Monday, June 13, 2011

Stanescu - poetic mathematics

Today I found a link to a recent article, "Matematica şi poezia," that considers commonalities among the arts and mathematics and, therein, mentions a poem by Nichita Stanescu (1933-1984) which Gabriel Prajitura and I have translated.  The poem, "Poetic Mathematics," is dedicated to Romanian mathematician Solomon Marcus.  Here is Gabi's and my translation: 

     Poetic Mathematics       by Nichita Stanescu

               To Solomon Marcus

     One plus one’s not two,
     One plus one is three
     or four, or five ...
     A tough one plus a soft one
     is a tough one plus a soft one
     or a camel.
     Seventeen minus one
     is twenty-one,
     five plus four
     is a horse.
     Eight less three
     is as much as you see,
     nineteen hundred
     two thousand
     will be one day.

     One can be in the past tense.

     One can be in the future.

     I’m asleep and dreaming in Farsi
     which has a tense halfway
     between the present and the first future,
     which has a tense halfway
     between the present and the near past,
     and has a verb with no tense.
     Numbers have their grammar.
     1 may be subject
     but also predicate.
     I can go up to the sun
     and also up
     to the lemon.
     1, 2, 3
     a goat, a bull, a tower
     goats (how many?)
     towers (how many?)
     bulls (one).
      I spit on 1.

     I weep on 1.
     I kick 1.

     You are crazy, Pythagoras told me.

     I’m not, I shout. The earth
     is flat like an omelet.

     The human is the oldest animal
     and alone in the cosmic emptiness.
     He has two hands
     and two legs. This counting
     is a fantasy, a slogan:
     tough 2 is not the same as soft 2,
     long 2 is not the same as short 2
     and this, in fact, because
     it’s all the same
     so twice equals once
     (once is 1’s wife)
     Vocative 1
     isn’t the same as
     imperative 1!

     We may write mathematics with numbers
     but we don’t write poetry with words.

"Poetic Mathematics" is found in Stanescu's Opera Poetica II (Ed Alexandru Condeescu, Bucureşti: Humanitas, 1999).  Readers seeking the original Romanian version of the poem may email me to request a bilingual WORD file.

1 comment:

  1. This morning I received an e-mail from Solomon Marcus, to whom Stanescu dedicates his poem. Marcus offered 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).