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Announcing the Poetry Collection “A Responsibility to Awe”

By Alison Campbell

Dr. Alison Campbell is on staff at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. She was a close friend of Becky Elson from graduate school until Elson’s death in 1999.

January 2002


Rebecca Elson's poetry collection, “A Responsibility to Awe”, was launched in October 2001 in Cambridge, England. Nearly 50 people were present, including her husband, friends and colleagues. Gerry Gilmore,
Craig Mackay and Poshak Gandhi each read one of her poems, while others were spoken by friends
and by staff of the publishers, Oxford Poetry.

The book is receiving rave reviews in the UK; a typical comment is “This is the most important poetry collection of the last ten years.” Some are calling it unique, because many of Becky’s poems bridge the gap, so seldom spanned, between science and emotion.

If only Becky could hear these wonderful comments! She was always so reticent about the “other side” of her life. I (and I am sure others) tried many times to persuade her to publish “Aberration,” her 1990 poem about the HST PSF, but she worried that her colleagues would no longer take her seriously.

Part of the reason publication of a major collection of Becky’s poetry has come so soon is that, tragically, her work is complete. But had she lived, I believe recognition was only a matter of time, for among these poems are many that illuminate the deep connections between our rational and our primal understanding of the universe. Other, equally stunning pieces on more personal themes use powerful imagery to evoke emotions ranging from loneliness through tenderness to passion.


Elson’s poetry collection, A Responsibility to Awe, is available from Carcanet Press, Manchester, UK.
Cost: £ 6.95, ISBN: 1-903039-54-1.
Web: http://www.carcanet.co.uk.
Phone: +44-161-834-8730 ext.21;
email: pnr@carcanet.u-net.com.

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