Do you remember what Dr. Arroway (Jodie Foster) said, in the movie Contact, when she was launched by The Pod into humanity's first meeting with non-Earthlings? Her multiple doctorates in every aspect of astral mechanics were no match for the sudden realization that true vision is ultimately the fusion of fact and faith. As mission control pleads with her to describe what she sees, all she can say is: "They should have sent a poet."
I'd nominate Pattiann Rogers. In her six books of poetry-now available in Song of the World Becoming-Rogers builds a word-bridge between the highly specialized scientific mind and the human heart. "The naming of the natural world," says Rogers, "is for me an act of praise and honoring and gratitude."
In the world of literary academia, Rogers is known for her vast knowledge of natural science and physics. Her poems include "How the Body in Motion Affects the Mind," "NASA Takes a 63-Year-Old Poet to the First Space Station," "Angel of the Atom," and an ode to mathematician Freeman Dyson. Yet most of her poems trace faith, mystery, and the daily intersection of the two. In "Born on Noah's Ark" she comments, "What strange spheres had formed these creatures with whom we sailed?.... They suggested knowledge of a presence beyond my ken." In "Hiring the Man who Builds Fires for a Living," she observes how "he lays each stick religiously as if it had grown toward this place from the beginning. What is he whispering to those dried-up leaves as if they had souls?" Poetry returns us to a time before clocks, when life was measured by the sun, stars, and the heartbeat-and story by the human voice.
-Rose Marie Berger is an assistant editor of Sojourners.