Celebrates odyssey set in the skies.
Silver’s reduction enables moon’s rise.“
“Moments of alacrity,
STEM, sports, music, history—
Enveloped in philately.”
This week’s entry expands on two Twitter poems that I wrote about my July 2019 trip to Washington, D.C., discussing two museums that I was fortunate to visit. I’ll write both explanations in a single entry– discussing the trip from the beginning to the end, as it exists in this virtual space– so that I am justified in using “D.C. al fine” as the title.
“Lunar photography’s /
Silvery filigree /
Celebrates odyssey set in the skies.“
The National Gallery of Art hosted an exhibit on lunar photography entitled “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” as part of the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Many of the images were from black-and-white photography, a technique which relies on a chemical reaction involving a silver halide (AgCl, AgBr, or AgI). “Silvery filigree” is thus a poetic way of describing such images, celebrating the sky-set “odyssey” from Earth to the moon.
“Elegant element’s /
Silver’s reduction enables moon’s rise.”
The latter lines of this poem directly discuss the chemistry involved with black-and-white photography. Silver is the “elegant element” involved in the process; in the specific reaction of interest, a light-sensitive precipitate containing a positively charged silver ion is coated onto a surface. When the surface is exposed to light, the silver ion in the precipitate is reduced to elemental silver.
The last line celebrates the interesting contrast of mental images present in the chemical process and its artistic result. The reduction of silver from a cation to a neutral atom is what allows the emergence of the image: here, the “moon’s rise.”
“Moments of alacrity, /
Sagacity, tenacity— /
STEM, sports, music, history— /
Enveloped in philately.”
I was fortunate to live near Washington, D.C. during my postdoctoral work, and I traveled often into the city. The National Postal Museum became one of my favorite places to visit: rarely crowded and always interesting. It was fun to return during my 2019 vacation.
This brief verse highlights the wide range of images on postal stamps: moments of celebration, contemplation, and dedication, across a wide range of fields. The poem itself is quite simple: several variations on the central rhyme of “philately” (and an allusion to envelopes, for good measure).