Interactions - SPS Chapters in Action
Bria Andrews, SPS Member, and Paul Gueye, SPS Advisor, Hampton University
In January 2017, our Society of Physics Students chapter held its first poetry contest. The contest was open to everyone on campus and initiated by Bria Andrews, our chapter president and an undergraduate senior physics major. The idea to start a poetry contest stemmed from a project that required her to research a topic unrelated to her major. That led to a paper titled “It’s More Than Just a Rhyme: When Poetry Turns to Hip Hop” and this poetry contest.
As an artist, Andrews frequently dances and writes. This research investigated historical analyses of poetry from the Harlem Renaissance, Black Arts Movement, and the present, with Langston Hughes, Gil Scott-Heron, and Rakim as figures of each era. Focused on musical analysis and meaning, as well as connection to the community, the project ended by relating the evolution of poetry into hip hop to Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
Andrews enjoyed studying this topic and was asked to present her work during a physics colloquium at Hampton. This experience encouraged Andrews to help her colleagues get their creative juices flowing. Students could write about anything and everything.
Hosting this contest helped our chapter bond over nonphysics topics. In addition, it exposed SPS to other majors and organizations on campus that don’t normally interact with the physics department. The winning entry, “Rain,” was submitted by Angelina Gallego. It is a tanka, a Japanese form of poetry similar to haiku.
“Rain,” by Angelina Gallego
I cried that last tear
The cloud consumed the sunlight
Day turns into night
I wish that I could be free
So no one would enclose me
About “Rain”: “Sometimes people put you down in your life and tell you about the things you cannot achieve. People told me I couldn't be a physicist, that I would not make it, and that I didn't have the skills or money to even go to college. My poem represents my internal struggle with the way words affect me and how my passion always helped me fight thoughts of self-doubt. One thing that always made me feel free was doing what I love, which is learning physics, and I will continue to never let anything that anyone tells me deter me from the passion I have for physics.” –Angelina Gallego