Writing My Dissertation at Brookhaven National Laboratory

by Kenton K. Yee


I chose theoretical physics for its sunrise qualities: bright lights, rustling leaves, praying mantises. Accuracy, precision were sacred. Deer and ticks. Comets and planetesimals. Every true equation rhymes with the rustle of leaves. We had assignments, of course: to explore as many what-if possibilities as we could think up. By the second cup of coffee, ideas came faster than kettle steam. Waiting for the whistling, I saw the blur of tossed die and knew, yes, I want to spin and spin. I want centrifugal force to rip off my frown and fling my flesh into the spiraling arms of acceptance.


Kenton K. Yee writes from northern California. His recent poetry appears (or will soon appear) in Rattle, The Threepenny Review, Constellations, Plume Poetry, Analog, The New Verse News, The Indianapolis Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Hollins Critic, Ligeia Magazine, and Pembroke Magazine, among others. Chapters of the dissertation I wrote at Brookhaven National Laboratory while a UCLA doctoral candidate were published in Nuclear Physics B and Physical Review D.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Writing My Dissertation at Brookhaven National Laboratory”?

Although I’m not claiming it as nonfiction, this prose poem reflects what I remember about my dissertation writing experience. Writing the prose poem, I realized what I loved wasn’t thinking about mathematics but the feeling of how, when ideas came, they “came faster than kettle steam.” This is why I was so passionate about pursuing theoretical physics and is why I’m passionate today about pursuing creative arts.


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03/20 • Claire Polders
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