Slice of Life Challenge/Poetry Friday: Celebrating Women’s History Month with poet and molecular biologist Katherine Larson

Poetry Friday is hosted by Gregory K. at GottaBook
The March Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers
     One Thanksgiving, when our eldest daughter Elizabeth was six, she was asked what she wanted to be when she was “all grown up.”  I think this  relative was asking the question as a lark, something to loop our little girl into the conversation.  Elizabeth thought about this carefully (Elizabeth always thinks about everything carefully) and answered, “Well, I think I’m going to be an astronaut ballerina scientist writer.”  Everyone at the table smiled and laughed affectionately, and someone else said, “All of them? I think you’re going to have to choose one thing to be. Especially if you want to be really good at it.”  Elizabeth, I still remember well, thought about this for a moment, shook her head, and asked, “Why?” 
     Later on, on our ride back home, she wanted to know why everyone thought her response was so funny…. she was interested in so many things, why should she have to choose one thing to be?  We had no answers, but we loved her spirit – and as we’ve watched Elizabeth and her friends grow into accomplished young women,  that spirit is something we continue to marvel about all of them.  They are all interested in a variety of things, and they pursue each of these with equal amounts of passion and expertise – truly amazing.
     So, for this Poetry Friday, in this month celebrating Women’s History,  I’d like to share two poems by a remarkably accomplished woman, who also believes that you can “be” more than one thing in life – the poet and molecular biologist, Katherine Larson.   I find Larson’s poetry so unusual, and so beautiful… perhaps because she combines  the perspective of someone who is trained to notice the science of the smallest things with the ability to write perfectly.  Here she is describing that process:
And here are the poems:

The pomegranates are blurs of rouge
in the sky’s tarnished mirror.

The city, bleary with heat. Each day the eyes
of my cat assemble a more precocious gold.

We press our blackened flesh against a sky so bright. I hold
her in my arms at the fading windows.

We gaze together at nothing in particular,
down an avenue that leans so far her tawny eyes

gutter out. In my laboratory, immortal cancer cells
divide and divide. The pomegranates

are almost ripe. Some splintered open the way
all things fragment—into something fundamental.

Either everything’s sublime or nothing is.

and, the second poem:

Love at Thirty-two Degrees



Today I dissected a squid,
the late acacia tossing its pollen
across the black of the lab bench.
In a few months the maples   
will be bleeding. That was the thing:   
there was no blood
only textures of gills creased like satin,   
suction cups as planets in rows. Be careful

not to cut your finger, he says. But I’m thinking
of fingertips on my lover’s neck   
last June. Amazing, hearts.
This brachial heart. After class,
I stole one from the formaldehyde
& watched it bloom in my bathroom sink
between cubes of ice.
(you can read the rest here.)


11 thoughts on “Slice of Life Challenge/Poetry Friday: Celebrating Women’s History Month with poet and molecular biologist Katherine Larson

  1. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story about your daughter and the great poems.As an aside, I think the greatest gift we can give any of our daughters is the gift of being themselves when they grow up. (In elementary school one of my teachers told me to: "Be yourself, always." It stuck with me ever since then.

  2. My 4-year-old daughter is a teacher on break, who is a vet; she wants to drive a UPS truck, too. I am inspired by your words and Katherine Larson's as well. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Why indeed? I think we need multi talented people who aren't stuck in one area. People who are willing to learn and act in lots of ways. Sounds like your daughter is one of those!

  4. I too love that she asked why she had to choose. I am in love with both children and adults who gather opportunities around them as much as possible, Tara. Your story showed that you like that possibility too. I understand a little of the poet/scientist. I had a teacher/colleague a number of years ago who was a brilliant math teacher and then also a poet and a writer. He helped me change a few things about my writing & co-taught a poetry group with me once, & what a joy that was. Thanks for your brilliant connections!

  5. Elizabeth's question, "why?" Such a profound statement and made in all honesty and innocence. Happy Women's History Month to Elizabeth and all the other amazing women in the world!

  6. In Solarium I really love the line, 'Either everything’s sublime or nothing is.' I can relate to Elizabeth's question… I'm a bit of a jack-of-all trades because I want to do everything.

  7. Oh dearest Tara, what a beautiful post indeed. And your daughter is so enlightened at age six! Thank you for introducing me to Katherine Larson. I will soon be discussing affiliation/achievement concerns among gifted/talented females in my graduate class on Monday evening, and I would be sure to visit your post and share this video clip of yours.

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