Kanika Agrawal on Science and Poetry

Image: “DNA fragments in agarose gel stained with ethidium bromide” by Rainis Venta is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

During the opening webinar of our Poetic Vision series in spring 2021, SAND 19 contributor Kanika Agrawal presented on her ongoing series of poems “Okazaki Fragments,” which adapts language and images from a series of scientific papers on discontinuous strand synthesis during DNA replication, research led by the Japanese molecular biologists Okazaki and Okazaki. Okazaki Fragments (re)constructs Okazaki and Okazaki’s experiences by reading their lives into (or out of) their scientific papers.

A week after the webinar, our Editor in Chief Jake Schneider sat down again with Kanika over Zoom to discuss her work in greater depth. The video below, from our YouTube channel, includes both her original presentation and that subsequent interview, covering such topics as:

  • Emotional relationships with science: threat, passion, eros, and intimacy
  • How both science and poetry approach the unknown
  • The story behind Kanika’s project: the process of discontinuous DNA replication combined with the biographies of the scientists behind it
  • Exploring continuity and discontinuity through poetic forms such as couplets and ghazals
  • The challenges of trying to pursue a career in two disciplines at once

We hope you enjoy it!

You can also find Kanika’s writing prompt, along with those of our other webinar presenters, here.

And some of the poems generated using Kanika’s prompt will be read in the concluding reading of the series on 23 May 2021, also on SAND’s YouTube channel.