Sarah Watkinson
Graft Poetry, £9.00

With notable exceptions, such as Primo Levi or Mala Rahakrishnan, it is not common to encounter poet scientists. Indeed some may see scientific discovery as the death of poetry.

As an internationally recognised expert on the fungus Serpula lacrymans, who played a significant part in sequencing its genome, Watkinson is no lightweight scientist. Yet, in the last decade she has explored and expressed herself increasingly through poetry, winning the 2016 Cinnamon Press Pamphlet Prize and currently the Writer in Residence at Wytham Woods.

Her anthology, Photovoltaic, establishes her as an accomplished word artist, expertly employing a variety of poetic forms. Have you ever pondered on what Darwin thought when first encountering marine iguanas, marvelled at the ingenuity of how dung beetles are guided by the Milky Way, or even wondered if cats commiserate our lack of claws? If so you’ll readily identify with Sarah Wilkinson’s verses. If you haven’t contemplated these and other biological wonders in more than concrete or precise scientific terms, then delving into her prose will be an illuminating and enjoyable experience.

We can closely observe birds in flight, classify them using precise anatomical terminology, prescribe their diet, monitor trends in breeding patterns, trace their evolutionary history through DNA analysis and track their movements as they migrate across the globe, or even as William Wordsworth wrote “murder to dissect”… but what if their glorious song is perceived as an excess of energy floating out every dawn through some process of entropic diffusion, as their bodies appear in the morning light? Can this not be a valid description?

Whether you are looking for that unique present for a nature loving friend or you want to enrich yourself, then this little compendium is a worthy treasure.

Dr Alexander Waller FRSB