About this site

Unlike a commonplace book of old designed as an aide memoire, this is not just a substitute for a good memory, an archive, it helps me explore.

The world is a fascinating environment which we share with around 9 million other species. When I say share, I mean unknowingly, humans seem to have little regard for other species other than for sentimental or husbandry reasons. Many of these species are microbes that run the planet. Around five nonillion (5×1030) bacteria form a biomass larger than plants and animals put together We are intimate with this, being symbiotic creatures, relying on a 100 trillion bacteria (foreign cells) to digest food. Every living being is related and nearly all life forms share the same basic biological processes and pathways.

Organisms are not discrete and determined, but particular loci of processes of growth and development within a continuous field of relationships among environments. Mind emerges from the interplay between mind/ body /environment: “profound interconnections that bind us all together, human actors and non-human life forms, intelligent machines, and intelligent people.” N. Katherine Hayles (‘The Illusion of Autonomy . . .’, 1999) Technology is changing how we live, think, see and develop skilled practices; it distances us from the natural environment and ‘the technological fix’ can never be the answer.

Our species are energetic explorers, consumers and producers dwelling in a dynamic world, full of invention and disasters. Through poetry, photography, video and essais, I attempt to pay attention to the fascinating miracle of earth, of Gaia, and appreciate ourselves, others and life on the planet.

For my previous website, organised like an old second-hand bookshop see www.jbpoet.com.

Why PhotoVoltaicPoetry?

I sing the body electric. Walt Whitman 

Photovoltaicpoetry takes the world as a whole, from birds to bombs, batteries to books and art, all forms and especially poetry, once central to the energy and identity of pre-literate societies is now mostly ignored.

Life first began around perhaps up to 4MYA in the Archean landscape, probably bright green, red, purple and orange as microbes colonised volcanic terrain and black sands. Life then was anaerobic bacteria, like Chromatium that swim towards light and their favourite food hydrogen sulphide. Like most bacteria in the wild they live in interdependent communities and varied populations, rapidly reproducing, grazing free organic compounds. Green Chlorobium the first to feed on sulphides is still with us. The oxygen rich atmosphere was a problem that spurred bacterial evolution to multiply and diversify so that they continue to dominate every place even the harshest. Rapidly reproducing, grazing free organic compounds could run out of food so some learn to make their own, using light or chemicals to produce energy, getting food from CO2, green and purple microbes invent the key process – photosynthesis. Plants and animals only came along ¾ of the way through evolution. We are electrical/chemical beings, whose origins go back 4 billion years, we are intimate in so many ways with the deep past.

Photosynthesis allowed complex life to evolve. A solar or photovoltaic cell converts light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect. ‘Photovoltaic’ derives from the Greek φῶς (phōs for light) and the unit of electro-motive force from the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta.

Luigi Galvini, an Italian anatomy professor was experimenting on corpses in London and in 1771 discovered electric current by accident. He hung a recently killed frog by a copper hook over an iron railing and the legs twitched when it touched the iron. He assumed the legs had what he called ‘Animal electricity’.

His nephew, Giovanni Aldini, toured Europe demonstrating this life force. In January 1803, before an audience of the Royal College of Surgeons, he applied a 120-volt battery to the corpse of an executed murderer a 26 year old George Forster. When Aldini wired the mouth and ear, the jaw spasmed, the murderer’s left eye opened and stared at the experimenter. He ended the experiment/entertainment by connecting one wire to the ear and the other up the rectum. Poor old George Forster started a hideous dance of death.

In 1818, in Glasgow, when Scottish chemist Andrew Ure played with/experimented on the corpse of another he executed murderer Matthew Clydesdale. Ure finished by connecting on wire to an exposed nerve in the forehead and one to the heel: ‘Every muscle in his countenance was simultaneously thrown into fearful action; rage, horror, despair, anguish, and ghastly smiles, united their hideous expression in the murderer’s face, surpassing far the wildest representations of a Fuseli [Henry] or a Kean [Edmund].’ Spectators fainted and screamed, and stampeded out. {see Elephants on Acid, by Alex Boese, 2007}.

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