Saturday, 15 February 2014

Helical Thinking

I'm a little bit obsessed with sonnets at the moment (probably due to the 28 Sonnets Later project) and everything I write seems to come out in a sonnet-y form. 

So here's a new sonnet. It's a poem about Rosalind Franklin, the biophysicist and crystallographer whose work was vital to the discovery of the DNA double helix in 1953. Franklin's contribution to the science is frequently overlooked, but she was always incredibly loyal to her colleagues Watson and Crick. 

Rosalind Franklin died in 1958 - four years before Watson and Crick won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the DNA double helix - and it was probably her early death that contributed to her relative scientific anonymity.

I wrote this poem as a response to a writing competition calling for poetry about 'hidden stories' in history, fiction and mythology. I wondered how I might feel if I were in Rosalind Franklin's shoes, and I know I would feel incredibly frustrated to not be recognised. That line of thought led to this poem:

Helical Thinking

A captivating scientific find
Is always in the last place that you look.
With bursts of joy, I know my fingers shook,
Discovering the strands were intertwined.
My vital contribution, undermined.
My name, erased from every history book.
Those men have not yet paid for what they took;
Ideas were stolen from my fertile mind.
But my achievements will outlive my flesh.
The work we did will save so many lives.
And when my story is retold afresh,
You'll see that girls are more than cooks and wives!
While fifty years have passed since '53,
I know there are still those who'll fight for me.

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