry of Science, the Science of Poetry

It has been suggested that metaphor, a mainstay of poetry, is essential to explaining scientific concepts to the general public. One example is the physicist John Ellis’s analogy of a “snowfield” to explain the Higgs Boson. Through the centuries, many poets, including scientist-poets, have pursued similar efforts. But, poetry and science also have other, deeper connections. Just as Francis Collins and Renée Fleming have explained that music is a window into brain science, so is poetry—especially poetry that contains music in the form of rhyme and meter. Through examining essays on poetry’s intersection with neurology and psychology (by Frederick Turner, Ernst Pöppel, and others), close reading of time-honored poems, and informal writing exercises, students will develop a deeper understanding of these connections and of the craft of poetry, both as an art form and as a tool to enhance all writing.


basic mastery of the English language; previous experience with poetry is optional.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learn the basics of metaphor, meter and rhyme; become acquainted with classic forms such as sonnet and villanelle; and, discover how psychology and neurology interact with poetry
  • Use these skills as a reader and writer: understand factors that make time-honored poems work, and experiment with writing new poems or revising poems students have written
  • Examine selected classic and contemporary poems about science to consider whether they can enhance understanding of science
  • Explore how conscious attention to meter, rhyme, and other patterns can increase a writer’s expressive power and bring deeper insights to the surface, enhancing all forms of writing



Class Type

Graduate Course