The Universe in Verse

From brainpickins.org: https://www.brainpickings.org/the-universe-in-verse/

A charitable celebration of science and nature through poetry.

APRIL 25, 2020 (WORLDWIDE)

Since 2017, The Universe in Verse has been celebrating the
natural world — the science, the splendor, the mystery of it — through
poetry, that lovely backdoor to consciousness, bypassing our habitual
barricades of thought and feeling to reveal reality afresh. And now here
we are — “survivors of immeasurable events,” in the words of the
astronomer and poet Rebecca Elson,
“small, wet miracles without instruction, only the imperative of
change” — suddenly scattered six feet apart across a changed world,
blinking with disorientation, disbelief, and no small measure of
heartache. All around us, nature stands as a selective laboratory log of
only the successes in the series of experiments we call evolution —
every creature alive today, from the blooming magnolias to the
pathogen-carrying bat, is alive because its progenitors have survived
myriad cataclysms, adapted to myriad unforeseen challenges, learned to
live in unimagined worlds.

The 2020 Universe in Verse is an adaptation, an experiment, a Promethean campfire for the collective imagination.

Originally, this year’s edition was migrating to a majestic outdoor
amphitheater in the redwoods of California, exploring the question What Is Life? Four days later, I was to host another event across the landmass — a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and Rachel Carson’s legacy
— on the steps of the New York Public Library, where the inaugural
Earth Day took place in 1970. Both were colossal labors of love many
months in the making, with many remarkable humans involved. Both were
cancelled out of necessary regard for the resilience of life as we face
its fragility together — a world of hostages to a submicroscopic
assailant, a world of refugees from ordinary life, struggling for
safety, sanity, and survival of body and soul.

Adapting to this extra-ordinary shared circumstance, The Universe in Verse
is taking a virtual leap to serve what it has always aspired to serve —
a broadening of perspective: cosmic, creaturely, temporal, scientific,
humanistic — all the more vital as we find the aperture of our attention
and anxiety so contracted by the acute suffering of this shared
present. I have once again joined forces with my friends at Pioneer Works, the birthplace of The Universe in Verse — that improbable brick-and-mortar spaceship of possibility, where we have been quietly building New York City’s first-ever public observatory
to offer precisely such a portal to cosmic and creaturely perspective, a
place devoted to education and enchantment, democratizing the science
and the poetics of the universe, and making, in Walt Whitman’s words,
“all spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets”
available to “all souls, all living bodies though they be ever so
different.”

The 2020 Universe in Verse is broadcasting from Pioneer Works at 4:30PM EST on Saturday, April 25.

Expect readings of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich,
Pablo Neruda, June Jordan, Mary Oliver, Audre Lorde, Wendell Berry,
Hafiz, Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, and other titans of poetic
perspective, performed by a largehearted cast of scientists and artists,
astronauts and poets, Nobel laureates and Grammy winners: Physicists Janna Levin, Kip Thorne, and Brian Greene, musicians Rosanne Cash, Patti Smith, Amanda Palmer, Zoë Keating, Morley, and Cécile McLorin Salvant, poets Jane Hirshfield, Ross Gay, Marie Howe, and Natalie Diaz, astronomers Natalie Batalha and Jill Tarter, authors Rebecca Solnit, Elizabeth Gilbert, Masha Gessen, Roxane Gay, Robert Macfarlane, and Neil Gaiman, astronaut Leland Melvin, playwright and activist V (formerly Eve Ensler), actor Natascha McElhone, entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, artists Debbie Millman, Dustin Yellin, and Lia Halloran, cartoonist Alison Bechdel, radio-enchanters Krista Tippett and Jad Abumrad, and composer Paola Prestini with the Young People’s Chorus. As always, there are some thrilling surprises in wait.

Every golden human thread weaving this global lifeline is donating
their time and talent (and oh how much time this has taken!), diverting
from their own work and livelihood, to offer this generous gift to the
world. We’ve made this just because it feels important that it exist,
that it serve some measure of consolation by calibration of perspective,
perhaps even some joy. The Universe in Verse is ordinarily a
ticketed charitable event, with all proceeds benefiting a chosen
ecological or scientific-humanistic nonprofit each year. We offer this
year’s livestream freely, but making the show exist and beaming it to
you had significant costs, paid out of (shallow, personal, non-profit)
pocket. If you are so moved and able, please support this colossal labor
with a donation to Pioneer Works,
whose doors are now physically closed to the public but whose hearts
remain open to the world as they pirouette to find new ways of serving
art, science, and perspective. Your donation is tax-deductible and
appreciation-additive. There would be no Universe in Verse without Pioneer Works.

DONATE TO PIONEER WORKS

Infinite, wholehearted thanks to my friends at m ss ng p eces,
who valiantly donated innumerable hours stitching this whole symphony
of segments together. They’ve launched a wonderful kindred project
titled TOGETHER
— a series of conversations with inspired and inspiring humans about
how we live through these disorienting times. Check it out.

NOTE: For various artistic, legal, and technical
reasons, the livestream will not be available in its entirety for later
viewing — just as a physical gathering only exists for as long as we
are gathered — but individual readings will be released incrementally on
Brain Pickings. (Sign up for the newsletter
to ensure you don’t miss them.) As the biology of life is challenging
us to bend limitation into possibility as never before, may this
meta-limitation also serve as an invitation — to be fully present,
together across the space that divides us, for a beautiful and
unrepeatable experience that animates a shared moment in time, all the
more precious for being unrepeatable. “As if what exists, exists so that
it can be lost and become precious,” in the words of the poet Lisel Mueller.