The Universe in Verse–introduction to the 2021-2022 season

I encourage you to travel with me throughout the universe over the next few weeks. We should go ahead and thank Maria Popova and her many connections for what they’ve been up to.

Here’s how Maria describes this marvelous ‘spaceship’ she calls “The Universe in Verse.”

An annual charitable celebration of the wonder of reality through stories of science winged with poetry, born in 2017 as part celebration of life and part protest against the assault on science, nature, and reality — that is, on life — in the era of “alternative facts” and vanishing environmental protections.  

Maria Popova

Here’s a link to the following article. I’d encourage you to save it. I’ll try to post something from this multi-year journey every few days.


The Universe in Verse was born in 2017 as part celebration of the wonder of life and the splendor of reality, and part protest against the assault on science and nature — that is, on life and reality — in the era of “alternative facts” and vanishing environmental protections. An act of resistance and an act of persistence. Fierce insistence on the felicitous expression of nature in human nature, with our capacity for music and mathematics, for art and hope.

Spring after spring, it remained a live gathering and a labor of love. Then, in the gatherless disorientation of the pandemic, I joined forces with my friends at On Being to reimagine the spirit of The Universe in Verse in a different incarnation — a season of perspective-broadening, mind-deepening, heart-leavening stories about science and our search for truth, enlivened by animated poems with original music: emblems of our longing for meaning.

Carrying the animations are stories about relativity and the evolution of flowers, about entropy and space telescopes, about dark matter and the octopus consciousness, illustrated with poems new and old, by Emily Dickinson and Richard Feynman, by W.H. Auden and Tracy K. Smith, by Marilyn Nelson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, brought to life by a human constellation strewn across spacetime and difference: twenty-nine largehearted artists, musicians, writers, scientists, and other weavers of wonder, who have poured their time and talent into this improbable labor of love. The total distance between them exceeds the circumference of the globe. Half a century stretches between the youngest and the eldest.

Among them are Yo-Yo Ma, Joan As Police Woman, David Byrne, Sophie Blackall, Amanda Palmer, Janna Levin, Ohara Hale, Maira Kalman, Debbie Millman, Toshi Reagon, Daniel Bruson, Zoë Keating, Garth Stevenson, Sy Montgomery, Jherek Bischoff, Edwina White, James Dunlap, Marissa Davis, Tom McRae, Topu Lyo, Gautam Srikishan, Lottie Kingslake, Kelli Anderson, Liang-Hsin Huang, and Patti Smith.

Released over the course of the season, each of the nine chapters begins with a science story and ends with an animated poem chosen to illuminate the scientific fact with the sidewise gleam of feeling. Two of the poems (including the one in the opening chapter) are set to song, and seven are soulful readings scored with original music by a different composer. Each miniature totality is brought to life by a different performer and shimmers with visual magic by a different artist. Each is a portable cosmos of gladness at the chance-miracle of aliveness: all of us, suspended here in this sliver of spacetime, with our stories and our poems and each other.

Highlights from the previous seasons can be seen here.

Author: Richard L. Fricks

Former CPA, attorney, and lifelong wanderer. I'm now a full-time skeptic and part-time novelist. The rest of my time I spend biking, gardening, meditating, photographing, reading, writing, and encouraging others to adopt The Pencil Driven Life.

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