I have been invited to return next week (October 20 at 7 PM) to Bloomsburg University, where I taught mathematics for lots of years, for a poetry reading. Preparation for the reading (which celebrates my new book, Red Has No Reason) drew my thinking back to my teaching days at Bloom and to "Geometry Demonstration," a poem about the arguments in my head as I faced a particularly challenging class of geometry students. Here it is.
Geometry Demonstration by JoAnne Growney
Yesterday, some visitors
interrupted geometry class --
angry voices raged around the room,
unwilling to stay caged within my head
while I spoke enthusiastically
of axioms of incidence,
placements of parallels,
numbers of degrees
in the angles of rectangles.
Wake up. This is not difficult --
no hungry mouths to feed, no
bleeding wounds to heal. Adopt
a polygonal attitude. Examine
an assumption. Abandon the postulate
that says, don't ever question.
You were not born knowing.
Your mind won't get dirty
on a tangent of hyperbolic thought.
Let one eye watch
Shift to a point
Draw those lines
at your heart.
My students ignored these stirring voices,
so I dismissed them and went on--
rightly coaxing obtuse angles
to square up
This poem was first published in 1996 in The College Mathematics Journal with the title "Geometry Class." This and other math-related poems may be found at my website.