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Alumna's Book of Poetry Published to Coincide with Darwin's Birthday

Kelley Swain's senior honors project lays groundwork for "Darwin's Microscope"

3/18/2009 9:54:16 AM


Kelley Swain '07 and the cover of Darwin's Microscope

LYNCHBURG – What started as a senior honors project in creative writing has helped Kelley Swain ’07 become a published author – at age 24.

Swain’s book, Darwin's Microscope, was published in February 2009 by Flambard Press. For Swain, the book of poems was a way to merge two of her biggest passions – biology and creative writing.

“I want to communicate the wonder of the natural world,” said Swain, who now lives in London. “I want to accurately portray science without it being dry or tedious. I want to blend poetry and science so people think of poetry as being a scientific endeavor and science as being poetic.”

Swain returned to Randolph’s campus April 8, 2009 for a reading of her work. She also participated in the science poetry and open mic session of Randolph’s Science Festival on April 5.

Her first book was launched to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. As a result, Swain has been busy participating in a number of Darwin celebrations. Her own book launch was held at the Grant Museum of Zoology.

Darwin’s Microscope was first titled Shadows in Chalk. The project originated from Swain’s creative writing senior honors project and several science courses.

“I wanted to write about Charles Darwin and biology, and fortunately, Doug Shedd is a wonderful professor who encouraged me to study in the Biology Department, even though I was an English major,” Swain said.

She loved her zoology and animal behavior classes and used them in her writing. She also took geology and was involved in a college-sponsored international study trip to Baja, Mexico where she studied gray whales, mangroves, sand dunes, scallops, and nature journaling with Karin Warren, an environmental science professor and Laura-Gray Street, an English professor.

Merging her love of writing and of science is exciting, she said.

“I thrive on showing people that it is possible, and encouraging interdisciplinary thinking in others,” she said.

Swain’s future plans obviously include more writing, though she admits it is somewhat intimidating being published at such a young age.

“It means I need to set some new goals, get cracking, and write more,” she added.

Swain credits much of her love of writing and success to the faculty members she worked closely with in college. Professors from the English department like Street, Jim Peterson, and Heidi Kunz joined with professors from biology such as Shedd to push her to new levels.

“The College's English department gives you personal attention and really challenges you,” she said. “I am able to look at my work with a very constructively critical eye, and I also feel confident critiquing other people's work.”

She plans to continue pursuing her love of science and writing in future projects. She is currently planning a residency at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science at Cambridge.

“I want people to go away feeling joyous and interested in going for a walk outside,” Swain said.

For more information on Swain and how to purchase a copy of Darwin's Microscope , please see her blog at

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CONTACT: Brenda Edson, Director of College Relations


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