Scientists and engineers are the great explorers of our age. Inspired by the work of leading research scientists, by CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, space telescopes which allow us to see our Sun in wavelengths far beyond human vision, and by the Cassini mission’s astonishing photos of Saturn’s moons, poet Katrina Porteous translates to the non-scientist contemporary questions about the nature of physical reality and our understanding of it.
Edge contains three poem sequences, Field, Sun and the title sequence, which extend Porteous’s previous work on nature, place and time beyond the human scale. They take the reader from the micro quantum worlds underlying the whole Universe, to the macro workings of our local star, the potential for primitive life elsewhere in the solar system on moons such as Enceladus, and finally to the development of complex consciousness on our own planet. As scientific inquiry reveals the beauty and poetry of the Universe, Edge celebrates the almost-miraculous local circumstances which enable us to begin to understand it.
All three pieces were commissioned for performance in Life Science Centre Planetarium, Newcastle between 2013 and 2016, with computer music by Peter Zinovieff. Sun was part of NUSTEM’s Imagining the Sun project for schools and the wider public (Northumbria University 2016). The title sequence, Edge, was broadcast as a Poetry Please Special on BBC Radio 4 (click on the audio tab below to hear the whole programme).
Edge is Katrina Porteous's third poetry book from Bloodaxe, her first to draw upon her long involvement in scientific projects, following two earlier collections, The Lost Music (1996) and Two Countries (2014), concerned with the landscapes and communities of North-East England.
'There are copious notes to satisfy those curious about the science, but the poems typically stand alone… Edge manages to find images adequate to the task of describing the marvel that is the universe, at both micro and macro levels.' – Ben Wilkinson, Guardian
'Functioning like a cosmic map from the level of sub-atomic particles to vast celestial bodies, Edge succeeds in wedding the arts with science to make a mesmerising and transporting collection. Porteous makes precise and artful use of scientific terminology to complement her sparse and tightly constructed verse. The full effect is to bring the reader to a state of communion; to instil a sense of beauty and belonging to the world of particles, fields, waves, and the behaviour of massive gravitational bodies.' – Jade Cuttle, PBS Bulletin
'Regardless of their performance roots, I found the poems in Edge to be strong, evocative pieces exploring the cosmos and the creation of matter and life vibrantly and distinctively through image, metaphor and all the tools available to a skilled poet. The fact that, stylistically, they often appear lean and pared down makes their lyrical imagining of highly complex scientific theories all the more impressive.' - J S Watts, The High Window
'I found Edge thrilling. There’s no self in it, and almost no people, but it doesn’t feel inhuman because Porteous uses different forms of personification so much... Porteous has a gift for quietly startling metaphor and handles free verse in a brilliantly fluent, precise and varied way... Her poems create imaginative bridges between realities directly available to our senses and the vaster or deeper ones that we can only approach by abstract thought or through sophisticated instruments.' - Edmund Prestwich, The North
Praise for the radio version of the title sequence, Edge:
‘This meditation on chaos and cosmos ends with our own planet glimpsed from the Earth’s moon… The experiment is brave, original and intriguing.’ – Martin Hoyle, Financial Times
‘An extraordinary new poem… The verbal flow, like the effect of the moon, is tidal, with words crashing in and then gently sliding away again.’ – Jane Anderson, Pick of the Week, Radio Times
Praise for Sun:
‘Really brings alive the nature of the Sun to new audiences in new ways.’ – Professor John Woodward, Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellor, Engineering and Environment, Northumbria University