Photonics – A Poem and Beautiful Artwork Response

This month, Lifeology is running a science poetry challenge! As part of the challenge, we hope to inspire scientists or anyone interested in science to write a science poem. As a bonus, we are also encouraging poem creators to commission artistic “responses” to their poems, in order to elevate the shareability and reach of their work! (The “prize” for our favorite poem entry in July will be a free commissioned digital art piece that is a “response” to the poem! Learn more here.)

To inspire you, Lifeology organized and funded an illustrated response to “Photonics“, a poem by science poetry expert Rachel Rayner. (Rachel helped organize our science poetry challenge and has provided poetry writing tips here!). The illustrated art piece was created by artist Matthew Griffiths. Enjoy!

“Photonics is the science of light, including all the ways in which we can generate and manipulate the small particles of light called photons — ‘photo’ meaning light in Greek. A photon is illustrated as two equal sine waves (representing a smooth and regular motion) sitting at 90 degrees to each other. This is the ‘two parts to a whole’: one wave is an electric field and the other a magnetic field. It is these points of light that allow us to see and feel all the beauty in the universe, and which consequently connect us.” – Rachel Rayner

Photonics - Artwork
Artwork by Matthew Griffiths, published in Consilience

Divining the eye’s reaction

to the glow of a dying match,

the glinting edge of a tambourine,

or rogue droplet skipping stones

to join its kind in moonlight.

Together, they carried a force—

a particular wave of energy.

A tiny thing, two parts to a whole,

both waving in Sine language

and making a measured point.

Dancing between wave and sand,

they see beyond their original

pinpoint burst to travel straight,

connecting harmonic impulse

and building historic frequencies.

Together we saw the flicker and flash

the movement of two parts

the forging of sensation.

A chemical interplay formed

a million photons — the spark that lit

the leaping moon-bright water,

or the small space around the wick

in a moody basement cafe.

Two out of a million is all we needed to reach us.

Two out of a million to move us.

Inspiration for the artwork, by Matthew Griffiths

Seeing a request for a visual art response to Rachel Rayner’s piece of Science poetry (while browsing the Lifeology Slack) really piqued my interest. I see all art as a collaboration, whether it’s with a client, fellow artist, or even made by myself. All that we do is influenced by what’s around us and those who came before us. Here was a chance to directly build on someone else’s art and to try and enhance it!

To take someone’s poem and imagine it is an intriguing task and a new challenge for me. Based on our own experiences I think we all take different emotions and imagery away from a poem. I didn’t want to be too prescriptive.

Reading Rachel’s poem I felt I was seeing scenes as layers of remembered fragments. I wanted to investigate the way we see and remember; variable opaque layers of objects under the haze of memory. Light can reveal but also obscure and our human vision is limited. I combined drawn and digital elements in a multi-layered document, playing with colors and opacities to build a surreal scene that reflected the feeling I captured from the poem. My aim is to enhance the poem’s emotion rather than explain its meaning, which I believe should be left to the audience.

Submit your own science poem today to Lifeology@lifeomic.com! Interested in having your poem or another piece of science writing illustrated? Contact us or an artist in our global member directory today.

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