Aug. 16, 2023
PhD candidate’s poetry unites science and art worlds
With a love for both writing, and earth and ocean sciences, Samantha Jones indulged in them separately for years.
But, after she wrote a poem on ocean acidification that fostered conversation between both her art and science communities, the University of Calgary PhD candidate learned there may be room to mix the two.
“I found the science would creep into the art that I was doing, whether it was some terminology, some metaphors, (or) thinking about the setting that a poem might be in, or a story might be in … I think that at the beginning the science is quite subtle, but it was still appearing,” says Jones, MSc’09, who is now working on a doctorate with the Department of Geography.
She says she has been writing since she was a child. At first, it was just an aspiration, but Jones became serious about it around a decade ago when she completed the Creative Writing Certificate through Continuing Education.
“At that time, it was really: ‘I want to become a writer; even if it’s separate from my science job, this is something I really want to pursue,’” says Jones.
In 2020, Jones published a piece titled 90s brows in the “Hair” issue of the magazine Room — her first print poetry publication — and now she is working on edits for her first book of poetry titled Attic Rain, which will be released in the fall of 2024 by NeWest Press. The poems in the collection are about living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), something Jones often writes about in addition to her science-focused poetry.
Jones feels her joining of science and art has the potential to make science more accessible for people outside of the field.
“It’s written in a way that’s intended to be an invitation so, hopefully, it’s welcoming people in and they can sit with that piece, even if they are not familiar with every aspect of it,” says Jones, who tries to pick places for publishing her science poetry that are easy to share. She also tries to incorporate multiple entry points into her poetry so people can access the work by viewing and reading it, or by listening.
Thanks to her poetry, Jones finds herself much more present in the moment when working as an earth scientist specializing in carbon cycling in the Canadian Arctic.
“When I’m going out to the field, for example, and I’m taking measurements, taking water samples or measuring some of the dissolved gases in the river, I’m going there with a fairly specific purpose,” says Jones, who is being supervised on her PhD by Dr. Brent Else, BSc’05, MSc’08, PhD.
“I need to collect these samples, do these measurements, write these things down, but, when I start thinking about it poetically, I tend to linger on different details.
“I also think about … what’s going on with my body; how do I feel in that moment? Can I smell things? What can I remember about the sounds that were happening? So I think it triggers something that brings other elements to that field experience.”
Whether it’s about earth sciences or living with OCD, Jones says she hopes her poetry evokes conversations with her readers.
“I think it’s great when people read something and then end up … taking a word or an idea and saying, ‘I’m going to go understand more about this — and now maybe I need to have a conversation about this with someone or ask someone that I know if they’ve heard about this before and collect some resources,’” says Jones.