CHRIS ORSMAN was born in Lower Hutt in 1955 and now lives and writes
full time in Wellington. He has two main collections of poetry published,
Ornamental Gorse (Victoria University Press 1994) and South
(Victoria University Press 1996 & Faber & Faber 1999) as well
as four chapbooks published by his own poetry label, Pemmican Press.
In 1998, along with Bill Manhire and Nigel Brown, he was one of the
inaugural Artists to Antarctica, and is currently completing a new
Antarctic sequence of poems based on their visit to the continent
in January 1998. His poems have been published in Sport,
Landfall, Takahe, and Printout, and have
been represented in a number of anthologies, the latest being Flora
Poetica (Chatto & Windus, London, 2002). He was the 2002
Writer in Residence at Victoria University, Wellington, attached to
the International Institute of Modern Letters.
Orsman comments: ‘The poem was commissioned by the Royal Society
of New Zealand to commemorate the achievement of Maurice Wilkins,
New Zealand-born pioneer of DNA discovery and 1962 Nobel Laureate.
It was read at King’s College, London, in December 2002, at
a ceremony to mark the unveiling of an official portrait of Wilkins.
Emily Perkins, expatriate novelist and short-story writer, read the
poem on behalf of the author.
The poem itself is an amalgam of biographical and scientific detail,
beginning with a contemplation of a vanished birthplace and moving
out into specific detail of Maurice Wilkins’ scientific field
(x-ray crystallography) and the extraordinary blue-print of the DNA
molecule that he discovered. The poem finishes with a play of imagery
around the original x-ray plate itself.’