The title got you, didn’t it? Who doesn’t want to read a composition called “Physics Poem”, eh? First the background:
My daughter – a junior in high school – came home from school recently and said she had an assignment from her Physics class to write a poem. After asking her to repeat what she just said because I assumed I had misunderstood, my response was probably what your response would be – “Well, of COURSE you have to write a poem for Physics, it’s what every Physics student does.” As a matter of fact, this past summer when she said she was taking Physics, my first thought was, “You better hone your poetry skills for the big poem assignment.” Actually, that was NOT my response. My response was that I thought it would take longer than this for the culture to implode. Writing poetry in Physics is pretty much a signal that we’ve all given up on real learning and have reached the academic apocalypse. It’s all downhill from here. Fold up the tents, society as we know it is done.
That said, however, my daughter had an assignment to do. And her words to me after telling me about it were, “Dad, you have to help me write a poem.” Now something you should know is that I HATE helping my kids with homework. My contention is that I already did school – I have a high school diploma and a college degree. I completed my homework and rarely asked for help. And I have no desire to do it again. If you need help with homework, you have a perfectly good mother to ask. My wife, however, has done a smart thing – she’s claimed a complete absence of writing ability. Whenever the kids have a writing assignment, she always says that their dad is the writer in the family (you know, since I’m an accountant and all…) so they need to have ol’ dad read over their papers and correct all the grammar and usage. So in this case, my wife’s strategy paid dividends big time. My daughter didn’t even think of asking mom for help – it was time for dad to put on the poetry hat.
So I did. I wrote the poem that’s included here. The full assignment was actually to take 25 Physics words and work them into a poem. What I didn’t realize until I was done was that my daughter actually copied down 27 words so I really went above and beyond the assignment (and deserved extra credit in my mind). I worked 27 words into a nine-verse poem with AABCCB meter. And the end product, I thought, wasn’t bad.
I read the poem to my wife and she didn’t exactly agree. She had three issues with it. Number 1 – “You were supposed to HELP with the assignment, not DO the assignment.” Well hold on. We’re talking Physics poetry here, right? Physics poetry comes from the heart. It comes out of the pain and sadness and triumphs and joys and fears of life, right? Writing it is a lonely slog through the detritus of the soul. You LIVE Physics poetry as much as you write it. You can’t help someone write Physics poetry any more than you can help them fall in love or appreciate art or cry at weddings. It’s from the heart! How do you collaborate on the heart?? Number 2 – “You didn’t really fulfill the assignment. You were supposed to use the words in a Physics sense. You were supposed to show what the words mean in the poem.” Whoa there, Sissy! Now that’s too much! You’re asking me to fit my Physics poetry inside a box constructed by the MAN? That’s simply not happening, my friend. Physics poetry by definition sticks-it to the Man. I don’t write for those who insist on coloring inside the lines. It’s a flow – you can’t control flow. What happens when they build levies along the Mississippi River? It floods over the low spots – it won’t be stopped. Physics poetry is like that – it’s a river of creativity that DROWNS the Man. Number 3 – “No one is going to believe a 16-year-old wrote this.” This one I had to concede. My usage of words like ‘alas’ and a reference to Longfellow probably wouldn’t pass muster as coming from a high-schooler. I thought that perhaps I could go back and start each verse with “so” and then add “like” before any noun and that those two changes would give it authenticity, but in the end I decided to just let the original breathe. My wife ultimately won.
So all that to say – I wrote this in vain. But that’s where having a blog comes in handy. What’s a blog for if not to indulge my self-absorption and publish my Physics poetry? So I include the un-hand-innable poem here for your enjoyment. Here are the 25 (27) words I had to incorporate:
Gravity – Velocity – Acceleration – Position – Length – Speed – Friction – Radius – Time – Motion – Force – Inertia – Momentum – Energy – Displacement – Mass – Equilibrium – Free fall – Projectile motion – At rest – Distance – Net force – Pressure – Frequency – Power – Weight – Magnitude
They all seem so right to me,
Physics is my favorite class.
But when I came home
To start writing a poem,
I developed a pain in my mass.
It’s not my position
To question intentions
But why does Physics need rhymes?
I want to talk speed
I don’t have a need
To speak in slick verse all the time.
The net force of this assignment
Threw my neck out of alignment
So I asked Uncle Doug and Aunt Bertha.
They agreed with the notion,
They seconded my motion,
There’s simply no rhyme for inertia.
Like most kids in the nation,
I love acceleration,
But who wants to rush in this instance?
It’s my estimate of length
That’s really a strength,
I’d rather measure than rhyme with distance.
But alas, there’s such pressure
It’s momentum I treasure,
When I study my Physics at home.
My mind’s in a free fall,
The magnitude’s above all,
I can’t write a long Physics poem!
O save me, deliver me!
The weight overwhelms me!
I simply want to settle at rest.
It’s way too much friction,
I don’t have the diction,
To write snazzy couplets with zest.
Within a fifty-mile radius,
I think everyone might say to us,
Writing poetry for Physics is insane.
And inside my condominium,
I lose my equilibrium
When I try to force poems from my brain.
But to my amazement,
Even with the displacement
Of brain cells required to compose.
It came out with power,
It grew like a flower,
The poet inside me arose!
I now feel the energy
Of something I thought I’d never be,
But I should lower the frequency of the notion.
That I’m Longfellow yet
Because I just don’t get
How to include the words projectile motion.