Emily Grosholz reviews two books of poetry in American Scientist:
If you are a scientifically trained poetry lover who has always wanted to travel to the polar regions or the tropics, or a lover of poetry who would like to venture into the history of science, you can fly away to those distant reaches on the pages of these two books. Elizabeth Bradfield, author of the poetry collection Approaching Ice, has worked as a naturalist in Alaska and the Eastern Canadian Arctic. Ruth Padel, author of Darwin: A Life in Poems, has visited tiger forests in China and Russia, as well as tropical and subtropical forests in Brazil, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Laos and Sumatra. She is, moreover, the granddaughter of Darwin’s granddaughter Nora Barlow, from whom she first heard about the complexities of the marriage of Charles and Emma Darwin.
Bradfield’s Approaching Ice is a miscellany of poems and annotated texts that makes use of the writings of two dozen Arctic and Antarctic explorers. The book unfolds in roughly chronological order, from John Cleves Symmes and James Weddell, who went north around 1820, through Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton and Richard E. Byrd in the early 20th century, to Lynne Cox, who, in the late 20th century, swam the Strait of Magellan and the Cape of Good Hope.
Scattered throughout are definitions of ice formations from Nathaniel Bowditch’s The American Practical Navigator, poetically elaborated with the subtext of what seems like a love story.