A review of

Quantum Lyrics

by A. Van Jordan

Central question: How many good poems can a person write about quantum physics?
Format: 128 pp., cloth; Size: 5" x 8"; Price: $23.95; Publisher: W. W. Norton; Editor: Carol Houck Smith; Book design: Chin-Yee Lai; Number of notes appended to the collection, to elaborate on the poems’ allusions: seventeen; Superheroes represented: the Atom, the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman; Number of conversations between the Atom and Hawkman about matters divine: one; Representative passage/lines: “I never needed my female / Vocalists to look good in a thong to feel their voices / In my bones; I never needed the male crooners to carry / Guns to know they’d kill for love.”

Art or quantum physics: which is better suited to aid our understanding of the universe and of our place in it? To point out, as A. Van Jordan often does in Quantum Lyrics, that neither will suffice without the other is not to suggest that these systems of thought are somehow equivalently fictional or constructed—that old myth so often mistakenly attributed to postmodern thought. For Jordan, to be a visionary—whether poet, philosopher, musician, or scientist—is to wrestle with the same inconveniences of wondering and speak the same language of awe.

Jordan’s visionary heroes are the dreamers who wake up, wonder, and take notes. Speaking as Richard Feynman, for instance, in “Richard P. Feynman Lecture: Intro to Symmetry,” Jordan writes: “What do we pray for but the equation that helps us make sense of what happens in our daily lives?… Sex, laughter, sweat, and equations elegant enough to figure on our fingers.” Simple, yes. But not simplistic.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Thomas March

Thomas March is a poet, teacher and critic who lives in New York City. In December, the Millay Colony for the Arts named him its 2006 Norma Millay Ellis fellow. Recent work appears in 88, New Letters, Painted Bride Quarterly, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Vallum.

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