Friday, December 31, 2010

The year ends -- and we go on . . .

Immortal Helix     by Archibald MacLeish  (1892-1982)

HEREUNDER Jacob Schmidt who, man and bones,
Has been his hundred times around the sun. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mathematicians are NOT entitled to arrogance

Godfrey Harold “G. H.” Hardy (1877 – 1947) was an English mathematician known for his achievements in number theory and mathematical analysis. One of Hardy's lasting contributions is his 1940 essay, ;A Mathematician's Apology, which offers his self-portrait of the mind of a working mathematician. Here, written in lines and stanzas -- as a found poem -- is the opening paragraph of Hardy's essay:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Teaching Numbers

Californian Gary Soto  writes for both children and adults and much of his work suits both groups.  Here from A Fire in My Hands (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) is "Teaching Numbers":

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Where are the Women?

Here is a small square poem about a paradox that's been on my mind recently.

               Little Women

               In school, many
               gifted math girls. 
               Later, so few
               famed math women!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Square for the Season

          Now,  near the Solstice,
          we turn on  bright lights
          and  give gifts.  Oh, Sun,
          please shorten our nights
          with  your  quick  return.

Season's Greetings
     to mathematicians, to poets, and to all who inspire them-- 
          from JoAnne Growney.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"M" is for Mathematics and . . .

Today's poem by Miroslav Holub (1923-98) is square, having 5 lines of 5 letters each; it describes the letter M by using what is "not M" -- a style of reasoning often used to good effect in both poetry and mathematics.        

Saturday, December 18, 2010

An Elegy from Argentina

Mathematicians are mourning the too-soon death of Cora Sadosky (1940-2010) on December 3.  Born in Argentina, Sadosky earned her doctoral degree at the University of Chicago in 1965 and published more than fifty papers in harmonic analysis and operator theory. A strong advocate for women in mathematics (1993-95 president of AWM) and active in promoting greater participation of African-Americans in mathematics, Sadosky was a long-time faculty member at Howard University.
     Here, in recognition of the contributions of Cora Sadosky, is "An Elegy" by Argentinian poet Mirta Rosenberg.  Using Rosenberg's words for her mother, we celebrate a foremother in mathematics:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Can we trust numbers?

Poet Lucia Perillo was honored Monday evening, December 13 at the Library of Congress -- as her collection Inseminating the Elephant won the 2010 Bobbit National Prize for Poetry.  It was my good fortune to be there to hear her read.  She is direct and upretentious, tough and witty.  An evening of good poetry read well.  Perillo has an undergraduate degree in wildlife management and her deep understandings of the natural world are evident in her poems.  In  an earlier collection, we find "In Light of the Absent Constant," a Perillo poem of science and number: 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New poems from old -- by substitution

Poet Lee Ann Brown was the featured poet at the November, 2010 Conference on Constrained Poetry at UNC Ashville; this conference celebrated the 50th anniversary of the founding of Oulipo.  In a poetry sampler archived from the Boston Review, we find "Pledge" (see below) and other samples of Brown's work.  Recordings are available at Penn Sound

Monday, December 13, 2010

Satire Against Reason . . .

     John Wilmot (1647-1680), 2nd Earl of Rochester, was a friend of King Charles II, and author of much satirical and bawdy poetry. Even though logical reasoning is central in mathematics, reason has not lead us to a utopian society -- and Wilmot's poem, "Satire Against Reason and Mankind," reminds us of the many ways that we can be wrong. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cryptography -- an MAA lecture and a poem

     Living near the Silver Spring metro station, on the border of Washington, DC, makes travel to the offices of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA)  an easy trip for me, and I am able to enjoy occasional lectures at MAA's Carriage House Conference Center.  On December 9 I was fortunate to attend an entertaining and informative lecture on  "Cryptography:  How to Keep a Secret," by UC Irvine math-computer-science professor (and Numb3rs consultant), Alice Silverberg. (Podcasts of lectures are available at the MAA site.) 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

8 January 2011 -- Math-Poetry at JMM

Here's an invitation for math-poets -- at 5 PM on Saturday, January 8 at the 2011 Joint Mathematics Meetings in New Orleans there will be an open reading of poetry related to mathematics.  All are invited.  Interested persons are invited to contact Gizem Karaali of Pomona College for more information. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Poems starring mathematicians -- 7

Activist mathematician Chandler Davis -- an editor of The Mathematical Intelligencer, career mathematician at the University of Toronto, and author of It Walks in Beauty (Aqueduct Press, 2010) -- has written of his friendship with Norberto Salinas (1940-2005), a mathematician originally from Argentina who was a long-time faculty member at the University of Kansas: 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Are all mathematicians equal?

My first posting for this blog (on March 23, 2010) featured one of my earliest poems, a tribute to mathematician Emmy Noether (1882 -1935) entitled "My Dance Is Mathematics."  Even as it praised Noether's achievements, the poem protested the secondary status of math-women, not only in Noether's day but also today.  It ends with the stanza :

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

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Horizon line

Poet James Galvin often uses mathematical imagery in his poems.

   Art Class      by James Galvin
   Let us begin with a simple line,
   Drawn as a child would draw it,
   To indicate the horizon,  

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Will I really NEED algebra after school?

For those of us who create and teach mathematics, algebra is one of our much-used language skills.  We cannot imagine lives in which we do not write equations easily.  Thus inclined, we insist on the worth of algebra for students.   Taking an opposite view, here from Hanging Loose Press editor Robert Hershon  is an algebra-protest poem.