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Science Prompts to Inspire Your Craft

In the interview the New York Academy of Sciences did with me last year, I said that my top tip for combining art and science was to identify your passions (plural) and make them work together. What Kimiko Hahn has done with her book of poetry, Toxic Flora, is an inspiring example of this. All of the poems are inspired by articles from The New York Times science section.

What an excellent prompt! Use the science section of the newspaper to exercise your craft, whether you write, take photos, draw, knit, compose music, or make jewelry. I would love to do one illustration each week, inspired by a science article. Shall I choose one source, like The New York Times, or sample from the best of the week out of the 20 newsletters I subscribe to?

Yesterday, Kimiko Hahn was in conversation with Janna Levin at Housing Works Bookstore, hosted by Academy of American Poets. The idea was to get a poet who writes about science and a scientist who writes poetically. Levin read from her Black Hole Blues off of Maria Popova’s phone because she couldn’t find a hard copy of her book at home. She says that styles and approaches to writing nonfiction haven’t been fully explored yet. As an avid fiction reader, she approached writing a work of science journalism as though she were writing a novel.

Hahn recounted being invited to meet the science staff of The New York Times after her book was published and panicking because she realized that what she was basically doing was walking into a room filled with all the people she’d plagiarized! Luckily, they were receptive to her work.

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Kimiko Hahn (l) and Janna Levin (r) at Housing Works Bookstore, NYC, 1/23/19

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