The Universe in Verse:
A Celebration of Nature Through Poetry

UPDATE: We are sorry we cannot accommodate more people, we must abide by the laws of physics and are over capacity at this point. The event will be livestreamed, courtesy of Kickstarter Live.

“The real wealth of the Nation lies in the resources of the earth — soil, water, forests, minerals, and wildlife… Their administration is not properly, and cannot be, a matter of politics,” marine biologist and author Rachel Carson wrote in 1953. Her legacy inspired the creation of Earth Day and the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency, whose hard-won environmental regulations are now being undone in the hands of the current political administration. Carson was also a scientist who thought and wrote like a poet. As she catalyzed the modern environmental movement with her epoch-making 1962 book Silent Spring, she was emboldened by a line from a 1914 poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox:

“To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men.”

After the inaugural 2017 event, the Science Studios at Pioneer Works once again joins forces with The Academy of American Poets and guest curator Maria Popova for The Universe in Verse — an evening of science-inspired poems read by artists, writers, scientists, and musicians, part protest and part celebration, with all proceeds benefiting the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Dedicated to Rachel Carson’s legacy, this year’s Universe in Verse celebrates the Earth — from the oceans and trees and volcanos to bees and kale and the armadillo — with poems by Maya Angelou, Adrienne Rich, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Lucille Clifton, Dylan Thomas, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Elizabeth Bishop, Denise Levertov, Walt Whitman, and more, read by musicians Amanda Palmer, Zoe Keating, and Sean Ono Lennon, astrophysicists Janna Levin and Natalie Batalha, authors A.M. Homes and James Gleick, artist Maira Kalman, bryologist Robin Wall Kimmerer, and actors, writers, and directors America Ferrera, Anna Deavere Smith, and John Cameron Mitchell. Three of the great poets of our time — Jane Hirshfield, Marie Howe, and Diane Ackerman — will read their own work. Gracing the evening will be an original poem by Neil Gaiman, composed for the occasion, and a special musical surprise.

To make the event both more egalitarian and more welcoming of generosity in raising funds for the NRDC, this year we are experimenting with pay-what-you-can ticketing, at three suggested levels — $10, $25 (last year’s ticket price), and $100 — to be chosen based on your financial ability, by an honor system.