Writer and artist Fanny (Fan) Ogilvie and two other Islanders, biologist and author Ursula Goodenough and book designer Janet Holladay, drew an enthusiastic crowd of more than 30 people to Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs Saturday.

Like a lead singer with two harmony vocalists, Ms. Ogilvie took center stage at the center’s Francine Kelly Gallery for a three-way reading from her newly-published Dust is the Only Secret: Assent to Life.

Consisting mainly of Ms. Ogilvie’s work over the past three years, the three-book series is organized in chapters that are each introduced by a passage from Ms. Goodenough’s book The Sacred Depths of Nature: How Life Has Emerged and Evolved.

Ms. Holladay worked with Ms. Ogilvie to design the new books, which interweave Ms. Goodenough’s writing on cellular biology with Ms. Ogilvie’s work: poetry, paintings and a third-person — but intimately personal — running memoir.

Poet and artist Fan Ogilvie. — Jonathan Fleischmann

At Saturday’s reading, the three women brought the books and their intertwining themes alive in turns. Ms. Goodenough read from her own excerpted passages, Ms. Holladay read sections from the multi-generational memoir and Ms. Ogilvie read her poems — many inspired by Ms. Goodenough’s science writing.

“Poetry is a branch of science without mathematical measurement,” Ms. Ogilvie told the Featherstone audience as the reading began.

The new books’ main title, Dust is the Only Secret, is the first line of an Emily Dickinson poem that Ms. Ogilvie includes in her first volume. The title also is inspired by deep-space astronomy, which has proved Ms. Dickinson right by finding that planets begin as dust particles, Ms. Ogilvie said Saturday.

The series’ subtitle, Assent to Life, comes from Ms. Goodenough’s book, which argues from biology that death became necessary after organisms evolved beyond single cells, inventing sex and the love of life along their way.

“If we were just one cell, just going on and on and on, we would be algae,” Ms. Ogilvie said.

Individually subtitled To Understand, To Incorporate and Then Let It Go, the three books trace an aging artist’s quest to accept mortality on its own terms, as the natural counterweight to life.

“It was an exploration, at a decent, mature age, to explore straight-on the mysteries of life and death,” Ms. Ogilvie said.

Dust is the Only Secret: Assent to Life also contains excerpts from the work of writers who inspire Ms. Ogilvie, a centuries-wide pantheon that includes John Keats, Wallace Stevens and Elizabeth Bishop as well as Leonard Cohen, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Albert Einstein.

Her own poetry takes flight from almost any occasion, from the arrival of birds at the backyard feeder to the rage-inducing persistence of war and intolerance.

Elsewhere in Dust is the Only Secret, Ms. Ogilvie writes epistolary poems to loved ones, a fanciful letter to Einstein and some stark lines about living with a disabled arm after an injury.

Other poems are more like song lyrics, complete with choruses that almost invite the reader to get up and dance.

With full-color artwork and varying page designs, the trilogy offers an engaging and thought-provoking perspective on what makes us mortal, and why.