Today, I wanted to talk a bit about Spelling the Hours, a bonus poetry chapbook that is offered for our higher-tier backers of An Alphabet of Embers (you can get an ebook of both An Alphabet of Embers and Spelling the Hours for 20$, and a paperback of both books + ebook versions for 45$). It is a collection of science poetry specifically, focusing on forgotten figures of science and technology, especially women, queer people, trans people, PoC, and members of other underrepresented groups.
The person on the cover of this chapbook is Mary Alice McWhinnie (1922-1980), an American biologist and professor at DuPaul university, who was a world authority on krill. Here is a short blurb on her from the DuPaul university special collections department’s collection of her papers:
In 1962, she became the first woman to join the all male United States Antarctic Research Program working on board the National Science Foundation research vessel the Eltanin. From 1962 to 1978, Dr. McWhinnie made over ten research trips to Antarctica, most of them aboard the Eltanin or the RV Hero. In 1972, she earned the status of Chief Scientist on an Eltanin research cruise (Cruise 51); the ship’s first venture through the pack ice into Ross Sea. In 1974, she and her colleague Sr. Mary Odile Cahoon were the first two women to over-winter on the Antarctic continent, at the McMurdo research station.
The idea for this chapbook came to me because of the work of Sofia Samatar, whose poem Girl Hours we had the privilege to feature in the Science and Science Fiction issue of Stone Telling. Girl Hours is a poem about another woman in science, the astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt.
The body is not always the same, the body varies in brightness, its true brightness may be ascertained from the rhythm of its pulsing, the body is more remote than we imagined, it eats, it walks, it traverses with terrible slowness the distance between Wisconsin and Massachusetts, the body is stubborn, snowbound, the body has disappeared, the body has left the country, the body has traveled to Europe and will not say if it went there alone, the body is generous, dedicated, seated again, reserved, exacting,
brushed and buttoned, smelling of healthy soap,
and not allowed to touch the telescope.
If you haven’t yet, go read the whole poem . It is a piece that will never grow old, and it encompasses perfectly what this chapbook will be like, and it will of course be reprinted in Spelling the Hours. I’ll also be asking the contributing poets to write up short blurbs about the figures in their poems.
Thank you very much for your support so far, and please keep signal-boosting the Kickstarter for An Alphabet of Embers if you are so inclined. Every little bit helps!