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February 06, 2016



The Poetry of Cool

Having once worked for a company that distributed publications of the World Meteorological Organization, I was steeped so to speak in meteorological terms of art. One of which, a good example of found poetry of a scientific nature and worthy of the attention of a present day John Donne, was the following that has stuck with me for years: the cool skin of the ocean.

It's a beautiful phrase that stopped me in my tracks and might well have been found in the notebooks of any one of a number of poets -- Elizabeth Bishop or Wallace Stevens, for example. More prosaically it at the very least could have been the title of a novel by Iris Murdoch or Virginia Woolf, or have been included in one of Rachel Carson's sea-related books.

Another striking term is thundersnow, which I first heard in an early-morning radio commercial referencing possible new sources of energy. It's a relatively new meteorological term that has its own supporting lexicon of found poetic phrases -- acoustic suppression, synoptic forcing, upslope flow, and that very musical old standby wind shear. It also sounds like it could have been a borrowing from Native American weather lore -- a sort of impressionistic spoken poetry to those who allow themselves to listen.

And a related example of found poetry would be arctic summer, which was the title chosen for one of his novels by E.M. Forster, a project he never completed (Damon Galgut however revived it as the title of his 2014 novel about Forster). It too is a beautiful, coolly evocative phrase worthy of a poet's consideration.

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