Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Twins, the Weasleys, and "The Wait of Atom" or What's the Difference Anyway?

Musings for January 14, 2010

Twins, the Weasleys, and “The Wait of Atom” or
What’s the Difference Anyway?

Twins are intriguing. They seem to be the living embodiment of the idea of comparison and contrast. We are astutely aware of each twin’s similarities to the other, but we know they are different, even if we struggle to put their differences into words.

My favorite twins are not the Olsens or the Weasleys or Castor and Pollux or anyone, living of myth for that matter, but rather the twin concepts of art and science. The two words have been linked in the phrase “arts and sciences” for as long as I can remember and I’m sure a great deal longer, but we use them separately as well, albeit not always with any clear distinction. There have been, for example, recent books called both The Art of Cooking and The Science of Cooking. My son is majoring in political science, but when he finishes his degree he’ll receive a Bachelor of Arts. There are countless books about the art of love, but just last year NBC ran a special called The Science of Love. And finally, while a recent Psychology Today article was titled “The Science of a Good Marriage,” Wilferd Peterson’s well-known poem on the topic is called “The Art of Marriage.”

And that’s where I begin today--at the intersection of poetry, art, science, and relationships. This intersection is where one finds the fascinating new book of poems called The Wait of Atom, by Charlotte poet and Poetry Hickory regular, Jessie Carty. The poems in this book explore the often contrasting, often complementary, and often surprisingly contrary-to-convention perspectives of a man and a woman in a relationship. Each of the poems is also couched in the terminology of the Periodic Table of Elements, creating a wonderful juxtaposition of what is usually considered art (poetry) and what is usually considered science (the table of elements), implying that even these seemingly disparate concepts are much more closely related than we typically imagine them to be. While we all too readily imagine that art is “from Venus” and science “from Mars,” this collection of poems blurs those lines, making it clear that sometimes art is “from Mars” and sometimes science “from Venus,” and illustrating that while, like all twins and all people in a relationship, art and science are distinct, taken together they also exist as a single complex and vibrant entity.

Not only are the poems in Carty’s collection works or art (or science), but so too is the book itself. Handcrafted, embossed, and bound by Folded Word Press, the book can be ordered for $9 at If you go to that site, you should also watch the informative and very entertaining video called “Constructing Atoms.” To give you a sense of what to expect from The Wait of Atom, here is the title poem, first published in Wild Goose Poetry Review:

The Wait of Atom

It wasn’t that he wouldn’t wait for her
or not even that he didn’t want
to wait for her, he just couldn’t
stand still. She couldn’t stand it,
the way his eyes became nearly crossed,
how he jangled the change in his pocket.
She’d complained before.

To keep his face from registering
annoyance, he began mentally listing
the noble gases by weight: lowest to highest,
using his hands in his pockets to count each one.
He could do this without moving his lips.
His face relaxed even though she was still
transferring her personal items
from a brown purse to a black one.

She had explained, on more than one occasion,
how her purse had to match her shoes. How
his belt should match his shoes and he’d learned
to keep his eyes focused on a point
just over her shoulder while he let his brain
scan the periodic table of elements.


  1. Such a great article Scott :)
    I had so much fun stepping into the mind of Atom. I have more science and poetry poems to come!

  2. Nice column, Scott. Jessie is definly an up and coming poet.

  3. Thanks for some thought-provoking ruminations. "The Wait of Atom" is a fine chapbook.

  4. Scott, where is your son going to school. Our younger son is at UNC-G studying Computer Science. He will earn a Bachelor of Science. Crazy!