The Darwin Sonnets: Writing thru the Voyage of the Beagle


I’ve started a new writing project, a series of sonnets inspired by Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle. I am not sure if “inspired” is the correct word actually. I am doing a naturalist survey of the book with poetry, using literary version of transects – a systematic selection of each ten page segment, where I pick out his observations of flora and fauna and use them as a base for a sonnet. I am currently wandering South America with Darwin, his cataloging of the mammoth fossils and worms and ostriches alongside his observations of the slaughter and enslavement of the indigenous peoples there.

A transect is a line across a habitat or part of a habitat. The number of organisms can be accounted along those lines. Distributions of different organisms in the same space can be compared using a kite diagram, such as the one here. It allows for  close observation, an accounting of more than one form of life in the same space, of coexistence and inter-dependency, conflict and extinction. In this way transects mirror poetry, the Voyage of the Beagle a poem.