I had breakfast with my friend Amanda Schaffer today -- in addition to being a poet, she is a science and medical columnist for Slate and its newly launched offshoot DoubleX (www.doublex.com). We talked about her new article in the latter magazine, "This Goat Did Not Come From an Artificial Womb," (https://www.doublex.com/section/health-science/goat-did-not-come-artificial-womb). The article addresses the scientific and cultural issues around the idea of "baby-in-the-box technology," and about the current line of thinking that "gestation now seems like a kind of cellular apprenticeship," in which "cellular cross-talk" and other conditions — from the noise of the womb to the mother's levels of stress — can affect the baby-to-be.
What does this have to do with jubilat? One of the magazine's goals is to create a dialogue that showcases the beauty and strangeness of the ordinary. To that end, we've run some pieces that on first glance don't seem to belong in a poetry magazine: interviews with a rogue perfumist and a neon sign maker, a list of moves from the Wrestling Information Archive, journals from penguin scientists in Antarctica, a list of conceptual approaches to buildings, and so on. Amanda's article shows the ordinary made strange -- pregnancy outside the body -- as well as detailing how ultimately mysterious the ordinary is, as science can't replicate the body's complexity. And my few quoted sections above show how Amanda's playful, often metaphoric language shows how much her version of science writing has in common with what shows up in our pages.
Finally, this morning's conversation reminded of a wonderful poem by L. S. Klatt that we published back in issue 7:
FETUS IN ORBIT
I played with the pre-cows in outer space
they were cows of a higher mathematics
amoebas absent hoofs
no tails to sweep the sparkles
but I was at home in their blacks & whites
the folds, the solar system
then I was told I would eat a thousand cows
I lay there, disbeliever, like a figure 8 in milk
-- L. S. Klatt
Poems both refigure and resonate with the world around the reader. "Fetus In Orbit" connects to Amanda's article, and the debates it contains -- both problematize the space of gestation, and what that means about who we are. "This Goat Did Not Come From an Artificial Womb," while pointing to trends that show a greater certainty about pregnancy, also shows how much we don't yet know -- Klatt's poem seems to take this as a starting-off point, and its imagery is powerfully suggestive without answering anything. Looking at both the article and poem, I can only shake my head and smile -- I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I think or feel. And isn't that the most interesting place to be in -- the place where we are psychically still unfinished, and constantly developing?
-- Rob Casper