Radial Symmetry – the poetry of Katherine Larson

What is it about the ocean that inspires otherwise precise and stoic scientists to cast off the shackles of structured, rigorously defined scientific language and swim, instead, through a sea of verse and meter. You can find examples littered across the internet, from Kevin Zelnio’s song lyrics featured in the Open Lab, to my own pedestrian attempts at Hardtack and Sardines. Of course, some poets rise above our amateur attempts and merge a deep understanding of the natural world with a precise eye for beauty, bringing both together in a sea of verse which stirs the soul and challenges the intellect. That is exactly what Katherine Larson has done with her first book of science-inspired poetry: Radial Symmetry.

It may seem a strange book for a marine science blog to review, but Larson, a molecular biologist by training, has captured a the spirit of scientific inquiry and the ocean in a way that few other mediums can. Her poetry evokes the thrill of discovery as well as frustration. How many practicing scientists can’t relate to Love at thirty-two degrees, a poem that begins by observing the branchial hearts of a squid,  when she announces:

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