“A portable cosmos of gladness at the chance-miracle of aliveness: all of us, suspended here in this sliver of spacetime, with our stories and our poems and each other.”

Maria Popova

The Universe in Verse

The Universe in Verse

The Universe in Verse is a celebration of the wonder of reality, as its luminous and brilliant creator Maria Popova says, “through stories of science winged with poetry.” It began as an extraordinary annual event in 2017. In this interlude between that world of gatherings and this, On Being is beyond delighted to partner with Maria to reimagine the Universe in Verse in a new form. Beginning in winter 2022, and released over the course of nine weeks, nine poems will be brought to life through storytellers and animators, performers and musicians — and presented and woven into a whole by Maria. Newly released chapters will be shared weekly in the Pause newsletter.


Stories about relativity and the evolution of flowers, about entropy and the Hubble Space Telescope, about dark matter and octopus intelligence. 

Illustrated with poems new and old, by Emily Dickinson and Richard Feynman, by W.H. Auden and Tracy K. Smith, by Marilyn Nelson and Edna St. Vincent Millay. 

Performed by a human constellation including Patti Smith, Joan As Police Woman, Yo-Yo Ma, Sophie Blackall, Amanda Palmer, Maira Kalman, Toshi Reagon, David Byrne, Daniel Bruson, Zöe Keating, Janna Levin, Garth Stevenson, Sy Montgomery, Jherek Bischoff, Edwina White, Ohara Hale, Tom McRae, Topu Lyo, Gautam Srikishan, Lottie Kingslake, Kelli Anderson, and Liang-Hsin Huang.


Chapter 9: Atoms with Consciousness

Words by Richard Feynman
Reading and music by Yo-Yo Ma
Animation by Kelli Anderson

Read Chapter 9: Atoms with Consciousness: Yo-Yo Ma Performs Richard Feynman’s Ode to the Wonder of Life at The Marginalian

Chapter 8: Octopus Empire – An Animated Poem

Poem by Marilyn Nelson
Reading by Sy Montgomery
Music by Topu Lyo
Art by Edwina White
Animation by James Dunlap

Read Chapter 8: Octopus Empire: An Animated Poem at The Marginalian

Chapter 7: The More Loving One

Poem by W.H. Auden
Reading by Janna Levin
Art and animation by Liang-Hsin Huang
Music by Garth Stevenson

Read Chapter 7: The More Loving One: The Science of Entropy and the Art of Alternate Endings at The Marginalian.org

Chapter 6: Dirge Without Music

Poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Performed by Amanda Palmer
Art + Animation by Sophie Blackall
Music by Tom McRae

Read Chapter 6: Dirge Without Music: Emmy Noether, Symmetry, and the Conservation of Energy at The Marginalian

Chapter 5: Singularity

Chapter 4: Let There Always Be Light

Poem by Rebecca Elson
Reading by Patti Smith
Art and Animation by Ohara Hale
Music by Zoë Keating

Read Chapter 4: Dark matter, astronomer Vera Rubin, and the mystery of our mortal stardust at The Marginalian

Chapter 3: Achieving Perspective

Poem by Pattiann Rogers
Reading by David Byrne
Music by Jherek Bischoff
Art by Maira Kalman
Animation by Mariana López
Directed by SALT Project

Read Chapter 3: Trailblazing astronomer Maria Mitchell and the poetry of the cosmic perspective at The Marginalian

Chapter 2: My God, It’s Full of Stars

Poem by Tracy K. Smith
Art + Animation by Daniel Bruson
Music by Gautam Srikishan
with creative direction by Erin Colasacco

Read Chapter 2: Henrietta Leavitt, Edwin Hubble, and our human hunger to know the universe at The Marginalian

Chapter 1: Bloom

Poem by Emily Dickinson
Music by Joan As Police Woman
Art + Animation by Ohara Hale
Lettering by Debbie Millman

Read Chapter 1: The evolution of life and the birth of ecology at The Marginalian