Online Exclusive

Slay and Resonance
Listen to a reading of “Slay” by Amy Catanzano 


        “O orzchis ecclesia ... es chorzta gemma”
                         – Sibyl of the Rhine

O measureless church ... you are a sparkling gem scored
from the lingua ignota, the language of the
unknown. Secret tongue of the sleepless alphabet.
You probe the lowest bass of body’s dark matter.
I swing my hips to your rebel science of spheres.

When you asked if your poem was controversial
I consulted a Penrose diagram made to
see the entirety of spacetime through a black
hole. Light rays at the beginning of everything
null infinity, the channel we now ignore.

So here I am, back at the counterculture, that
open tower in the sky. It travels through the
city within the floating city, wavering
like heat on flexed concrete. I dream of the fractal
fuel we used to turn into optimal stanzas.

I’m a good girl for you. Within the wounds of worlds.
You slay me, and I slay you, but we mean no harm.
Yes, I say we in the nuclear state, but how
can I not? We want to defeat the State, and we
know how! I CGI the clay you expertly

shape. It’s not anger you detect but the faery
fight you inspired! Orpheus carved his rock ring
to sparkle. Sweetened the lyre beats of his six-
stringed portal. Enchanted the hungry beasts at his
feet, offering the wild everlasting peace.

Hey. Your historical materialism,
while noble, is just too anthropic. I’d rather
SMILE as a Neoist at the Planck length, full
thigh, skirt pulled high, superpositioning into
a poem like a gift delivered from the dirt.


Resonance *

      “It’s totally raining green, pouring Blue Flowers”
                     – Dr. Octagon/Kool Keith

before and beneath
the Planck length

at ℓP 10^-43

at the energy
frontier of physics
and poetry      

where collisions
occur at the highest

where the distance
between the subatomic
and the cosmological

like the distance
between sound
and song

where the theory of
gravity and geometries

of spacetime fail

where the laws of
science and language
no longer apply

where words decay
into poems so they
there is a setting

where the universe
contains nothing

but its definition

which is
it can be


standing together
at the foot of the
blue flowers

at the two massive
New Small Wheels

a set of precision
tracking and trigger
detectors for new

particles of matter

upgrades to be placed
inside the muon

the outermost layer
of the ATLAS particle

underground at CERN

here at the foot of the
blue flowers a new kind
of poem is discovered

like a new particle

both excited states
crafted by collisions

inside the particle collider

where superconducting
magnets colder
than outer space

bend proton particles
around a tunnel

protons that could be
encoded with a poem

that we will write

a rondeau with
repeating lines of refrain
joining two rhymes
made to sustain

its closed curve like
the circular tunnel

it will someday travel

before colliding as
proton particles

triggering signals
electric labyrinths
rebuilt as data

producing visible traces
like wave patterns

read anew

the collided poem a
particle of matter
in an active state
of poiesis

which happens
at the moment
of observation

its quantum
wave function

moving out of all 
possible configurations

no longer
in simultaneous
states of quantum

but taking on form
like a poem
through a collider

a particle poem as
a response to vibrating
signals with similar

like physics and poetry

where a new
will be fleeting
like a short-lived particle
in an excited state
of stable matter

or like a poem
in an occulted state
of language

both particle and
poem composed

in bunches
in swarms
like syllables
in sound

mutable sonatas
of new matter

the particle poem
a translated
of the protons
in which it is



pulsing like open
and closed
toward a future
that is the beginning
and the past that is
the prism of now

where a particle poem            
decays after reaching
the inner chambers

of its blue flower

that infinite hue
of horizons

and the new flowers           
it will bloom

and the seeds     
from where
they will rise

with energy

that increases    
through not only size              

but density  

like a black hole
inside a diamond
adorning the center
of a flower’s eye


the rendered
will be a long-lived
particle poem

enduring in spacetime

expanding with
the universe at an
accelerating rate

filling colliders
its persistence

toward regions
where it may be

at magnitudes

below and beneath
discernible physics
and language

the particle poem
a quantum wormhole
at a Planck collider

compressed into the
lowest volume and
highest frequency

like words on a
page of a poem

where two distances
cannot be closer

where the momentum
of the particle poem
will be so large

that the uncertainty
of its energy

could make it
from a quantum

a subatomic black hole

bending spacetime

its surface an event horizon
once only glimpsed

its circular boundary

a four-dimensional
edge rounding like
the tunnel rounded

below and beneath
what was once
called Earth

like the beginning
and end and

of particles
of poems
that turn as protons
turn in tunnels

yet each collided
proton mostly
empty space

with some matter but
little material volume

particles not combining
but meeting then
passing through
each other

which releases their
quarks and gluons

that then interact
by vibrating at the
same frequencies

a property known as
which activates dormant
fields that also
in direct response

and the replying
of these fields creating
new particles of matter

which can briefly exist
in machines built by

physicists and poets
taking dual paths

wave and particle

paths powering
a new kind of collider 

around the solar system
made to navigate
the depths of the
Planck length

which will superconduct

particles as poetic matter

the new particle poem
writing clockwise and

at the same time
in space at the same
space in time


the circular rondeau

we will write
in a straight path
like this poem

and like the straight
paths that the protons
traveling the tunnel
naturally take

at nearly the speed of light

will be bent by the physics

of poetic vision
and massive

by magnetic force

moving to greater
and greater frequencies

creating quantum
waves of language
and matter

an event horizon
at the entrance

not to knowledge
or experience but

something else


the particle poem
that will come

and those already        
written without

in the alloys of the

Large Hadron Collider

alter what is first
dreamed by making
visible the unseen

through patterns
of waves carrying

material evidence
processed by

reaching outward
to perceive inward

entangled particles
rousing intimacy
beneath and below

cosmic inflation

time zero

the particle poem
reaching a scale
so deep

it cannot be



out of quantum

while decaying

which in physics
is transformation

while decaying
into multiple final
states of being

the epic
is made by poets
and physicists
composing an

alternative mechanics

for physics and poetry

for those who cipher
the familiar to
pursue what is not

in a continuing rotation
intrinsic to existence

like the spin of a
subatomic quark

its angular momentum
tunneling across barriers

by borrowing energy

which is information

by borrowing energy
like a reader of a poem

by writing this scrolling
message in a bottle
for the deepest
of seas

and voyaging those waves

and traveling what could be

near the shores of ℓP

where we turn and turn
toward an ordinary flower
its condition
as the passing bloom
of a rounding song

* Author’s Note

I wrote “Resonance” for my collaborative project with particle physicist James Beacham of the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, or European Council for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, the world’s center for particle physics. Conducting scientific research outside of commercial and military aims, CERN operates the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s most powerful particle accelerator under parts of Switzerland and France, to search for new forms of matter. The LHC led scientists to discover the Higgs boson particle in 2012. This discovery verified the existence of the Higgs field, an invisible quantum field that exists everywhere and with which all matter must interact to gain mass. James, who has a background in film and lectures worldwide on the intersections of art and science, is part of Duke University’s team in the ATLAS Experiment, one of two particle detectors in the collider that led scientists to discover the Higgs boson.

I first met James during my second visit to CERN in 2019, when I was there as a research artist funded by the ATLAS Experiment’s U.S. Outreach initiative, led then by particle physicist Mark C. Kruse. Mark, a professor of physics at Duke, was part of the team that discovered the Higgs boson. He leads interdisciplinary projects and has co-taught courses with literary theorist N. Katherine Hayles. I first met him when I was invited to speak in one of their courses.

At CERN I was invited on three VIP tours, two of which brought me underground to the LHC, which was offline for upgrades. We took pressurized elevators to the ATLAS and CMS detectors, where the particle collisions occur. Designed in layers of wheel-shaped metal overlaid with filigrees of braided tubes, the detectors look like kaleidoscopic mosaics in motion, a complex interplay of the fluid and the fixed, the artificial and the organic. The bright colors threaded throughout—red is for steel, green is for scaffolding, blue is for wires—are childlike, providing contrast to their functional seriousness. The center portal of the CMS detector was open due to work being done. I was close enough to the collision chamber that I could see inside. My experiments across poetry and science had taken me, a poet, directly to where the Higgs boson was discovered and where other new particles of matter could someday exist.

James brought me to see new upgrades being built for the ATLAS detector, the giant New Small Wheels, which awed me as wondrous sculptures of science. They resembled blue flowers woven with mint-green veins squared under futuristic silver spokes. Being near them made me feel like anything was possible in both physics and poetry. James and I spent hours in front of one flower talking about an idea I had in 2008, when the LHC launched, that would encode a poem inside the protons of the collider. To my surprise, he said the idea may be technically possible to enact.

We began brainstorming this physics-poetry experiment. Under the spell of the blue flowers, and through the fortuitous circumstance of shared vision, our idea grew, as poems do. James and I envision the possibility of encoding a poem we will co-write into a proton bunch sequence in the LHC. In support of this project, we have written individual poems and developed a co-written scientific paper that explores how the experiment could work. We imagine future poems being collided in future colliders that will get even more powerful in accessing the subatomic systems that comprise matter. James has suggested a collider someday could circle the solar system. This collider, he told me, might be able to access the Planck length (ℓP), a unit of measurement written as 10^-43 (ten to the minus forty-three). In “Resonance,” I explore the possibility of a particle poem traveling such a collider reaching the Planck length, a scale of physical reality so deep that it would answer all questions that scientists today have about the known universe. However, I pursue my studies of the Planck length and other physics not in an attempt to seek ultimate knowledge, a reductive concept to be challenged, but to investigate new modes of reality in the open field of imagination.  

Amy Catanzano publishes poetry, fiction, and multimodal poetic theory on the intersections of poetry and science. An associate professor of English and the poet-in-residence at Wake Forest University, she collaborates with scientists and visits scientific research centers for her projects. These have included CERN, where she was a research artist with the ATLAS Experiment at the Large Hadron Collider, and the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics, where she was the inaugural poet-in-residence. She is the author of exhibited digital poetry; poems and essay-poems on poetry and physics published in venues such as CounterText: A Journal of the Post-LiteraryCrisis and CritiqueJacket2New American Writing, and Physics Magazine; and three books, including Multiversal (Fordham University Press), recipient of the PEN USA Literary Award in Poetry.