A cream cover with title in red caps and a small block picture with a pink background showing a hand and head and star and lightbulb Steam, Eveline Pye

Red Squirrel Press, 2022     £6.00


The title of this pamphlet derives from the STEAM initiative to integrate creative arts into STEM education. For poet and mathematician, Eveline Pye, it seems the two worlds are inseparable.

In the opening poem, ‘Taijitu’, she tells of being divided: ‘The world folded me in two’; ‘then tore me apart’; ‘There you are, it said, this half / can be scientific, the other artistic’. But ultimately:

The wounded parts of me
curl in synergy: each
holding the seed of the other.

The poems which drew me most were those which enacted this synergy. So, in ‘Numerical Landscape’ we’re told that ‘Statistics / feels like poetry –– endless searching, / never-ending uncertainty’, which is interesting. But in ‘Electro-Refinery’, I feel the synergy as the scientific language of the title is transformed into something almost mystical by the end of the poem:

neurons, synapses spark
and somehow love
pure love, appears on the page.

Similarly, in ‘Electric Bees’, we travel from ‘The voltage gradient between earth and air’ in the opening line to the final beautiful image:

The weeping willow droop of boughs
under my little cotoneaster tree
are the ribs of an old birdcage
encasing a murmur of bees and me.

Some poems have (for me) much-needed footnotes. One, accompanying the poem ‘Cladh Hallan, South Uist’, explains how ‘The Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic [...] is used to construct the poem.’ Following this is like being led through an equation – there’s a key involving prime numbers at the bottom.

But in ‘Black Swan’, where the footnote explains that ‘Black Swan Events in Statistics refer to high impact, hard-to-predict, rare events beyond the realm of normal expectations, I felt that synergy at work once again. With the opening analogy: ‘It’s as though we believe disasters won’t happen / as if we believe all swans are white,’ the scene is set for the swan and the poem to take flight in the final, chilling metaphor:

A dark arrow coming towards us, changing everything.

This seems to be the science and poetry each ‘holding the seed of the other’ to create a fitting final poem.

Lorna Dowell