strange-attractor website

Strange Attractor is a mathematical term that refers to a system in chaotic motion


This site features the scientist Charles Darwin,  the poet Stevie Smith and Cardiff Museum Writers


Charles Darwin


Charles Darwin (1809-18820) whose best known work is The Origin of Species, longed to be an explorer when he was young and was thrilled to be invited to join a round the world voyage which began his career as a naturalist and father of modern evolutionary ideas.


Darwin's writings are often surprising: worms are shown to accomplish great feats of strength, pea-hens to have surprising powers of discrimination, and an insect eating plant called sundew secretes the same digestive chemicals as the human stomach. His writings often deal with forms of life and behaviours which are unexpected, grotesque and even comic. His last book on worms, for instance, includes an account of how his family played the bassoon and piano to worms to find out if they could hear.


His vision of the natural world, made not by God in 7 days but by the natural selection of small changes in multitudes of plants and animals over millions of years turned the conventional world view upside down and led to great controversy. it was fiercely opposed, and also enthusiastically championed, sometimes by people such as eugenicists who reached conclusions based on an incomplete understanding of the evidence. The relationship between past and present species and the environment are much more complex than was understood in Darwin's time.


On the Darwin pages I explore his writings and refer to other writers whose work influenced him, which include the poets Wordsworth and Milton, the explorer Alexander von Humboldt and the geologist Charles Lyell. To explore Darwin's life and work  begin with Darwin's biography, or, to see his work as part of an ongoing exploration of how species originated, start with a short history of evolutionary ideas from ancient Greece to the present.


Stevie Smith 


Stevie Smith (1902- 1971) whose best known work is the poem 'Not Waving but Drowning', longed to become an explorer when she was young but became a secretary and wrote novels and poems in her spare time. She lived in a London Suburb all her life with her aunt.


Smith's poems explore death, despair religion and a variety of human relationships. Seas, rivers, mountains, geological time and suburbs feature prominently in her poems, together with cats and dogs and a variety of other animals including anacondas, lions, mosquitoes. voles and parrots.


Animal poems are sometimes dismissed as trivial, but animals play important roles in all societies and in literature. The biblical story of creation firmly separates mand and beast but in ancient mythologies and fairy tales humans, supernatural beings shape shift into each other. In mediaeval bestiaries and Aesop's fables real and imaginary animals embody aspects of religious or moral teaching. Skylarks and nightingales illuminate the Romantic poets' conception of the sublime and Darwin's vision hovers over 20th century writers on the natural world .


Smith gathered material from many sources for her poems, from her suburban neighbourhood and contemporary writing on astronomy to the world of myths and from other writers as various as Percy Shelley, William Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, Thomas de Quincy and Racine.


To explore the pages on her life and work go to the Stevie Smith biography or the  Stevie Smith home page



The poet Chris Torrance also has pages on this site

The copyright of the poems, prose, and photographs on this web site  are the property of the authors. Stevie Smith's work is reproduced here by kind permission of the Estate of James MacGibbon. Stevie Smith's works, or any part of them, may not be downloaded, reprinted, or reproduced in any other form without the permission of which may be requested by contacting Faber and Faber

You may  print any poems or prose by Anne Bryan and Chris Torrance for your own use or to pass on to a friend, but please don't copy the poems, prose, or photographs into assignments, magazines, newsletters or web sites without permission or acknowledgement.  Ask for permission by E mail  

This site is written and managed by Anne Bryan; if you have any enquires, comments or corrections send an e mail