January 30, 2011
My poem, “The Poet Gene,” received honorable mention in the 2011 ESRC Genomics Forum Poetry Competition announced this weekend.
The competition was co-sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Genomics Network and the Scottish Poetry Library of Edinburgh. The judges for the competition were Pippa Goldschmidt, Professor Steve Yearley, director of the ESRC Genomics Forum, Peggy Hughes, the communications officer at the Scottish Poetry Library, and poet Kona Macphee.
Writing about my poem, the judges said, “Understandably, most of the poems were serious, and so we particularly enjoyed the humour in one of the runners up, “Improving the Human: ‘The Poet Gene’,” a nicely self-referential poem which imagines the perhaps negative impact of genetic engineering upon poetry itself.”
Here is my poem
“The Poet Gene”
The gene for “poet” has likely been isolated,
somewhere in a lab in southern California.
And I wonder how close it is to the gene
that makes you crave potato chips
or the “coffee-drinker” gene, perhaps,
or the one that causes procrastination.
If they have the poet gene cornered
in a Petri dish, will they admonish it
for all the bad poems ever written,
Would it improve the human
to have the poet gene spliced
into fruit or beef – or even bacon?
Poetry-enhanced bacon. Now that’s
genetic modification one can get behind!
Perhaps it can be modified by the reader gene,
increasing the number of poetry readers.
Oh, but what if it went “aft agley”?
What if this innocent experiment turned wicked?
Think of it, more bad poems by more bad poets—
(Increased productivity isn’t always a good thing.)
Perhaps this poem is, in fact, one of them,
a mutated, altered, monster poem
waiting to grab you by the throat and…Ahem.
Think of the sheer volume of bad poetry
overtaking the world, smothering us;
entire forests decimated for paper
upon which these poems are printed
or hundreds of iPhone apps built
to accommodate a staggering number of poems
cranked out by “GMPs” (genetically modified poets)
careering and MFAing all over the place.
Undoubtedly, someone will decide to splice
the poet gene from one poet into another. Then what?
Talk about trouble: one side striving for simplicity;
the other deliberately obtuse and indirect.
No, best leave the poet gene out of even this poem;
rather, focus on how to make potato chip consumption
actually slimming to the human figure, especially
when consumed with large quantities of your favorite ale
and generous servings of bacon.
–Scott Edward Anderson
- What do you get when you cross poets and geneticists? (newscientist.com)
January 29, 2011
Crafted in the form of a double helix and addressing the issue of cloning, “Forward Deck” by Edinburgh writer, Sophie Cooke, was awarded first prize in the ESRC Genomics Forum Poetry Competition.
Kona Macphee (poet and competition judge) joined Sophie and fellow poets, Russell Jones (3rd Prize) and Katie Gooch (honourable mention), as they presented public readings of their work at the Scottish Poetry Library on Saturday 29 January 2011.
Hosted in partnership with the Scottish Poetry Library, the competition received over 200 entries from writers inspired to consider how work in the field of genomics, including DNA profiling, personalised medicine and stem cell research, is helping society by “improving the human”.
Congratulating all the winners Professor Steve Sturdy, Deputy Director of the ESRC Genomics Forum, said, “A decade since the first mapping of the human genome was hailed as the start of a new era, we are still coming to terms with the implications of these advances. Our winning poems highlight this sense of uncertainty surrounding genetic technologies and the role they might play in ‘improving the human’ and, we hope they will encourage others to explore their own views on these important issues.”
“Poetry can be a powerful communication form,” commented Pippa Goldschmidt, Genomics Forum Writer in Residence was the inspiration behind the competition. “Our winner, Sophie Cooke, used a compelling and disturbing visual metaphor to address the issue of cloning in ‘Forward Deck’. Many poems found inspiration in the idea that humanity is in our imperfections and the second placed poem, ‘Digital’, by Nina Boyd, illustrated this idea beautifully. In third place, ‘Chromosome Medley’ by Russell Jones offers readers an energetic imagining of the impact of genetic choice on the past, present and future.”
“We’re delighted that genomics provided such an exciting topic of inspiration,” said Peggy Hughes, Communications Officer at the Scottish Poetry Library and a judge for the competition. “The variety in subject matter, together with diverse poetic styles, and the global perspectives offered by writers from America, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Uganda and India, combined to make judging difficult but hugely rewarding.”
For more information, including all of the winning poems and honourable mentions: ESRC Genomics Network
[From Press Release]