Physics is poetry

Friday, March 29, 2019

John Caranci

Beyond a rewarding career as a physics teacher, John Caranci (BSc ’72) makes his mark through creative writing.

Byline: John Caranci

I graduated from the University of Waterloo in 1972. It was my first time away from home.

It was an impressive place. I was a physics major, which allowed me to experience the best lecturer in Waterloo — Prof. Phil Eastman. I am a physics teacher because of him. Now, I teach teachers at OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education). UWaterloo helped me to avoid being narrow.

The music of words

Since I was quite young, probably around nine or 10, words intrigued me. They were the kind of thing that, when taken on their own, or even when linked in phrases, would seem that there was music in them. I think the first time I actually wrote a poem was in middle school. It was a great introduction for me to use words to convey ideas.

John Caranci's book of poetry, Dance in WonderLater, when I became a physicist and physics teacher, words became more humourous and ironic. I know that sounds odd, but in fact there is a lot of humour in the mathematics and the sciences.

I love the way a combination of words creates a meaning that is layered and complex, even sad. Yes, I know, but words can be sad. Not the sadness in the content but the words themselves.

My teachers knew none of this. My parents knew none of this. It was only for me. Only for the consumption of my own brain, my own ideas. I never submitted my writing for publication. With my wife’s support, I took a writing course. It was suggested that I submit a short story to feel rejection, which is what they thought was why I never submitted my work. I submitted the poem “Eat Boat.” It was not rejected. It won the White Wall Review G. Raymond Chang Award for Poetry. I have not submitted anything since. Now, I have published a book of poems, Dance in Wonder.


John Caranci is a celebrated physics and mathematics educator. In 2008, he was awarded a Life Membership for Outstanding Service by the Ontario Physics Teachers Association. In addition to his poetry, he has authored and edited many mathematics, physics and elementary science texts. John is an auto racer and online gamer.