Intersecting Sets
by Alice Major



University of Alberta Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-888-64595-1.
Reviewed by Sharon Wildwind
Posted on 12/22/2012

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Creative Life; Nonfiction: Science

There is a myth that scientists and artists live on different planets, which is rubbish. One friend of mine is an incredibly skilled fiber artist and knows a huge amount about the chemistry and physics of cloth dyeing. Another is a geologist and a fantasy writer. Lewis Thomas, the award-winning physician, poet, and, essayist wrote in both the scientific and artistic arenas.

Alice Major, a Canadian poet, has brought the two worlds together very nicely. I loved the way she plays science and poetry off one another. Metaphor relates to Mandelbrot sets. Holograms on credit cards help explain the building blocks of language. Artists' color wheels and mixing colors relates to black holes.

Major's writing is both clear and lyrical. Readers who, perhaps, have never heard of either Mandelbrot sets or dactylic meter will find those and other concepts explained in ways that are entertaining and related to every day life.

Running beneath the poetry/science conjunctions is the thread of her father's Alzheimer's disease and his eventual death. The poetry, the science, and the loss of her father come together in one powerful, positive message: this is a beautiful world. Reach out to the wonders in it. See all of it you can, while you have the time. That's an idea that more of us need to hear, and this book is a wonderful place to start.

Read an excerpt from this book.


Alice Major has been a journalist and published eight collections of poetry and a novel for young adults. She served as the first poet laureate for the city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada from 2005-2007. She grew up in Dumbarton, Scotland. Her family came to Canada when she was eight. Visit her website.

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