Adding rhyme in my research: writing poetry as a chemist

It is useful to have something creative outside of work to turn to when you want to enjoy downtime and relax and recharge. Manpreet Kaur discusses here how writing and sharing poetry has been one of her favourite go-to hobbies since her days at school.

Being a scientist, I am most proud of the fact that instead of always ranking degree courses, I’ve tried to engage with as many fields as I can throughout my time at university. I’ve done a module in economics, with IATL, am on a reading group organised by people from the humanities department, and in my free time I love watercolour painting and writing poetry.

I really owe my passion for poetry to my GCSE English teacher. Despite not being a requirement for the curriculum, she tasked us to write poetry over the summer at the end of year ten. I vividly remember being in India that summer writing lots of poems about identity, culture, language, careers and lifestyle. When I think back to those poems of mine, I cringe but I also marvel at how far I have come in my writing journey.

I started off by sharing my poetry on a WordPress blog. Soon afterwards, I came across the website AllPoetry on Twitter and made an account. I think I joined AllPoetry in August 2015 and I still have my page to this day. For around a year now, I have been performing at the Chemistry department’s OpenMic events as well. We have had many great gigs where people sing, others play instruments such as the violin, there is story-telling and at one point we had Morris dancing too.

For me, poetry is a way of checking in on myself. I sit down and write about something that I am intensely thinking about or something that evokes a great deal of passion and feeling. My most favourite part of poetry is that it allows me to romanticise or see and share the beauty in the otherwise overlooked or underappreciated things in life, such as charity shops or notebooks.

Poetry is also a tool for activism. I am quite an introverted person and in terms of raising my voice, my pen is my go-to tool. Oftentimes, I express how I feel by writing articles for The Boar, writing and sharing a piece of poetry, posting a blog like the one you are reading or sometimes just venting in my journal. Of all these, poetry is one of the most sophisticated methods I have found where I find that how I feel and how something makes me feel is just as valid as the facts and beliefs around a given topic. Poetry, in this sense, accepts the whole of a person and effectively provides a different pathway to use the same language to express oneself in a way that is more tangible and raw.

Reading poetry also is nothing short of a spiritual experience. Art is all about stillness, and reading poetry is one of my favourite ways of stilling myself, living the moment, and embracing my existence without worrying about what tomorrow might bring. Some of my favourite poems include Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, Remembrance by Emily Brontë and Thoughts after Ruskin by Elma Mitchell. I remember Frost’s poem off by heart and often like to say it out loud whenever I find myself in quiet green spaces because I truly feel like it sums up my life in so many ways. There are countless other poems that I cherish and it is because in some sense they say how I feel better than I ever could. But also from a technical point of view, just like good writers read a lot of books, good poets often read a lot of poetry; so I try to do the same.

One final point I will make is on sharing. Over the years, I have gotten to know and have befriended quite a few people who write poetry. But oftentimes, this is something they keep limited to their private lives. Whilst I too have some poems that I feel are too personal to share with the world, in general, sharing poetry adds a community spirit to an otherwise rather lone-person hobby. So, this is somewhat of a plea to those who do write to share their writing. This world is made so much more beautiful by the arts and books that we have and this is coming from a scientist (check out fellow blogger Giles’ photography in the sunshine here!) I owe so much joy to those who share art on their social media, be it photos of Nature, poetry, or paintings. The arts truly add colour to our lives and in a world where there is always uncertainty and pain, the arts add so much happiness and help us fall in love with life again.

At times of difficulty, I have found that one of the ways to keep afloat is to hold on to the things that are a constant in my life and that I can rely on. Poetry is one of those things for me and I am so grateful to everyone who has inspired me to learn this skill and encouraged me to push myself further in developing this skill.

Do you like reading or writing poetry? What do you think is the value of arts in our life?… Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk, or leave a comment below.

by Manpreet

Manpreet Kaur is a first year PhD student in the Department of Chemistry. She has been at Warwick since 2016, and did her BSc and MRes here. Her research project focuses on the design of photoelectrocatalytic systems for the synthesis of nitrogen containing compounds. You can follow her on Twitter here and further details about her project and background can be found here.

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