Sunday, November 27, 2011

Emotional Opinion

Ah, I like this definition of poetry as "emotional opinion," which I found in Ruth Stone's obituary in the New York Times. She died at 96, so she had a good (I hope) long life, though filled with sorrow and struggle. A poet's life.

I read her book In the Next Galaxy last year and will seek out her others, gradually, if I can bear it. The obituary quotes from a couple of the poems about her husband's suicide, and here's another set of lines: "What is imperative is the Off switch; / which he, at one point some time ago, / opted for himself." She opted to live, and to write, and I am glad of it, but now the Off switch has been flicked for her.

Also sad to learn of the death of biologist Lynn Margulis, a favorite of mine. She was a trailblazer in evolution-ary theory, proposing symbiosis as one path to new life forms, not just random mutation. She allows for a kind of altruism as the basis of life, not just selfish survival, as evolution is so often interpreted, and her definition of "altruism" is, likewise, not the selfish conventional one in biology, which reduces it. That is, to preserve life itself, Margulis suggested, two organisms may share materials and give up their own lives, which is different in essence from those who say the organism is simply desperately trying to save itself and randomly produces something new. Since, in both cases, this is an unthinking intention, as far as we know, someone might say it is just two ways of seeing/stating the same thing. Fine. But they are importantly different ways of seeing/stating, with ramifications beyond biology, and Margulis's own research provided evidence at first rejected, now accepted in mainstream evolutionary theory.

Not surprisingly, she is also the mother of Gaia theory, which should interest and please some science fiction lovers, and was once married to Carl Sagan ("billions and billions" of stars).

And one more recent loss: Shelagh Delaney, the author of the play A Taste of Honey. I am thankful that these women lived and wrote, teaching us what to value and how to live, which, as always, is why I read.

And thanks, again, to Jonathan Koch, for the persimmons, pears, and mandarin.


Dale said...

We've lost Shelagh Delaney, too? Christ, I didn't know that. A cold November.

Maureen said...

The artist Manon Cleary also has died.

I did a post on Stone a while ago and then purchased more of her work, which I think is wonderful. There's a very nice selection of her collected poems in "What Love Comes To". I admired so much what she made of a hard life.

Kathleen said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Maureen. That particular book has been calling to me.

Hannah Stephenson said...

Sad for the bright lights out, especially Ruth Stone.

cathy said...

Lynn Margulis was a crotchety writer and a cocky scientist, but I'm betting her way of looking at evolution will win out in the end. Quite a bit of what she had to say has already been accepted, but science has quite a conservative establishment.

As well it should--science fiction is our job!