By: Michael Roberts
February 13, 2024

A (pro- or anti-) science-, mathematics-, technology-, space-, apocalypse-, dehumanization-, disenchantment-, and/or future-oriented poem published during sf’s emergent Radium Age (c. 1900–1935). Research and selection by Joshua Glenn.

Kurt Schwitters’s Revolving (1919)



Rocks are immutable and hold
No scope
for self-aggrandizement,
Each well-worn pebble churned and rolled
Suffers a like predicament.

Gripped in what mesh of causal schemes
Endures each casual atom what
When one perchanced electron screams
A stuttering signal, and is not?

Grant then a gamete, grant a score
By crabbed environment beset,
And man the instrument, no more,
And where’s the credit? Where the debt?

Or grant pure chaos, flickering chance,
And life’s defection near and soon,
Then mark the shock of circumstance,
The day from solid darkness hewn —
Rock is a shivering miracle,
Betrayed in sunlight, gleaming wet,
And love cries out in chlorophyll
To welcome truth in petals yet!

— From These Our Matins (1930). Makes reference the electron, to chlorophyll, and to the gamete.


RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF POETRY: Stephen Spender’s THE PYLONS | George Sterling’s THE TESTIMONY OF THE SUNS | Archibald MacLeish’s EINSTEIN | Thomas Thornely’s THE ATOM | C.S. Lewis’s DYMER | Stephen Vincent Benét’s METROPOLITAN NIGHTMARE | Robert Frost’s FIRE AND ICE | Aldous Huxley’s FIFTH PHILOSOPHER’S SONG | Sara Teasdale’s “THERE WILL COME SOFT RAINS” | Edith Södergran’s ON FOOT I HAD TO… | Robert Graves’s WELSH INCIDENT | Nancy Cunard’s ZEPPELINS | D.H. Lawrence’s WELLSIAN FUTURES | & many more.


Poetry, Radium Age SF