Friday, September 30, 2011

The square root of Everest

Of the poets who frequently use mathematical ideas in their work, Howard Nemerov (1920-1991) is one of my favorites.  Recently, while browsing at The Writer's Almanac, I found this poem.

To David, About His Education       by Howard Nemerov

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Math meets Dr Seuss

Blogger Sue VanHattum (MathMamaWrites) sent me a link to a posting on another blog, kGuac, on which she found a Dr Seussical expression of the quadratic formula -- written by blogger Katie Benedetto for extra credit in her college abstract algebra class.  Here are several stanzas of Katie's poem:  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Learning to count

The childhood of Romanian poet Nichita Stanescu (1933-1983) took place during World War II and his teen years during his country's adjustment to a new Communist system; his dark images are drawn from a culture largely unknown to the outside world.  Often, however, he utilized mathematical imagery or terminology; here is his "Learning to count." 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mathematical theorems tornadoing

This poem is fun!

   Horse’s Adventure    by Jason Bredle 

   The horse discovered a gateway to another
   dimension, and with nothing else to do, moseyed
   into it just for grins, and man, you
   don’t even want to know what happened
   next—it was just, like, Horse at the French
   Revolution. Horse in Franco’s living room.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The wealth of ambiguity

When we read these lines by Robert Burns (1759-1796),

     Oh my luv is like a red, red rose,
     That's newly sprung in June . . .
we don't know whether he compares a woman he loves to a flower or whether it is his own emotion he describes.  And the multiplicity of meanings is a good and pleasing thing.  Similarly, when we read the problem,

     Solve the equation, x² + 4 = 0 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Poetry at JMM -- in Boston 6-Jan-2012

Call for Submissions:
     The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics will host a reading of poetry-with-mathematics on Friday, January 6, 5-7 PM in Boston’s Hynes Convention Center at the annual Joint Mathematics Meetings. Reading organizers include JHM editors, Gizem Karaali and Mark Huber, and poetry-math blogger, JoAnne Growney.  Although the reading is open to all, without pre-selected readers, we will prepare a written program of poets who submit their work by our December 1 deadline. Both mathematician-poets and others who use mathematics in their poems are invited to submit.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Baseball, math, and poetry

The end of summer approaches and, with it, the end of the baseball season.  This blog celebrated the triplet (baseball, mathematics, poetry) on 9 April 2010, featuring samples from and links to poems by Marianne Moore and Jerry Wemple. Today we herald the same trio, this time with "Night Game" by Jonathan Holden.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Best words in the best order

     Writers of mathematics strive for clear and careful wording, especially in the formulation of definitions. Well-specified definitions can enable theorems to be proved succinctly. For example, the relation "less than" (denoted <) for the positive integers {1,2,3,...} may be defined as follows:

     If  a  and  are integers, then 
               a < b  if  b - a  is a positive integer. 

     Although the simple definition of "less than" as "to the left of" in the list {1,2,3,...} is intuitively clear, the formal definition above is better suited for mathematical arguments. It defines "less than" in terms of the known term, "positive." This sort of sequencing of definitions is common in mathematics -- one may go on to define "greater than" in terms of "less than," and so on.
     Saying things in the best way is also a goal of poetry. Well known to many are these words of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834): 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Analysis of a sacred site

Poet Allison Hedge Coke descends from moundbuilders and mixed ancestry from several Native American communities with several Europoean ones.  Her verse play, Blood Run, is dedicated to the original citizens of the former city now named Blood Run along the Big Sioux River and to all who work to preserve sacred sites. Moreover, the entire text is mathematically encoded.   Chadwick Allen, an English professor whose interests include American Indian and New Zealand Maori literatures and cultures, has written an article for American Literature that explores the sacred numbers and thematic geometry that connects Hedge Coke's verse with the sacred site; we will offer a sample of Allen's analysis following "Snake Mound"from Blood Run

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Piece of Coffee -- Stein with some math terms

I love the poetry of Gertrude Stein.  Perhaps this is so because I have never taken a class in which her work was taught and I have never read it with pressure to "understand."  I enjoy reading Stein's poems aloud.  Because they keep me alert -- both eye and tongue.  Because they puzzle me. And because I sometimes see something amazing, true and almost within reach.  Here, from Tender Buttons / Objects: is "A Piece of Coffee." 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Symmetric 4 x 4 square

Martin Gardner (1914-2010) studied philosophy and was interested in everything.  For 25 years he wrote the "Mathematical Games" feature for Scientific American.  At Magic Dragon Multimedia, Jonathan Vos Post has collected many of the poems Gardner featured in his column over the years.  Here is a symmetric square poem from February, 1964.

            C U B E
            U G L Y
            B L U E
            E Y E S

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Applying statistics . . .

From Seattle poet Kathleen Flenniken, a sensitive application of the normal distribution to the population of participants in an elementary school recorder recital:

   The Beauty of the Curve     by Kathleen Flenniken

   The curtain lifts on Bryant Elementary School's
   Spring Recorder Recital.  Ninety third-graders
   fumble with their instruments, take a breath

   and blow.  Their parents, braced, breathe too
   as "Hot Crossed Buns" emerges, a little scattershot --
   the Normal Distribution brought to life.

Friday, September 2, 2011