Meagen Youngdahl, a poet who has served as a Dactyl Scholar working in the intersections of art and science, has completed a creative non-fiction piece entitled, “Moving with care: a biosemiotic, narrative inquiry into (in)fertility and bodymind wellness,” which adds a new dimension to semiotics scholarship and to poetry.
As a poet, Youngdahl became interested in how biosemiotic mechanisms can be creative. Fittingly the subjects of her exploration are conception and imagination. After being diagnosed with unexplained infertility and bi-polar disorder, she learned to contemplate the unconscious, semiosic processes of her body. In this piece she reflects upon the role hormones play as the primary signals presiding over her conditions. Living with bi-polar disorder, Youngdahl has learned to appreciate the ways in which her embodied mind constructs new meanings through the recognition (and some times mis-recognition) of patterns and themes. And this is not an unwelcome tendency for a poet. Ironically, she muses, that while her mind is at times overly fertile, her body lacked that creative tendency. She recounts disappointing experiences with medical interventions and how these approaches seem to be tone deaf to what her body was saying to her.
Youngdahl’s biosemiotic journey began when she met Wendy Wheeler on her visit to the United States from England to teach a summer course on Biosemiotics, which immediately made sense to Youngdahl. She notes, “it feels as if my brain is beginning to resolve connections it has already made but couldn’t fully appreciate.” She shared with Wheeler the feeling that life is not mechanical, but “much closer to poetry and song.” Wheeler’s understanding of the way that metaphor and metonymy function in natural processes opened new doors for Youngdahl. Months later she followed her new passion, visiting Wheeler in her garden in Kent before going to Estonia to take a short course in Biosemiotics there at the University of Tartu. Youngdahl embraced the discipline as a philosophy to help her makes sense of her body-mind states. Although Biosemiotics does not offer Youngdahl—or others going through similar challenges—a cure as such, her experiences did help her develop a new awareness of the “shared semiosic activities between body, mind, and environment” that makes moving through life a little easier and much more pleasurable. Youngdahl’s contribution is a very fresh and, at times, light-heartedly humorous perspective of the role Biosemiotics can play in people’s lives.
Youngdahl’s piece will likely be included in a volume dedicated to Wendy Wheeler who passed away this year.
Meagen Youngdahl is a multi-genre writer and a doctoral candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Kansas. She holds a BA in English and Film Studies from UC Berkeley and an MA in Creative Writing from UC Davis. Her work, which is influenced by her ongoing research in (bio)semiotics, aims to challenge boundaries between critical and creative writing and thought.
Dactyl Foundation supports researchers and creative writers working in the crossroads of art and science.