WALNUT CREEK — David Seaborg said his birthday is meaningful in a couple of ways, beginning with the story told to him about the day he was born.
His mother didn't make it to the hospital in time, and Seaborg was delivered on the front porch of the family's Berkeley home by his father, Glenn T. Seaborg, the scientist who won the 1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Twenty-one years later, Seaborg celebrated his birthday on April 22, 1970 — the first Earth Day — a fitting day to celebrate one's birth, he said, given his lifelong advocacy to environmental issues. An evolutionary biologist who heads the World Rainforest Fund, he works, writes and lectures on science and environmental issues. And now, Seaborg has added another volume to his litany of achievements. Drawing from a passion for poetry that began in high school, Seaborg has published his first book of poetry, "Honor Thy Sow Bug," which has given the scientist a chance to show the public what his right brain has produced.
In "Honor Thy Sow Bug," Walnut Creek resident Seaborg shares his opinions on what makes a good poem and the state of contemporary poetry today. Seaborg's poetry touches on a variety of topics, such as love, nature, life and spirituality.
"I hope that it starts or helps start a movement to reawaken an interest in poetry in America today," Seaborg wrote in the introduction of his book. "I hope that it will have an impact and influence on contemporary verse, that it will influence other poets to write poetry that is exciting and relevant to the general public."
Edgar Allan Poe, Percy Shelley and Rumi count as some of Seaborg's favorite poetic influences since high school.
"People really like the poems and call the language fresh and original, and like the rhythm and new ideas," said Seaborg, raised in Lafayette until his was 12. "The book has commentary I wrote on each poem at the back that people find useful in learning what I was thinking and revealing the subtleties in the poems, such as symbolism."
Seaborg, who has an undergraduate degree from UC Davis and a graduate degree from the UC Berkeley, both in zoology, said his lifelong work with animals and the environment have inspired his poetry.
"Lines come to me and parts of poems and ideas as a result of my reading and meditating," said Seaborg, who also founded the Glenn T. Seaborg Greater Lafayette Open Space Fund, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to preserving open space in the greater Lafayette.
Longtime friend Bill Ryan said, "Dave Seaborg emerges as an interpreter of the scientific tradition, in terms of poetry and offers those outside of the largely closed society of poets a much less abstract access to a historically important form of art, which has inspired Americans in previous epochs."
While Seaborg offers commentary on his poems and guidelines to reading and writing good poetry in his book, he encourages readers to enjoy whatever experience and emotions his poems evoke.
"Readers can still come up with their own interpretations," he said. "The commentary is just a guide. You should never read the commentary until you've first read the poem."
The book gives the reader a sense of how poetry is received today compared to the reverence it was given in the past.
"It also has an essay that is very popular with its readers on the state of contemporary poetry in academia, and why it is boring and almost no one reads it, and on what makes a good poem, useful for writing and appreciating poetry," Seaborg said.
He recalls a poetry class he took where the teacher had students relax and listen to music.
"This exercise allowed the lines to come to us," Seaborg said. "Then we can go back and edit later. It's incredible ... how fantastic the imagery that came about."
To purchase a copy, send a check for $29 made out to David M. Seaborg, 1888 Pomar Way, Walnut Creek, CA 94598-1424.