Jessy Randall & Ken Kashian

Digital cyanotypes by Ken Kashian

Fanny Hesse (1858-1934)
Watercolor dries quickly. Once it’s on the paper,
you have to move fast. No hurry, though, in the way it
bursts in the cup of water, suspended, like fruit in gelatin.
But gelatin melts, and the specimens are ruined.
In Java the women use agar agar for pudding.
It stays plump and cushiony even in the heat.
I told the scientists this and they listened,
and now schoolchildren make pictures from bacteria
in petri dishes. The shape spreads like watercolor,
paint in a puddle, the living things feeding on agar,
the creators looking down from above.
Rhodococcus rhodochrous only grows,
knowing nothing of these young gods.

Carolyn Shoemaker (1929-2021)

Sometimes biology is fate. I agree!
But not the way you think. My
stereoscopic vision was off the charts.
Magic Eye indeed! Depth perception
isn’t just fun to say, it’s fun to have.
I peer into the telescope and the
comets and astroids leap out at me.
Like wearing 3-D glasses on top of
3-D glasses on top of regular glasses.
(I was 51 when my astronomy career began.)
My favorites were the minor planets.
finding them was like falling in love –
377 times.
Trota of Salerno (ca. 11th-12th century)

I’m glad labor is easier now,
and more mothers survive.
In my time, bodies were different.
They didn’t belong to us.
We only inhabited them.
For so long you confused me
with my book. It makes me laugh.
I did exist. The proof is in the births.
Maybe my book belongs to me
more than this body ever did.
I’m not trying to be profound.
I’d like to find out what you know.
These strange mysteries, the body’s
interior workings. Let me write it down.

Elsie Maud Wakefield (1886-1972)

Some say it looks like a moon.
Others a skull.
That can’t be real,
the students say.
Absolutely and squishily real,
the Giant Puffball is also
quite delicious.
Its fruitbody a stomach!
Its spores in clouds!


Anna Atkins (1799-1871)

Sometimes I imagine
making a sun print of my own body.
Preparing a bed-size sheet of paper
and placing myself down
as if it were snow,
carefully, so I don’t smear.
Or I could roll back-and-forth
until the image was unrecognizable.
A blur, a body in time. Cyanotypes
can’t capture how something moves –  
cyanotypes fix things. Do I
need fixing?
Most societies won’t allow me in,
and my book hides my name.
Anna becomes, on the page,
I’ll ask my friends.
They’ll fix me, like sunlight.

Jessy Randall’s poems, comics, and other things have appeared in McSweeney’s, Nature, Poetry, Scientific American, and Women’s Review of Books. She is the author of A Day in Boyland (a finalist for the Colorado book award), How to Tell If You Are Human (Pleides Press’s visual poetry selection for 2018) and, most recently, Mathematics for Ladies: Poems on Women in Science (MIT, 2022). She is the Curator of Special Collections at Colorago College.


Jessy Randall’s Website

Review of Mathematics for Ladies at EIL


Ken Kashian is a professional photographer based in central Illinois. He has produced four handmade artist books, most recently Fugue (2022), which documents the progression of native wildflowers in the Weston Cemetery Prairie Nature Preserve, and Themes & Variations (2019), also looking at wildflowers in light of musical echoes. Inspired by the work of Anna Atkins, his next project will be to create cyanotype photographs of native plants, using sunlight as she did. His digital cyanotypes are the beginning of this exploration.

Ken Kashian’s Artist’s Books

Fugue…The Blue Prints




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