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The Feynman Challenge – a debut collection of eco poetry

By James Thornton

Category: Poetry

Formats available: Paperback, Ebook

Pages: 136

Publication date: 04/10/17

ISBN-13: 9781909954250

ISBN-10: B076637343

A poetry collection that leads the reader into the wonders of scientific discovery and the intricasies of the natural world.

James Thornton is best known as the founder of ClientEarth, a not-for-profit law group that tackles ecological collapse. To be a lawyer for the planet, you have to understand your client. You need to appreciate the systems and connectives tissues that allow species to flourish and the Earth to stay in place. James’s debut collection allows readers to follow him on what has been a lifetime of amazement pinned by understanding. Together we explore the natural world.

The collection’s title? Richard Feynman, the 20th Century’s most dashing physicist, set poets a challenge: Science is not just mystery but truth, and they should tackle it. From the mating of sea slugs to the discovery of gravity waves, The Feynman Challenge sees James Thornton focus poetry on the realms of science and environment. Poems are sourced with the scientific articles and papers whose narratives and wonders they explore, to help readers whose interest is spiked to travel further.

The collection opens with James’s essay that examines the interplay of science, poetry and the natural world, from Lucretius to now.




‘This is a generous book, happy to serve the curiosity, the wonder and humility of science, happening here and there in words that simply send a shudder -Two black holes are about / to marry, a billion years ago - through our sense of time and space.’

- Philip Gross, winner of the T.S.Eliot Prize

“In this unusual and exceptionally interesting work, James Thornton speaks as both a poet who has colonized science and a scientist who speaks a poetic tongue.”  

- Edward O. Wilson, University Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

James Thornton

Born in Douglaston, New York, James’s life had taken him to South Bend, Indiana for the world’s first Earth Day. When schoolmates quit school to hit the streets in environmental protest, James stayed behind. He was desperate to save the natural world from ecological collapse, and study was somehow a part of it. That study included poetry, the violin, French literature, philosophy (specializing in Kant and Wittgenstein), and entomology (the first attempts to breed tarantulas born in a household setting). And law. James has become one of the world’s leading …

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For 25 years James Thornton has spent a good portion of each year nestled in a  Pyrenean mountain village. Like the house martins that flock to the valley, it was part of his migratory journey. Each year, he observed the flow of villagers and the natural world and wrote what …