A Student Field Study Project

As Poetry Recycles Neurons: Flocks of Words, Tracks of Letters
The Evergreen State College, 2012-2013

“Like the entomologist in pursuit of brightly coloured butterflies, my attention hunted, in the flower garden of the gray matter, cells with delicate and elegant forms, the mysterious butterflies of the soul, the beating of whose wings may some day– who knows– clarify the secrets of mental life” –Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Recollections of My Life,1923.

Just as the “header” image mirrors Pablo Garcia-Lopez’s “PET Soul Butterflies,” (1) which in turn mirrors Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s 19th C. discovery of the neuron “in the flower garden of the gray matter,” this field study project mirrors our own discovery of “neuro poetics.”

Each of the letters on the neuro site map featured to the right provides a link to a student’s winter and/or spring quarter field study: a month-long immersion in, and poetic expression of, a passion that tests both Marjorie Perloff’s theory of the unoriginal genius of contemporary poetry and Stanislas Dehaene’s hypothesis of reading as neuronal recycling.

How are our reveries–as well as your ability to read them through these black lines and curves on an illuminated screen—mere remembrances of our ability to read animal tracks and bird flight?

Just as you can buy a t-shirt that says “Poetry is good for neural development” as well as a book on neuroeconomics that will explain why you bought it, each of our field studies explores the poetic experience of language as an evolutionary exaptation.“’Words as orbs,” wrote Bachelard, ”‘murmuring memory,’ says the poet.”

The letters of our eAlphabet bring attention to the act of knowing poetry in the way that Emily Dickinson knew it: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” Our goal is a mindful recycling of neurons, one in which reciprocity between specific forms of poetry and specific states of consciousness binds ecological adaptation with neural integration … and disintegration … “age of earth and us all chattering/a sentence or character/ suddenly/steps out to seek for truth fails/falls into a stream of ink Sequence/trails off/ … flocks of words flying together tense/as an order/cast off to crows.” (2)

(1) PET Soul Butterflies, 2012, Silkscreen, photo printing and crystal beads on black plexiglass ( http://pablogarcialopez.com/home.html)
(2) Susan Howe,Pythagorian Silence,1982,New York: Montemora Foundation.