Volition by Roald Hoffmann
A gold coin centers this landscape. It is drawn standing on edge, so that we can see the ridges and a hint of the design, which seems to be the Russian imperial eagle. The coin is teetering, and this is shown in comic book notation, with some short curved lines. The coin would fall (and it is not clear to which side) were it not for two dark arrows contending to push it over, one from each side. The arrows are each impelled by intricate machinery - gears, cams, even engines and boilers. This machinery is controlled (we see two trailing wires) by a man below pushing buttons on a panel, and it is clear that he directs both arrows. At this point we notice that the floor around the engineer is littered by loose letters in various fonts. The composition is quite symmetrical: to the left of the man is a fence, a big wave about to break into it. A dragon is partway over. Some small figures are hurrying about trying to unroll a hose against the dragon, others are trying to pull out some bayonets that have penetrated the fence. Some of the figures gesture at the man at the control panel, who should be giving them orders. But he doesn't look at them, not at the panel (though his fingers are on it). Instead he looks to his right at a sitting woman in a red and black dirndl. She faces away, painting what seems to be a landscape with two roads.
Roald Hoffmann was born in 1937 in Złoczów, then Poland. He came to the US in 1949, and has long been at Cornell University in the USA, active as a theoretical chemist. In chemistry, he has taught generations how to think about molecular orbitals.
Hoffmann is also a writer, carving out his own land between poetry, philosophy, and science. He has published five books of non-fiction, written three produced plays, and six volumes of poetry, including two book length selections of his poems in Spanish and Russian translations.
Tags: Poetry, Roald Hoffmann
Introduction to Poetry in Issue 24 by John C. Mannone | Silver Blade Magazine
[…] (1981), who is also impassioned with the arts. His poems (“A Different Kind of Motion,” “Volition,” and “Crossing the Mekong”) bring a chemistry of their own. He speaks of their genesis in […]