Poet Ruth Padel divides Darwin: A Life in Poems
into five chapters, one for each discrete stage of the scientist's life. Chapter Two, which addresses his travels on the H.M.S. Beagle
, pulsates with rich, sensuous imagery that echoes Darwin's enchantment with the natural world. While exploring a Brazilian rainforest, for example, Darwin has an arboreal revelation: "Bristles of orchid leaves on every black branch/like green flames over Bibles./Botanical forms gyrate and pour/through rivers of otherworld bark/and a wrestling musculature of pure/live wood." Far from diminishing his reverence for nature, his burgeoning belief in evolution opens vistas as immense as the sparsely populated American prairies that the Lewis and Clark Expedition had mapped not long before the voyage of the Beagle
covers its subject's life not only as a...
Beyond the Book
As reviewer Marnie Colton points out in her blog post at BookBrowse, biographies in poetry form allow for freedom of expression that a more constraining non-fiction prose form might not. Marnie calls the biography-in-verse "a dynamic form that allows poets to revisit the lives of their subjects through imagery, rhythm, and metaphor instead of the more rigid bounds of chronology that biographers must follow. Considering that biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs usually make a strong showing on bestseller lists, the poetic analogues to these forms deserve a wider audience and also provide an ideal introduction to newcomers wishing to dip a tentative toe into the rushing waters of poetry."