Combining poetry and science to walk through geological time

Combining poetry and science to walk through geological time

Author: Fergus McAuliffe – iCRAG, University College Dublin, Ireland


  • Anthea Lacchia – iCRAG, University College Dublin, Ireland

The notion of geological time is one the many members of the public struggle with given its immense size and scale. To this end, iCRAG (the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences) has been running a geoscience-poetry public engagement programme to explore how poetry can be used to create greater understanding of geological time and geological formations. In this insight talk we present an overview of these activities, and an evaluation of their efficacy at engaging various publics with geological time and the geosciences. Our “Poetry and Palaeontology” event at the National Museum of Ireland, run in collaboration with Poetry examined the scientific learnings that can be gleaned from the poetry of Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, in particular his poems that described bog bodies and the passage of time, such as “Kinship” and “Bog Queen”. This has led to an ongoing collaboration with “Feile na Bealtaine”, a local arts and music festival in the west of Ireland. Events run at this festival have examined the poetry of Hughes, Auden, Yeats, Heaney and Micheál Fanning by way of a geology-poetry cliff walks. Landscape poetry, such as “The Peninsula” by Heaney, “The Song of Wandering Aengus” by WB Yeats and “Crow and the Sea” by Ted Hughes can be an excellent means to engage publics with science through the imagery of the land, and the sense of time passing by, that are created in these poems. In this insight talk we will present our thoughts on poetry-science collaboration for science communication, the results of the evaluation, and recommendations for others interested in exploring poetry to communicate geological time.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Insight talk
Theme: Time