Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The best words in the best order . . .

     Perhaps the way to link this couplet by Richard Wilbur (1921-2017) to mathematics is by referring to the notion of subset.   Wilbur is a favorite poet of mine, and he recently has died.

“Because he swings so neatly through the trees”   by Richard Wilbur

       Because he swings so neatly through the trees,
       An ape feels natural in the word trapeze.

I found these lines at PoetryFoundation.org and they are included in Wilbur's collection of illustrated wordplay, The Pig in the Spigot (Voyager Books, 2004).  Wilbur has been mentioned previously in this blog -- to explore, you may use the SEARCH box in the right column or follow this link.

mathematics is . . . the best words in the best order . . . is poetry

Friday, October 13, 2017

Mathy Double Dactyls

     The double dactyl is, like the limerick, a fixed verse form -- and one that is often humorous. From Wikipedia's, we have this initial requirement:  "There must be two stanzas, each comprising three lines of dactylic dimeter ( ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ) followed by a line consisting of just a choriamb ( ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ) . . ."   As the samples below illustrate, a double dactyl involves both nonsense and multi-syllabic words -- a non-trivial challenge; visit Wikipedia to learn more.
     The verses below are by Arthur Seiken, Emeritus Professor at Union College and I found them (with the help of editor Marjorie Senechal) in a 1995 issue of  The Mathematical Intelligencer (Vol 17, No 2, p 11). 

      If you want to see more of this poetic form, here are links to follow:  "Mathematical Double Dactyls" by Tristan Miller from the July 2015 issue of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics and the Higgeldy Piggeldy verse collection of Robin PemantleAnd, again, here is a Wikipedia link that supplies formal details of these verses. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Poetry . . . Mathematics . . . and Attitude

            Outwitted     by Edwin Markham (1852-1940)

            HE DREW a circle that shut me out—
            Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
            But Love and I had the wit to win:
            We drew a circle that took him in!

Today I invite you to browse  -- scroll down to look at recent posts and find something of interest OR use the SEARCH box to find lines by a particular poet or ones that feature particular mathematical terms.  Your search/scroll also can find poems that celebrate math-women and ones that protest abuse of our environment. THANK YOU for coming here to read.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Alice's Adventures in Numberland

     Recently I was alerted to some postings by Alice Silverberg -- she is a professor of mathematics and computer science at the University of California at Irvine and she is has made outstanding contributions to the field of Cryptography.  AND Silverberg has recently written down (at this link) some of her adventures as a math-woman.  She has entitled them "Alice's Adventures in Numberland" and she offers an email address for readers' comments.  ALSO here are links to two of my earlier postings featuring Alice Silverberg and poetry:  "A Quantum Romance" by Adam Rulli-Gibbs and several syllable snowballs.
As a recent film featuring NASA mathematician, Katherine Johnson, 
points out, math-women often are:
Hidden figures:
women no one
notices are
changing the world.
 Although not mathematical, "Diving into the Wreck
by Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) also is relevant here.
      Here is a link to an important article by Judy Green, "How Many Women Mathematicians Can You Name?"  Green, now an emeritus professor at Marymount University, opens her article (first published in Math Horizons in 2001) with the admission that until her last undergraduate semester the only female mathematician she could name is Emmy NoetherGreen's article, and a book she has co-written (with Jeanne LaDuke) and its companion website, help to remedy such situations for others.  There are many important math women to know!
     AND, if you still have time after exploring the links above, 
please visit my article (with poetry) "They Say She Was Good -- for a Woman,"
published July 2017 in the online Journal of Humanistic Mathematics.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Chinese Poem of the Cross

     At the website Aleteia.org (a Catholic social networking site that offers information that it deems pertinent to questions about faith) I found this interesting use of numbers in a poem written by the Chinese Kangxi Emperor (1654-1722).  

By the Kangxi Emperor (康熙帝) (4 May 1654 – 20 December 1722)
      The Kangxi Emperor (康熙帝) was the longest-reigning emperor in the history of China, and one of the longest-ruling monarchs worldwide. He ascended the throne at age 7, and reigned for 61 years. He was also a learned scholar, who compiled the Kangxi Dictionary and he was friendly to Christianity.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Women Count

     Today's commentary by Washington Post writer Dana Milbank offered a forceful reminder that women are often talked-over by men.   Milbank's offering comes just three days after I attended a special event at the National Museum of Women in the Arts that featured Judy Chicago, a feminist artist whose 1970s sculpture, "Dinner Party," celebrates not only the geometry of triangles and circles but also the contributions of women to our world -- 39 women celebrated by place settings and 999 additional women's names recorded therein.  Even though Judy Chicago insisted last Sunday that she is not fearless, her record of behavior is as fearless as I have known.  I think it is not possible to talk-over Judy Chicago.  She is someone I much-admire. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Irish poet McGovern to visit US

     Irish poet and physicist Iggy McGovern will visit the US in October and is scheduled to read at 
The Writer's Center in Bethesda--Saturday, October 14 at 3 PM.  

McGovern's poetry has been featured earlier in this blog -- including "Belfast Inequalities" and "Proverbs for the Computer Age" on December 20, 2015  and "Geometry" on January 12, 2016.  This latter poem, "Geometry" is the opening poem in A Mystic Dream of 4 (Dedalus Press, Dublin, 2013) -- a sonnet sequence based on the life of mathematician William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865).  Also a poet, Hamilton grew up in Ireland in a time of prominence for British romantic poets of William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) -- and I offer below a McGovern sonnet that links Hamilton to Coleridge.     

Friday, September 15, 2017

Love Triangle . . ..

     One day, looking online for Edwin Abbott's 19th century classic, Flatland, I found not only Abbott's tale but some poetry.  At the website of Jerome White, a New Orleans math teacher, I found his mathy poem "Love Triangle," about which White says:    "Love Triangle" was inspired by my disappointment that Flatland: A Romance In Many Dimensions was deceptively devoid of "romance" in the modern sense of the word. 
     With White's permission, here is the poem -- offered with a preparatory remark:  the poet is sometimes explicit as he describes the geometry of sexual attraction.

Love Triangle      by  Jerome A. White

A trio of three-sided polygons sprawled across
the two-dimensional space of my notebook page
capturing my singular focus

The one on the left I tried to seduce
Only to find her obliquely obtuse
Her oversized angle symbolic
of the diverging vectors our lives would follow    

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Truth in a circle . . .

     In these days when the truth-value of so much of what I hear broadcast is difficult to assess I have been drawn back to a poem by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), given below.  I used to agree with Dickinson; now I am less sure about how one may know the truth to tell it.

Tell all the truth but tell it slant — (1263)     by Emily Dickinson

       Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
       Success in Circuit lies
       Too bright for our infirm Delight
       The Truth's superb surprise
       As Lightning to the Children eased
       With explanation kind
       The Truth must dazzle gradually
       Or every man be blind —

This poem and many others by Dickinson may be found online at  PoetryFoundation.org where they note that Dickinson's work is reprinted by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from THE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON: READING EDITION, edited by Ralph W. Franklin, ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1998, 1999 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, 1983 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.  Source: The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998).

Monday, September 11, 2017

Poetry of Colors and Geometry

      Recently I found online links to an exhibit by Japanese Surrealist Poet Kitasono Katue at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and further searching --  for words from this poet  -- led me here.  I offer a sample below -- and invite you, after reading here, to follow the links and explore this fascinating work.
     Here, is one of five poems by Kitasono Katue from Smoke's Straightline (Kemuri no chokusen, 1959), translated into English by John Solt and available at this link.

     Monotonous Space     by Kitasono Katue (1902-1978)

     white square
     within it
     white square
     within it
     black square
     within it
     black square    

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Halfway down . . .

     This week I have been sifting through piles of poems I have collected for possible posting herein.  Poems which I need to read and reread, to write to authors and publishers for permission to present.  There will be future days for me to do that.  Today I offer you a stanza from "Halfway Down" by A. A. Milne (from Now We are Six, E P Dutton, 1927).  Enjoy.

          from Halfway Down     by A. A. Milne (1882-1956)
          Halfway down the stairs
          Is a stair
          Where I sit.
          There isn't any
          Other stair
          Quite like
          I'm not at the bottom,
          I'm not at the top;
          So this is the stair
          I always
          Stop.                     Here is a link to the rest of this poem -- and to more of Milne's work.

If you would like to see a list of poems that offer"spirit-of-math" insights about math-people and their work, follow this link to find several dozen math-linked titles -- a list originally prepared for a Joint Mathematics Meetings presentation.  Many of the poems on the list are available in this blog and can be located using the SEARCH feature.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

From Hydrology to Poetry to Infinity . . .

     Carlos Puente is a professor of hydrology at the University of California, Davis AND he is so much more . . .  at Bridges 2017 he presented a paper that offered samples of artistic designs relevant to his research studies -- geometric structures linked, for example, to ice crystals and the DNA rosette.   Puente also integrates his work with poems and song lyrics.  Both he and I participated in a poetry-reading at the Bridges conference -- he read "Le plus improbable" and he has given me permission to offer you here a portion of "Conga to infinity." 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Celebrate Kim Roberts with "Six"

     Today is the first of a new month and, as expected, this morning I got an email reminder of the monthly Poetry News that is available at Beltway Poetry.    Founded by poet Kim Roberts in 2000, this quarterly journal provides a vital voice for poetry in the Washington, DC area.  Thanks, Kim!
     The poem by Roberts below is one that I first met while walking along the street in Takoma Park, MD  -- a community that actively promotes the arts.  Roberts' poem "Six" was displayed for my sidewalk reading in honor of National Poetry Month -- and my photo of that display is shown following the printed text of her poem. Enjoy!

       Six    by Kim Roberts

       The number of feet to dig for a coffin.
       The highest roll of the dice.
       The symbol of Venus, goddess of love.
       The atomic number of carbon.
       As a prefix, either hex or sex.
       A group of French composers in the 1920s.  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Pure as a mathematical equation

     I am pleased when I see mathematics held up as an ideal -- and such was the case when I opened my June 19, 2017 issue of The New Yorker and found the lovely poem, "How to Build a Stradivarius" by Ilyse Kusnetz (1966 -2016). Here are its closing lines:

       .  .  .
       The truth could be found in the song itself—

       how it was impossible to tell where 
       the wood ceased and the song began—notes pure

       as a mathematical equation. Transposing mountain. 
       Valley. Mountain again.

The complete poem is available here.

Monday, August 28, 2017

How does the Triangle relate to the Circle?

     One of the active promoters of poetry with links to mathematics is Californian Carol Dorf -- who teaches math at Berkeley High School AND is poetry editor for the online journal, TalkingWriting.  Along with several other mathy poets, Carol participated in the poetry reading at the Bridges 2017 Math-Arts Conference in Waterloo, Ontario.
     Here, playing with mathematical language -- from Carol's 2013 collection, enchantingly illustrated by Terri Saul, Every Evening Deserves a Title (Delirious Nonce, Berkeley, CA) -- is "Euclidean Shivers."

     Euclidean Shivers     by Carol Dorf

     So, how does the Triangle
     relate to the Circle?    

     Euclid and a radius prove points
     that radiate from the center, a circle,
     a method to navigate space.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

More solar numbers

     Yesterday's eclipse is still on my mind -- and "solar" links me to a poem featured at the recent Bridges Math-Arts Conference in Waterloo -- a poem by Brazilian poet Marco Lucchesi, a much-honored and widely translated writer who is a professor of literature at the Federal University of Rio Di Janeiro.
by Marco Lucchesi

Lucchesi's poem is found in Hinos Matematicos (Mathematical Hymns) -- and has been translated from the Portuguese by Renato Rezende.  The numbers in the poem, 220 and 284, are in mathematics called amicable numbers  -- the proper divisors of each one can be summed to give the other.   For example:   (2 + 110) + (4 + 55) + (5 + 44) + (10+22) + (11+20) + 1 = 284.
Thanks, Marco, for your poem.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Sun's poem is infinite . . .

      On this day during which many in the US experienced the totality of a solar eclipse, I stayed in Maryland and, on the roof of my condo-building  -- along with one of my sons and two of my granddaughters and an array of neighbors -- saw the darkening as about 80% of the sun was covered by the moon.  This event -- the view of the eclipsed sun, the darkened day -- was far more interesting and exciting than I had expected.
     AND, thanks to my neighbor, poet and translator Yvette Neisser, I have been introduced to some poetry about the sun.  She has shared Solar Poems by Homero Aridjis (City Lights, 2010, translated by George McWhirtier).  Here are several stanzas from the opening poem . . .

The Sun’s poem is infinite, 
we can only paint it in words, 
said the painter

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Seeking an EQUATION for LOVE . . .

       One of the interesting and fun people I had the good fortune to meet at the 2017 Bridges Math-Arts Conference in Waterloo, Ontario, is Lisa Lajeunesse.  At Capilano University, Lajeunesse teaches a course entitled "Math and Creative Arts" and presented at Bridges a thought-provoking paper entitled "The Golden Ratio:  How Close is Close Enough?"   My close connection with her came because we both were involved in a Bridges 2017 Math-Poetry Reading.  She has given me permission to include her clever and mathy poem here.

  An Equation for Love    by Lisa Lajeunesse     

          They’ve found an equation for love

          It goes something like this
          love equals attraction times compatibility to the power of opportunity
          there’s more of course and there’s been much fiddling
          with coefficients and lesser terms
          involving age, pheromones and duration of eye contact   

Monday, August 14, 2017

The wisdom of grooks . . .

     From Wikpedia, we have this definition:       A grook ("gruk" in Danish) is a form of short aphoristic poem or rhyming aphorism, created by the Danish poet, designer, inventor and scientist Piet Hein (1905-1996), who wrote over 7000 of them, mostly in Danish or English. A couple mathy grooks are offered below -- and, below them, links to more.

        PROBLEMS          by Piet Hein

Problems worthy
of attack
prove their worth
by hitting back.

The grook shown above and more are found here:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Counting, women, loving mathematics

     Here is another Cento from BRIDGES -- for background information, please see my August 4 posting -- this one composed by Erinn and Catherine.  Authors of the four lines are Judy Green, Shakuntala Devi, Anonymous, and Mike Naylor.

 How many women mathematicians can you name?
How many of you love mathematics?
Women count. Men count. People count.
Counting each and every step along this rocky shore.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Centos from 2017 Bridges Math-Arts Conference

     Last Monday evening I returned home from the 2017 Bridges Math-and-the-Arts Conference at the University of Waterloo.  One of the special events in which I participated was a Sunday afternoon poetry reading; information about the reading (and links) are here in my July 17 posting .  
     Another conference activity -- machine-based and developed by Waterloo computer science grad student Erinn Atwater to work with a data-base of quotations I had gathered that relate to math or poetry -- was a machine set-up to invite conference attendees to compose a four-line Cento from a screen-selection of choices.
     Here is a sample of the Cento poetry that was created; the assembler of these lines listed her name simply as Bianca:

Mathematics is not only connected to art; it is just art.                  (by Solomon Marcus)
There is always a third point between any two.                             (by Michael Rosen)
My imagination is still the same. It’s bad with large numbers.       (by Wislawa Szymborska)
Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.                        (by William Shakespeare)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Titles and links for previous posts

Blog visitors are invited to
Scroll through the titles below, browsing to find items of interest
Click on any label -- a list is found in the right-hand column below the author profile 
Enter term(s) in the SEARCH box -- and find all posts containing those terms.
 For example, here is a link to the results of a SEARCH using the word inverse.

                                       2017 Posts
July  9  Three Odd Words 
July  5  Finding poems in Maria Mitchell's words 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

from "The Half-Finished Heaven"

     In 2011, Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer (1931-2015) won the Nobel Prize and this year Graywolf Press has issued a wonderful collection of his work The Half-Finished Heaven: Selected Poems (translated by Robert Bly).  Here is the title poem; is it mathematical?

       The Half-Finished Heaven     by Tomas Transtromer

       Cowardice breaks off on its path.
       Anguish breaks off on its path.
       The vulture breaks off in its flight.

       The eager light runs into the open,
       even the ghosts take a drink.  

Monday, July 17, 2017

A CENTO from BRIDGES 2017 Poets

     A cento is a literary work made from quotations from other works -- most often it is a poem, assembled from lines by other poets.    Below I have created a cento from lines written by the poets who have been invited to participate in the July 30 Poetry Reading at the 2017 Bridges Math-Arts Conference in Waterloo, Ontario.  A wonderful program is planned -- it's not too late to register and join us.

       All is number,      mysterious proportions             
       Like Egyptians      burying gold with the dead       
       Golden Fear                    
       that divides and leaves     no remainder   

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Too soon -- Maryam Mirzakhani taken by cancer

     The brilliant and celebrated mathematician -- and 2014 Fields Medal Winner -- Maryam Mirzakhani has, on July 14 at age 40, died after a long battle with cancer.  I learned this sad news from NPR.  The radio story tells that (as was the case also for me) early in her life, Mirzakhani had wanted to be a writer, but her mathematical talents won out.  Her description of mathematics is a charming one and math deserves to be more-often pictured in this positive way:

          is fun --
          like solving
          a puzzle or
          connecting the dots
          in a detective case.

This stanza-form, in which lines grow in length by one syllable at a time, is called a syllable-snowball.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

They Say She Was Good -- for a Woman

      Regulars to this blog know of my appreciation and support for the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics -- an online journal that publishes poetry and fiction as well as articles that link the arts with mathematics.  Bravo to editors Gizem Karaali and Mark Huber -- a new issue (Vol. 7, Issue 2) has come online today.
     I am honored to announce that my article, "They Say She Was Good -- for a Woman," -- a collection of poems and musings about women in mathematics (and featuring a poem about Emmy Noether) -- is part of the current issue.  

     Other key items in this issue of JHM that I have already found time to enjoy include a visual poem of  geometry and numbers by Sara Katz, a collection of poems about "infinity" by Pam Lewis, a review of poetry anthologies by Robin Chapman, a call (deadline, 11/1/17) for "mathematical" Haiku; a call (deadline 1/1/2018) for papers on mathematics and motherhood.  Go to the Table of Contents and enjoy it ALL.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Three Odd Words

     I love the mental jolt I get when a math word is used with a non-math meaning -- suddenly some playful back-and-forth happens in my head.  Here it happens in a tiny poem by Polish Nobelist Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012).   

       The Three Oddest Words     by Wislawa Szymborska

       When I pronounce the word Future,
       the first syllable already belongs to the past.

       When I pronounce the word Silence,
       I destroy it.

       When I pronounce the word Nothing,
       I make something no nonbeing can hold.
This poem is found on my shelf in Map:  Collected and Last Poems  (Mariner Books, 2016).  Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak, edited by Clare Cavanagh.  This link leads to several previous posts that also include work by Szymborska.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Finding poems in Maria Mitchell's words

SO MANY words and phrases are poetic
that are NOT YET called poems.

A recent Facebook posting for the Max Planck Society featured this picture and quote
by 19th century American Astronomer Maria Mitchell (1818-1889):

Monday, July 3, 2017

Blog History -- titles, links for prior posts (to 2010)

Blog visitors are invited to
Scroll through the titles below, browsing to find items of interest
Click on any label -- a list is found in the right-hand column below the author profile 
Enter term(s) in the SEARCH box -- and find all posts containing those terms.
 For example, here is a link to the results of a SEARCH using the word integral.

 June 2017 Posts: 
   Jun 27  Chains of Reasoning
   Jun 22  Euclid's Iron Hand

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The NUMBERS that help us REMEMBER . . .

     Born in Lithuania, poet Czesław Miłosz (1911-2004) became fluent in Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, English and French.  He emigrated to the United States (to California) in 1960 and was the 1980 winner of the Nobel Prize in literature.  He was not fluent in the language of mathematics but his poem "The Titanic" -- written in Berkeley in 1985 and excerpted below -- illustrates the power of numbers in poetic description AND the circumstances of which numbers are remembered.

from    The Titanic    by  Czesław Miłosz

Events--catastrophes of which they learned and those others of which they did not want to know. In Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a flood in 1889 took 2,300 lives; 700 persons perished in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.  Yet they did not notice the earthquake at Messina in Sicily (1908),

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Chains of Reasoning

     In a recent conversation about mathematics, one of us said, "Mathematics is not about what is true, or cannot be, but is a collection of valid chains of reasoning."  And from there my mind wandered on to Clarence Wylie's sonnet (offered below) -- which is the final poem in a wide-ranging anthology that Sarah Glaz and I edited : Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (A K Peters/CRC Press, 2008).  Enjoy Wylie's play with thinking about the "holy order" of mathematics.

       Paradox      by Clarence R Wylie, Jr. (1911-1995)

       Not truth, nor certainty. These I forswore
       In my novitiate, as young men called
       To holy orders must abjure the world.  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Euclid's Iron Hand

      Alice Major is a Canadian poet who admits to having loved mathematics since girlhood and who often includes mathematical ideas and images in her poems.  The first poet laureate of Edmonton, Alberta, Major has been instrumental in spreading a love of poetry in many directions and venues.  The selection below, "Euclid's Iron Hand," first appeared in Wild Equations, the Spring 2016 issue of Talking-Writing, an online journal that also in 2012 featured math-related poems and an essay by TW editor, Carol Dorf, "Why Poets Sometimes Think in Numbers."

Both Alice Major and Carol Dorf are part of the Poetry Reading
at this summer's BRIDGES Math-Arts Conference July 27-31 in Waterloo, Ontario.
Will we see you there?

Euclid's Iron Hand    by Alice Major

My iron cannot cope
with non-Euclidean geometry.
Antique and irritable, it insists
on plane surfaces and the fifth postulate,
hissing, Lie down flat, goddamit.  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Three Plus Four Divided by Seven

     A good friend, Doru Radu -- with whom I have partnered to translate some Romanian poetry into English -- shares with me a love for the work of Polish poet and 1996 Nobelist, Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012).  Doru lives in Poland now and had a chance to meet Szymborska, to hear her read, and to translate some of her work into his native Romanian. And last summer, when he traveled to New York, he brought to me a copy of the posthumously published collection, Enough (Wydawnictwo a5).  Here are a couple of mathy stanzas from one of its poems, "Confessions of a Reading Machine."

Confessions of a Reading Machine     by Wisława Szymborska 
 translated by Clare Cavanagh

I, Number Three Plus Four Divided by Seven,
am renowned for my vast linguistic knowledge.
I now recognize thousands of languages
employed by extinct people
in their histories.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fondness for numbers . . .

     Today I am looking back to a posting on 23 April 2011 that includes the first stanza of one of my favorite mathy poems; here is a copy-and-paste of a part of that day's entry.
      A poem that offers affection for mathematics is "Numbers," by Mary Cornish, found as Poem 8 at Poetry 180 (a one-a-day collection of poems for secondary students) as well as at The Poetry Foundation. Cornish's poem begins with this stanza:

     I like the generosity of numbers.
     The way, for example,
     they are willing to count
     anything or anyone:
     two pickles, one door to the room,
     eight dancers dressed as swans.   

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Equation after equation, smiling . . .

       Today's news offers the exciting announcement that Tracy K. Smith is the new Poet Laureate of the United States.  I have not found much of mathematics in her work BUT there are these (offered below) provocative lines of Section 6 from the title poem of  Life on Mars:  Poems  (Graywolf Press, 2011).  This Pulitzer Prize-winning collection is an elegy for Smith's father, a scientist who worked on the Hubble telescope.  

from  Life on Mars       by Tracy K. Smith


Who understands the world, and when
Will he make it make sense?  Or she?

Maybe there is a pair of them, and they sit
Watching the cream disperse into their coffee

Like the A-bomb. This equals that, one says,
Arranging a swarm of coordinates  

Monday, June 12, 2017

Finding the Normal Curve

     A poem I have much admired since I first saw it (January, 2016) in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics is "Pension Building, Washington, DC" -- shown below.  At first glance I thought this work by poet E. Laura Golberg to be a growing-melting syllable-snowball, but her syllables conform to line-length rather than count, offering us -- in both shape and content -- a bit of statistics, the normal curve.  Please enjoy!

       Pension Building, Washington, DC    by E. Laura Golberg

       of the
       curve can
       be found in
       old buildings    

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The treasures of memory . . .

                 The Days of the Month

     Thirty days hath September,
     April, June, and November;
     February has twenty-eight alone,
     All the rest have thirty-one,
     Excepting leap-year--that's the time
     When February's days are twenty-nine.
                                                       OLD SONG.

Yesterday, hoping to arrange my bookshelves in better order, behind other newer volumes I found an old friend:   Poems Every Child Should Know (Doubleday, Page & Company, 1913).  On the title page an inscription indicating the book was a present to my Aunt Ruth on her tenth birthday.   The collection -- with its poems by Robert Louis Stevenson and Eugene Field and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and so many others -- got me to thinking how much I have enjoyed throughout my life the few poems I have memorized.  And finding the poem above reminded me how much I also have valued particular mnemonic devices for remembering critical information. 

This brief stanza gives thirteen digits of π:    See, I have a rhyme assisting
                                                        my feeble brain,
                                                        its tasks sometimes resisting.
 More poetry for π is available here.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Celebrate mathematics -- and the other liberal arts!

     Before it became linked to science and engineering and computing, mathematics was one of the liberal arts.  And, in my view, it should continue in this role also. 
     In a recent posting to the WOM-PO email list-serve to which I subscribe, this provocative poem by Alicia Ostriker recently appeared -- and the poet has given me permission to post it here.  This selection, "The Liberal Arts" is found in Ostriker's latest collection, Waiting for the Light, published in February, 2017 by University of Pittsburgh Press.   Thanks, Alicia, for your poem.

The Liberal Arts      by Alicia Ostriker

In mathematics they say the most beautiful solution is the correct one
In physics they say everything that can happen must happen
In history they say the more it changes the more it is the same   

Thursday, June 1, 2017

May 2017 -- and prior -- titles, dates of posts

 Use a MATHY POEM to extend understanding --
or perhaps to persuade,  to promote a cause.

     For example, the May 16 posting (link below) deals with an effort to understand an autistic child.  The poem offered on May 9 deals with climate concerns, the lines given on May 3 speak out for immigrants.  Scroll down to find lots more.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Kandinsky's geometry inspires poetry . . .

     Found at the vast and varied international poetry site, Poetry International Web, a mathy poem by Australian poet Katherine Gallagher  entitled "AFTER KANDINSKY: YELLOW, RED, BLUE (1925)."  Enjoy!
Yellow-Red-Blue, 1925  by Wassily Kandinsky

After Kandinsky:  Yellow-Red-Blue (1925)      
                                                by Katherine Gallagher
Watch the animal eyes that whisk corners
faster than an angel breathing passwords
in a mesh of yellow. Cloud-sure, life flags itself on.  
Circle after circle is mapped in the mystery
of a line quicker than an arrow, shot from left to right,
the dark corners turned in on themselves,
while the sea advances up the cliffs.     

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A poem with 90 lines, 269 words . . .

     A poet whose work I enjoy is Charles Bernstein  (editor at the electronic poetry center,  a vast and wonderful site to visit and browse)-- and one of my neighbors recently surprised me with a link to a new-to-me Bernstein poem, "Thank You for Saying Thank You," that he had found (audio at Poets.org).  Below I offer an excerpt -- and a link to the text of the complete poem.  And, because I first misunderstood and thought that my neighbor had heard the poem on NPR, I went to NPR.org and found this wonderful treasury of poems and commentary.  

Monday, May 22, 2017

My Math Teacher

     The 2016-2017 school year is drawing to a close.  Some are loving their math teachers and some are celebrating them with poetry.  Here are the opening stanzas of a poem by Mia Pratt about her teacher -- the complete poem is found at here (at PoetrySoup.com).

     My Math Teacher     by Mia Pratt

     My math teacher was such a colorful character
     she was the queen of Mathematics at our school
     she loved linear regressions and probability
     and permutations and combinations too!

     My math teacher loved to
     entertain us with her Listerine coated smile
     and her heart as pure
     as the golden sand on Small Hope Bay
     she loved making calculus and matrices fun for us
     while March 14th was her second Christmas
     and grading our exams was her New Year's Day!
              . . .

Poet and novelist John Updike (1932-2009) was a math teacher's son  -- here is a link to his sonnet, "Midpoint," about his father.  Additional poems about teachers may be found using the blog SEARCH.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"Mathematics" & "Poetry" in the same sentence!

Thanks to Google for helping me find things -- for example, this quote from Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun :

     Poetry is a form of mathematics,
               a highly rigorous relationship with words.

And this quote from American poet Carl Sandburg (1872-1962):

     Poetry is a mystic, sensuous mathematics of fire, smoke-stacks, 
               waffles, pansies, people, and purple sunsets. 

For more about Jelloun, here is a Wikipedia link.  
This link leads to my 2012 posting of Sandburg's poem, "Number Man."