Thursday, April 28, 2016

Talking-Writing offers Math Poems

     In recent weeks, the online journal Talking-Writing has been featuring math poems and last Monday they posted my "Skagway Study" -- which follows a style explored in one of my favorite poems by Wislawa Szymborska.
      Carol Dorf, poetry editor of Talking-Writing, is a math teacher as well as a poet and her work as well as those of others with math interest are explored in "Wild Equations," the Spring 2016 Issue of Talking-Writing.   Here are some links:

By Giavanna Munafo    "Twenty-Four Hours"
By JoAnne Growney    "Skagway Study" 
By Alice Major     "Euclid's Iron Hand" and "Bird Singularities"
By Amy Uyematsu   "Three Quick Studies of Math-Art"
By Carol Dorf   "Action Potential" and "e"
By Eveline Pye   "Celestial Navigation," "Three," and "The Law of Statistics"
By Larry Lesser    "Margins" 
By Katie Manning   "28, 065 Nights" and "Week by Week" (Fibonacci poem)
By Stephanie Strickland   "Doomed calculations which God acknowledged
                                                Islands (Invaginated by Saltwater
                                           Bays with a Stream and Another Both Flowing
                                              All Through Them along Enfolded Paths)" 

Earlier this week in an American Mathematical Society blog posting entitled "Math and Verbal Gymnastics," Duquesne University mathematician Anna Haensch also celebrated the join of mathematics and poetry.

Monday, April 25, 2016

"The Mathematician"

     Here is a selection from "The Mathematician," a long poem -- found in its entirety in The Rumpus -- by Oregon poet Carl Adamshick and recommended to me by poet R Joyce Heon  --  for a sample of her ekphrastic poems, follow this link and go to pages 37-42.  And this link leads to more poems (in this blog) starring mathematicians --- and a few of them are women!!

from   The Mathematician     by Carl Adamshick

What I do is calculate.
I’ve always seen the world as numbers,
buildings and trees factors,
math as a language better suited for explaining
how things work
than the formula of grammar.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Women in Mathematics Count!

     The theme for 2016 Mathematics Awareness Month is "The Future of Prediction."  And today I am wondering what date can be predicted for when the achievements of women in mathematics will be recognized with the same awareness as those of men.
How many female mathematicians can you name? 
Here are links to two articles to to help you lengthen your list of math-women"12 Brilliant Female Mathematicians You Should Know" -- an article by Olivia Harrison whose list starts with Hypatia (who lived around 400 AD) and continues to the 21st century, featuring Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian mathematician at Stanford who in 2014 won the prestigious Fields Medal for her work related to the symmetry of curved surfaces. Judy Green adds important names in her article "How Many Women Mathematicians Can You Name?"
     For still more, visit my 2015 post "The culture for women in math and the sciences";  additionally, a search of this blog using "math women" will lead to a host of  names and links.  Enjoy!
     Here are the closing lines of a poem of mine about the brilliant mathematician, Emmy Noether (1883-1935):   

           In spite of Emmy's talents,
           always there were reasons
           not to give her rank
           or permanent employment.
           She's a pacifist, a woman.
           She's a woman and a Jew.
           Her abstract thinking
           is female and abstruse.

           Today, history books proclaim that Noether
           is the greatest mathematician
           her sex has produced. They say she was good
           for a woman.

The full poem is available here.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Remembering Solomon Marcus

     Almost five years ago I received an email from Romanian mathematician Solomon Marcus in response to my posting of a translation of  a poem by Nichita Stanescu (1933-1983) entitled "Poetic Mathematics"  -- a poem that Stanescu dedicates to Marcus.  In his email, Marcus offers this:
          Nichita Stanescu published his "Poetic Mathematics" in January 1971, in the magazine ARGES, as a reply to my book "Mathematical Poetics" (in Romanian, 1970; in German in 1973, at Athenaeum Verlag, Frankfurt/Main).
Here is a link to an interview with Marcus last year (at age 90) and it tells of his ongoing literary interests.  Recently I learned the sad news of his death, last month at the age of 91.  Some interesting details of the way Marcus and Stanescu experimented with the uses of language are included in this 2008 article by Emilia Parpala and Rimona Afanaa and are illustrated in the following poem, "Ritual," in which Stanescu uses numbers to explore and extend the meaning of The Last Supper.

     Ritual     by Nichita Stanescu  (trans. Sean Cotter)

     I cry before the number five --
     the last supper, minus six.

Friday, April 15, 2016

From a math-friend and an Ohio poet

     One of the wonderful things about writing a blog about my paired passions of poetry and mathematics is that the blog connects me with fascinating and generous people whom I might not otherwise meet. One of these is Marylander Greg Coxson -- physicist, engineer, mathematician, Operations Researcher -- who took three years of Latin in high school and loves words.  With interests in art and poetry, Greg has organized exhibits of math-related art -- and is a regular recommender of mathy poems for this blog.
     A week or so ago Greg alerted me to an NPR interview with Ohio Poet Laureate Amit Majmudar (a radiologist as well as a poet) -- letting me know that Majmudar's poetry was rich with mathematical imagery.  Following Greg's lead, I found Majmudar's website and was able to contact both Majmudar and his publisher, Knopf, for permission to offer these mathematical poems.
     Here, from Amit Majmudar's new book Dothead, are two sections of the poem "Logomachia" -- sections alive with geometry and logic.  The first, "radiology," is visually vivid; the second, "the waltz of descartes and mohammed," is a sestina that plays with the logic of word-order.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"The Giraffe" -- a poem for my pocket

     I've found the poem I want to carry in my pocket (and in my head) on "Poem in Your Pocket Day" -- coming soon on April 21. It includes at least one number; here it is:

       The Giraffe     by Ron Padgett

       The 2 f's
       in giraffe
       are like
       2 giraffes
       running through
       the word giraffe

       The 2 f's
       run through giraffe
       like 2 giraffes.    

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Diagonal . . . and so little time . . .

On my mind in recent days is the problem of "so little time."  About a year ago I posted a wonderful mathy poem by Californian Brenda Hillman about time.  The complete poem is available here; below I supply the opening lines:

       Time Problem     by Brenda Hillman

               The problem
                of time.      Of there not being 
                enough of it. ...

Over the six years of this blog, the most-visited post has been "Varieties of Triangles"  with poetry by Guillevic.  Here is another of that poet's charming geometric offerings:

 Diagonal   by Guillevic  (Englished by Richard Sieburth)

       To get where I have to go
       I claim right of way.

       Because I provide communication
       Between two angles

       I take precedence
       I take up residence.

       I cross first,
       Come what may.
"Diagonal" is found in Guillevic's Geometries,from Ugly Duckling Presse (2010). Buy it!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

"The Computation"

     Here is a favorite poem of mine -- and it available with many others in the anthology, Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (A K Peters, 2008), edited by Sarah Glaz and me.

     The Computation     by John Donne (1572-1631)

     For the first twenty years, since yesterday,
     I scarce believed thou couldst be gone away,
     For forty more, I fed on favours past,
         And forty on hopes, that thou wouldst, they might last.
     Tears drowned one hundred, and sighs blew out two,
         A thousand, I did neither think, nor do,
         Or not divide, all being one thought of you;
         Or in a thousand more, forgot that too.
     Yet call not this long life; but think that I
     Am, by being dead, immortal; can ghosts die?

How clever of Donne, writing all those years ago, to speak (indirectly, at least) to 2016's Math Awareness Month theme, "The Future of Prediction."

Monday, April 4, 2016

March, 2016 (and before) -- Titles, dates of posts

Here are the titles and dates of previous blog postings,
moving backward from the present.
For mathy poems related to a particular topic -- such as women in math or Mathematics Awareness Month or climate or triangle or circle or National Poetry Month or . . . -- click on a selected title below or enter the desired term in the SEARCH box in the right-hand column.

Mar 31  The Future of Prediction

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Future of Prediction

     As well as being National Poetry Month, April is Mathematics Awareness Month and this year's theme is "The Future of Prediction."  In search of a poem on the theme, I found the following sonnet by poet Joyce Nower -- third in a section of 20 sonnets, "Meditations of Hypatia of Alexandria," in her collection, The Sister Chronicles and Other Poems (IUniverse, 2012), available in both print and electronic versions.

3.  Scales Can't Calculate*     by Joyce Nower

       Hypatia, Math, God One, can't plot the locus
       of soul and star, predict exactly where
       and when you die, whose hand deals death.  No hocus

Monday, March 28, 2016

Contemplating the heavens

English writer G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) was a poet but was better known for his pithy sayings.   For example, we have the following statement (originally found here). 

         between the poet
         and the mathematician
         is that the poet tries to get
         his head into the heavens
         while the mathematician
         tries to get the heavens
         into his head.

     Alas, Chesterton's comment obeys the common assumption that the male pronoun should be used for mathematicians.  Another poetic comment on mathematicians is found in a poem by Anthony Hecht -- "Mathematics Considered As a Vice" -- available here at  Hecht's poem  offers a strongly negative view of the abstract nature of mathematics.
     Rivalry between mathematics and poetry comes to a head in April -- during which we will celebrate both "National Mathematics Awareness Month" and "National Poetry Month."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Shape of the World -- a dream of equality

     One of the most vital components of the Washington DC poetry scene is Split This Rock -- an  organization that speaks and acts against injustice.  (Co-founder and Executive Director, Sarah Browning, is a long-time activist and a fine poet.)  One of STR's 2016 programs has been Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here DC 2016 a book arts and cultural festival that commemorates the 2007 bombing of Baghdad’s historic bookselling street, and emphasizes free exchange of ideas and knowledge, in solidarity with the people of Iraq.  Several weeks ago at one of these events I met poet Dunya Mikhail and her translator, Kareem James Abu-Zeid, and was involved in discussion and reading from The Iraqi Nights (New Directions, 2015).  Here is a mathy poem from that collection.

       The Shape of the World      by Dunya Mikhail
                                           translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid)
       If the world were flat
       like a flying carpet,
       our sorrow would have a beginning
       and an end.

       If the world were square,
       we'd lie low in a corner
       whenever the war
       plays hide and seek.

       If the world were round,
       our dreams would take turns
       on the Ferris wheel,
       and we'd all be equal.

     A link to the Arabic original version of this poem is shown at the bottom of Mikhail's webpage -- a link that also offers  a recording of her reading this poem, set to music.
     And please note that coming up soon is the  2016 Split This Rock Poetry Festival (April 14-17, 2016) with many excellent workshops and readings.  Learn about it here and register (online registration closes March 31).  See you there.

Monday, March 21, 2016

World Poetry Day -- Celebrate favorites!

     Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
     Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;

     Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
     I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

                      From "Dirge without Music" by Edna St Vincent Millayoffered by Hermann Weyl
                      in a Memorial Address for Amalie "Emmy" Noether on April 26, 1935 at Bryn Mawr College.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Poems that Count

On January 6 of this year I attended a wonderful poetry reading (sponsored by The Word Works) that featured the work of poets Tera Ragan and James Ragan (Tera's father). Their poetry is rich in imagery of their birthplaces -- near Pittsburgh -- and Czechoslovakia (where James' parents were born and a place they visited often).  Please enjoy these lovely and varied poems that include a few well-chosen numbers:   "Alcove" by Tera Vale Ragan; "Beckett Had Only One Student" and "The Eskimo's Twelve Expressions of White" by James Ragan.
       Alcove     by Tera Vale Ragan

       Brick upon stone, a growing
       he builds a new family home up
       from the ground
                                        cement and marble
       tile to ceiling
       beam and red oak
                                        he paid for with cash.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A poem is an equation?

     Exiled Romanian poet Nina Cassian (1924-2014) spoke with a daring and imaginative voice that I have much admired.  And she occasionally used mathematical imagery in her work -- as in the following poem:

Controversy   by Nina Cassian
                                          (translated from Romanian by William Jay Smith)
I wrote a poem, an oblique poem,
a kind of calligram, I mean.
Someone said it was an equation
being solved behind a screen. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Celebrate Math Women

     March is Women's History Month and, although this year's theme focuses on women in public service and government, my own thoughts tend toward women in mathematics.  My post on July 21, 2015 focuses on math women -- and a google search of the blog using "math women" will lead to a host of additional poems and links.  Enjoy!
     To celebrate math-women one must first be able to name them; here is a link to an important and relevant article by Judy Green, "How Many Women Mathematicians Can You Name?"

I am the girl voice,
Drafts scribed--thoughts stretched, smoothed, squared, sighed --
Catch here now my I.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Inspired by Pi

     Last year, a few days after Pi-Day, my email had a link (Thanks, Paul Geiger!) to an example of Pilish -- this one a circle poem by Mike Keith that represents the initial 402 digits of Pi  -- and I have, at last, posted the poem below.  Keith's poem first appeared in the The Mathematical Intelligencer in 1986. 

     And here is a link to musical Pi --at the webpage of "The Derivatives" are math parodies written and performed by Bloomsburg University professors William Calhoun, Kevin Ferland, and Erik Wynters, including The Pi  Song (also known as 3.14159/Circle).

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Arnold diffusion (and poets of Romania)

     I have had the good fortune to attend two BIRS Math / Creative Writing workshops in Banff (most recently in January 2016) and one of the organizers of these workshops has been Florin Diacu, a Romanian-Canadian mathematician-poet at Canada's University of Victoria. (For a bit more about my interest in Romanian poets, you may visit this posting from 2012 ; for still more, use "Romania" as a blog-search term.)
     Recently I discovered the following poem by Florin in the January 2014 issue of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics and that online journal's open-access policy permits me to offer it here.  I have wondered whether it is prudent of me to present a poem about Arnold diffusion, a topic about which I have scant mathematical background.  But I like it, even though my understanding is incomplete; I hope you like it too.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Feb, 2016 (and before) -- titles, dates of posts

Here are the titles and dates of previous blog postings,
moving backward from the present.
For mathy poems related to a particular topic -- such as women in math or black history or climate or triangle or circle or Pi-Day or . . . -- enter the desired term in the SEARCH box in the right-hand column.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance

     Audre Lorde (1934-1992)  is one of my favorite poets; links to my previous postings of her work in this blog are given below.  Here is the opening poem from one of Lorde's collections, The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance.

     Smelling the Wind       by Audre Lorde

     Rushing headlong
     into new silence
     your face
     dips on my horizon
     the name
     of a cherished dream  

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Links to Favorites

     According to Google, these posts are the top ten favorites of visitors to this blog in the six years since my first posting in March, 2010.  Perhaps you will want to visit one of them.  Or use the SEARCH box to find something favorite of your own.   I invite your comments.  Which posts do you especially like?

Varieties of triangles -- by Guillevic     Oct 13, 2010
               "Mathematical" Limericks     Mar 29, 2010
          Primes and a paradox   Aug 14, 2015
               Theorem-proof / Cut-up / poems   Nov 11, 2010
                     A Fractal Poem   Dec 28, 2014 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Newton, Einstein, Gravity, Poetry

     Recent discovery of gravitational waves has put Einstein (1878-1955) -- and even Newton (1643-1727) -- into recent news, and a visit to one of my favorite reference collections, James R. Newman's four-volume collection, The World of Mathematics, finds those two giants celebrated in verse:

Introductory quotes for Section 21 ("The New Law of Gravitation and the Old Law" by Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington) of Part V (on page 1073 of Volume Two) of James R. Newman's The World of Mathematics.

     Here are links to information about the poets named above:  Lord Byron (1788-1824)Alexander Pope (1688-1744), and Sir John Collings Squire (1884-1958) -- and these links lead to previous blog postings that feature The World of MathematicsMarch 22, 2011 and August 2, 2011.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Euler formula poem

     Sometimes I try to write a poem that explains a mathematical concept -- it's a difficult task  My effort usually results in something that sounds more like a textbook paragraph than a poem.  And I was thereby hugely delighted (following a lead from Colm Mulcahy) to discover this poem by Grant Sanderson that has fun with a famous mathematical formula due to Euler:

eiπ + 1 = 0     or, stated differently      eiπ = -1

Euler Formula    by Grant Sanderson 

start with e,
raise to π
with an i,
we've been taught
by a lot
that you've got
minus one.

Monday, February 15, 2016

How Old Is the Rose-Red City?

     Most of Martin Gardner's fans are avid puzzler's -- my connection with him is also one of admiration (he was a thoughtful person who was a master at making connections among disparate things) but we are connected via poetry, including topics such as counting all possible rhyme schemes for a given stanza and the constraint-based poetry of OULIPO . . ..
     Gardner (1914-2010) was not a poet -- although he penned a quatrain or two, his great contribution was collecting and publicizing parodies and puzzle-verses by others.  Here is a link to Gardner's collection of poetic parodies, and here is a link to many of Gardner's puzzles, including the stanza below, "How Old is the Rose-Red City?" 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Visit JHM for Mathy Poems

     Today I'd like to direct you to the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, an online open-access journal that features poetry in each issue.  The Table of Contents for the first issue of 2016 is now available here -- and I offer below a poem from Issue 1 of 2015(Before sharing the poem "Prisoner's Dilemma" by Raymond Greenwell I want also to mention that JHM is looking for investigative journalists and that today's "Poem of the Day" at is "Evolution" by Linda Bierds and inspired by the work of Alan Turing.)
     I am particularly intrigued by Greenwell's poem because the Prisoner's Dilemma is a decision model close to my concerns about the environment. (More comments below.)

       Prisoner's Dilemma     by Raymond N. Greenwell

       Your best choice is my demise.
       My wise choice is your defeat.    

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Using a Fano plane to create a poem

     South Dakota mathematician Daniel May enjoys finding connections between his discipline and other arts -- and herein we consider a constraint-structure for poetry that he has developed using a Fano plane.  In brief, a Fano plane (shown in the diagram below) consists of 7 points and 7 lines (the three sides of the triangle, the three altitudes of the triangle, and the circle) -- with each line containing 3 of the points

Fano Plane Diagram

May creates a poem by associating a word with each point of the Fano plane and then creates a three-line stanza for each line of the diagram.  Here is a template for the poem "adore" -- and the poem itself is offered below the diagram: 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Visiting the Australian Poetry Library

     An Australian poet (Erica Jolly) whom I have met through this blog has helped me to learn about the great variety of poetry and related activities that are available on her continent  -- and today I want to link you to the Australian Poetry Library and to offer a mathy poem by Peter Goldsworthy that I enjoyed there.

     1     by Peter Goldsworthy 

       Arithmetic divides 
       and rules the world,
       freezing the flow
       in single frames,
       colourising each
       by numbers.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A sonnet for Napoleon's Theorem

     In geometry, Napoleon's theorem (often attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769–1821) states that if equilateral triangles are constructed on the sides of any triangle, either all outward or all inward, the centers of those equilateral triangles themselves are the vertices of an equilateral triangle.  In a 2015 lecture at the  University of Maryland,  mathematician Douglas Hofstadter (perhaps best known for Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid -- Basic Books, 1970) presented Napoleon’s theorem by means of a sonnet.  Perhaps you will want to have pencil and paper available to draw as you read:

Napoleon's Theorem     by Douglas Hofstadter

Equilateral triangles three we’ll erect
Facing out on the sides of our friend ABC.
We’ll link up their centers, and when we inspect
These segments, we find tripartite symmetry.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Rabbis should learn to solve quadratics

     Thanks to mathemagician Colm Mulcahy who connected me with poet Lisa Dordal -- and thanks to her for permission to offer these lines, entertainingly seasoned with math words:

Why Rabbis Need to Know
How to Solve Quadratic Equations  
                                         by Lisa Dordal (with help from Laurie Samuels)
Because they are good exercise
for your logic muscles, which you’ll need
to work through those pesky J says-P says conflicts of text –- 
the bumpy remains of a Torah affair. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Tartaglia solving the cubic -- in verse

     Mathematical historians now credit both Cardano and Tartaglia with the formula to solve cubic equations, referring to it as the "Cardano-Tartaglia Formula." Tartaglia is known for reporting solutions of three different forms of the cubic equation in a poem (1534).  Below we offer Boston poet Kellie Gutman's English translation of Tartaglia's verse, followed by the original Italian.

When X Cubed    by Niccolò Tartaglia (1500–1557)       (Englished by Kellie Gutman)

When x cubed’s summed with m times x and then   
  Set equal to some number, a relation    
  Is found where r less s will equal n.

Now multiply these terms. This combination
  rs will equal m thirds to the third;
  This gives us a quadratic situation,    

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Not good at math . . .

     Connecticut poet Joan Cannon is a senior who laments her lingering anxiety over mathematics in her poem, "Humility," below.  I found Cannon's poem on Senior Women Web and it is accompanied there by selections from an article by Patrick Bahls entitled "Math and Metaphor:  Using Poetry to Teach Mathematics."  The complete article is available here.

     Humility    by Joan L. Cannon

     Archetypes, mysteries, simple clues
     that only fingers and toes, sticks and stones
     and flashes of inspiration require
     for universes to be disclosed ...
     symbols for functions and formulae
     for proof; logic so easy for some —
     why am I innumerate?  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Math Anxiety

     Recent comments from a friend describing anxiety that seems to freeze his attempts to understand and use a new mathematical concept have caused me to recall and dig out this old poem -- and, by recalling it, to increase my understanding of my friend. 

     The Math Teacher's Golf Lesson     by JoAnne Growney

     My practice swing was perfect --  slow start, easy
     acceleration through the ball to finish high.
     "Beautiful," he said.  "It's time to hit a few."
     I addressed a ball and settled down and swung --
     and missed.  "Concentrate," he said.  I squinted

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Soon it will be February -- and Valentine's Day

     Looking back:  on February 12, 2011 I posted math-poetry suggestions for Valentine's Day at this link: Loving a mathematician (Valentine's Day and . . . ).   This posting from Feb 9 2013 offers verse along with an animated drawing of a heart-curve --a cardioid.    And this link goes to a mathematically poetic digital art exhibit (that includes a cardioid) by Guang Zhu.   
     For even more poetry related to the love-holiday, enter "Valentine" in the SEARCH box to the right.  Enjoy!