Uncovering human nature through neuropoetry

Multilingual Neuropoetry by Jayanthiny Kangatharan, reviewed by Billan Omar.

Dr Kangatharan created this book to give scientists the opportunity to express their artistic voice, and artists the opportunity to express their scientific voice. Kangatharan’s book is novel in two ways: she has created poems in several languages all centred around neuroscientific phenomena, and she has presented them in the form of riddles. 

I hadn’t heard of ‘neuropoetry’ before reading Kangatharan’s work, but the term is not new. Essentially, Kangatharan explained, neuropoetry is the use of poetry as an outlet to discuss natural phenomena that occur in the human mind and brain. Both poetry and neuroscience can be used as means to broaden our understanding of human nature and our sense of existence. Prior to reading the book I believed that neuroscience and poetry were two separate entities. Through detailed explanations and in-depth analysis, I now see that science and art are not that different – they both ultimately try to understand human nature.

The poems in Kangatharan’s book cover a broad range of neuroscientific phenomena. The neurological disorder epilepsy is described through a cinquain (a five-line poem classified by the number of syllables on each line), the hypothalamus is described through a triolet (a poem of eight lines in which the first line is repeated as the fourth and seventh and the second line as the eighth) and the concept of the Ruh (soul in Arabic) as an epigram (a short and witty poem that can take the form of only one line).

Perhaps the most striking feature of Kangatharan’s neuropoems is the fact that she caters to a multilingual audience – she is the first to do so in the neuropoetry field. Monolingual readers are given a general prose translation of each poem.

It’s clear to see Kangatharan’s passion for neuropoetry, as she discusses her drive to promote the idea with the British Neuroscience Association and connect with other like-minded poets. She has also undertaken extensive background research to understand how different cultures use poetry in different ways. Readers are encouraged to use the book as a springboard to either write their own neuropoem or to learn more about neuroscience.

-        Reviewed by Billan Omar, Class Teacher, Earlsmead Primary School

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber