Amanda Palmer Reads “Einstein’s Mother” by Tracy K. Smith

Amanda Palmer Reads “Einstein’s Mother” by Tracy K. Smith

Amanda Palmer Reads “Einstein’s Mother” by Tracy K. Smith

The forces of chance that sculpt truth out of the bedrock of possibility– this improbable world, this unlikely life– leave ghostly routes of what-ifs, concerns asked and unanswered, unanswerable. Why do you, this particular you, exist? Why does the universe? And once the dice have fallen in favor of existence, there are many possible points of entry into life, many possible fractal paths through it– many ways to live and pass away even the most normal life, a life of quiet and unwitnessed beauty, washed unremembered into the river of time after this possibility constellation of atoms dissolves into stardust. There are, after all, considerably numerous kinds of lovely lives

Every when in a long while, opportunity deals a life out of the ordinary, islanded in the rapids of collective memory as one of enduring and extensive tradition– a life that has seen far beyond the horizon of its own creaturely limitations, into the inmost facts of the universe. Such lives are extremely unusual– believe how few of the billions of human beings who ever lived are remembered and studied and revered a mere a century hence, how few the Euclids and Shakespeares and Sapphos.

Albert Einstein(March 14, 1879– April 18, 1955) lived one such life. Yet in such unusual lives, the shimmering public contribution eclipses the private darknesses of life’s living, filling the opacity with our guesses, some generous and some not, none of which verifiable. We barely understand ourselves, after all– we can never ever really understand who anybody remains in their innermost being, much less how they became that method: What was the rarest genius like as a kid– one amongst many in a classroom, in a city, in a civilization? What distressed and delighted the pliant young mind, that neural bundle of pure potential ready to break into genius?

Art by Vladimir Radunsky from On a Beam: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne

That is what Pulitzer-winning poet Tracy K. Smith takes up in a brief, sensational poem titled “Einstein’s Mom”– a sneak peek of the 4th annual Universe in Verse, streaming worldwide on April 25, 2020 (Smith, whose dad dealt with the Hubble Area Telescope as one of NASA’s very first black engineers, read her gorgeous ode to our yearning to understand a universe we might never ever completely understand at the inaugural Universe in Verse, shortly prior to being chosen Poet Laureate of the United States.)

Tracy K. Smith (Picture: Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

Smith composes:

I have actually typically heard that Albert Einstein struggled as a child. And yet, in the story of Einstein’s life, his genius is typically tied to the challenging or confounding features of his child self. Often narratives like Einstein’s deal me hope; more often, I fear they advise me toward a kind of wonderful, and possibly counterproductive, believing.

Initially published in the Academy of American Poets’ fascinating lifeline of a newsletter, poem-a-day, “Einstein’s Mom” reads here by Amanda Palmer in the company of her own bundle of pure human capacity, with original music by the generous and skilled multi-instrumentalist Jherek Bischoff— a quilt of cooperation throughout the material of spacetime Einstein revealed, as the 3 of us discovered ourselves spread 10s of countless kilometers around the world in our respective quarantine quarters while stitching The Universe in Verse together.

by Tracy K. Smith

Was he mute a while,
or all tears. Did he raise
his hands to his ears so
he might shriek scream
yell. Did he consume just
with his fists. Did he consume
as if something inside of him
would never be fed. Did he
arch his back and hammer
his heels into the floor
the minute there was
something he looked for.
And did you feel yourself
captured there, wanting
to let go, to run, to
be recalled to wherever
your 2 twisted souls
had derived from. Did you ever
feel as though something
were rising up inside you.
A fire-white ghost. Did you
feel pity. And for whom.

Join us for the 2020 Universe in Verse, livestreaming around the globe on April 25, for more poems celebrating the science of deep space, individuals who make it, and the concerns we live with, read by a marvelous human constellation, including Neil Gaiman, Patti Smith, Elizabeth Gilbert, Rosanne Cash, astronauts, artists, astrophysicists, and other rare makers of significance and seekers of fact.

Complement with another sneak peek of the 2020 Universe in Verse— astronomer and poet Rebecca Elson’s sublime poem ” Remedies to Fear of Death,” checked out by the poetic astrophysicist Janna Levin– then sit back and enjoy the complete recording of the 2019 Universe in Verse(which closed with a poem titled “Einstein’s Child”) and Amanda’s soulful readings from universes past: ” The Mushroom Hunters” and ” After Silence” by Neil Gaiman, initially composed for the 2017 and 2018 reveals, and ” Hubble Photographs: After Sappho” by Adrienne Rich from the 2019 show.

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