< Back to results

Queer Editorial

hawkingquiver.jpg Quiver

The unlikely link between poetry, science and bat-wing jumpers.

After a brief sabbatical, I sat down this morning to write a new Quiver and I find the physicist Stephen Hawking has died. I remember reading A Brief History of Time when I was a library assistant and wore bat-wing jumpers, floral skirts and court shoes (it was the late-80s). I hadn’t heard of Hawking and wanted to dislike the book because it was new- fangled and everyone was raving about it. However, I was initially drawn in because one of my childhood heroes, Carl Sagan, had written the introduction. I don’t recall the intricacies of Hawking’s text now, but – applying the Angelou scale of recalling not what is done or said, but how something makes you feel – I know that reading that book illumined my mind. Hawking, like Sagan, has that knack of talking with you, not at you or for you, and I remember feeling like I’d read something big and important. Brief History lead me to a lot of other science books and, I realise now, offered an early link between the (then) secret poetry I was writing and science and technology. As a poet and without really understanding why, science has always been an inspiration; intricacy, mystery and beauty span both disciplines and reading good science is like reading good poetry. On the Angelou scale, both should make you feel something, and out of that feeling comes contemplation and engagement. It took me a few more years to find out women are scientists as well, but I am not holding that against him. In the grand scheme of things writers and thinkers like Hawking and Rachel Carson provide a platform from which we can envisage the infinitesimal nature of the known universe. Early on that thought thrilled me, and today it makes me remember that each of us is wonderfully unique, and wholly (in)significant. We can be all of these things, we must be all of them – and in the end, we don’t have very long to make a difference in our own unique way, whatever that is and no matter how small and radiant. See you on the other side Professor Hawking, you will be missed.