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U of C student uses poetry to communicate scientific concepts

By Mitali Pradhan, September 14 2023—

Samantha Jones, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Calgary in the Geography department, has been working on connecting her science background with her passion for writing. Jones is studying carbon cycling under the supervision of Dr. Brent Else. She has an extensive science background with an undergraduate degree in Earth Sciences from Dalhousie University and a Masters in Geology and Geophysics at the University of Calgary. 

She incorporates metaphors from the natural world, geology terminology, descriptive words from earth sciences and settings focusing on landscapes from her childhood in her writing pieces. In an interview with the Gauntlet, Jones discusses the issues and concepts from her Ph.D. that were used in her poetry. 

“I’ve been tinkering away with writing as long as I can remember, sometimes more seriously than other times,” said Jones. “I think my science has always been appearing in my works.”

Jones is currently writing mostly poetry and some non-fiction pieces such as book reviews. She has also written several pieces focusing on obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) such as Site Orientation, a visual OCD poetry chapbook, published by the Blasted Tree and “OCD Haiku” published in the FOLD 2021 Festival Program. 

The “OCD Haiku” goes through the four seasons and describes the worries unique to each season. Whereas, Site Orientation is set up as a safety data sheet for items around the home. It is a visual approach to combining her science background and her writing.

She talked about “Alarm”, a piece close to her heart, which is currently published in print in the Capilano Review and will also be in her book Attic Rain. The piece is in all capital letters, and the text starts as sparse lines which are followed by big blocks of text. It is meant to give the feeling of panic and escalation as someone reads through it. 

“People could tell that it was authentic, people could tell it was coming from a lived experience or from the heart rather than being forced,” said Jones. 

Jones found the Creative Writing Certificate through Continuing Education, University of Calgary and the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society in Calgary key in her professional development as a writer. She recommended podcasts such as Lit Mag Love by Rachel Thompson for other students interested in writing lessons and advice. 

During her writing, Jones reflected on what her role was as a writer, how she wanted to show up in the community, and ways to honour different types of people and collective experiences in her writing.

“Think about what you already have in your project,” said Jones. “Do you have cool data visualizations, interesting sounds in fieldwork, interesting images you take in a lab? A lot of times there are these creative elements just woven through everything that we do.”

Her debut full-length poetry collection, Attic Rain, is set to be published in Fall 2024.

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