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Poetry, Space-time, and Entropy


Plotkin's Entropy by Donna Bellas. See text for info. With the amazing success of Isaacson's bio of Einstein, and the translation and release in the US of Neffe's uniquely-German bio, Einstein is certainly in the air. Not as much as 100 years ago, when he was perhaps the most famous person in the world, but nevertheless many are reading, and writing poetic about Albert.

From Bernhardt Blumenthal, a colleague at La Salle who is a Rilke scholar and poet (and in his spare time chair of the Dept. of Foreign Languages & Literatures and the Master’s Program in Central & Eastern European Studies) describes Einstein’s influence on his latest work:

…my latest poem, Schwere Seelen, (Heavy Souls), which just appeared last week in a German literary periodical plays on Einstein’s General Relativity. The souls, heavy with love and suffering, warp reality and pass over the space-time curve through hyper-space into another universe–one without entropy. The female lover, incidentally, transits space escaping on a light beam exiting a black hole (thus faster than our conventional absolute speed of light) and rescues the beloved from his entropic situation.

Bernie has long been fascinated with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, and his work and teaching often embrace the "entropic" topic in a fine blending of art, science, and literature. In an interview shortly after receiving the Robert L. Kahn Lyric Prize (given annually by the Society for Contemporary American Literature in German (SCALAG), Bernie describes his unique approach and genre: “I like to apply physics to literature to form a type of science fiction lyric poetry."

I am a firm believer that creative, informed marriage of science and literature can help students of both to understand the concepts and worldview of the other.Schwere Seelen is such a creation. I am thankful that Bernie has given me permission to reproduce his latest poem here, along with the English "reconceptualization."

Schwere Seelen Sternkönigin, mit Leid und Liebe überschwer bist du nach lichtloser Fahrt in meine Welt gekommen. Die Lichtgeschwindigkeit überspringend, kommst du siegend, mir den Weg in das neue Universum zu weisen. Meine bleierne Seele führst du rettend über die Raumzeitkurve in das blendende Licht hinein. Wir gleiten unsichtbar nun aus berstenden Sternen entfliegend in unvorstellbare Welten hinein. Hinter uns die Strahlen ausgehender Sonnen und vor uns die Unendlichkeit.

The English "reconceptionalization"…

Heavy Souls Astral queen, laden with love and suffering, after blackened flight, you have come into my world. Soaring past the speed of light, you come victorious lighting the path to the new universe. My leaden soul you transport with saving grace across the space-time curve into the blinding light. We glide invisible now escaping imploding stars into unimaginable worlds. Behind us the smoldering rays of dying suns and before us rising eternity.

Schwere Seelen appeared in Trans-Lit2, eds. Irmgard Hunt and Jolyon T. Hughes (Society for Contemporary American Literature in German), Vol. 13, No. 1, Spring 2007, p.69.

Heavy Souls has been accepted for publication in an anthology to be published by the International Library of Poetry.

About the image in this post: Plotkin’s Entropy is available at DonnaBellas Zazzle and DonnaBellas CafePress. In another beautiful marriage of art and science, Bellas writes that the image "captures the chaotic energy of a new protein as it seeks it final folded state. This painting is named after Dr. Steven Samuel Plotkin , a physicist who researches the energy pathways of protein folding." See Bellas’ site for many more science-inspired images.