Sunday, September 30, 2012

The best of the many

     Here I link to an article by David Alpaugh, "The New Math of Poetry," -- not brand-new, for it bears a date of February, 2010 , but I found it only recently and have been thinking about its description of the seemingly unrestrained quantity of poetry expected to be published on the Internet. What happens to poetry if each of us calls what she writes "poems" and publishes them online, making them as available as the lines penned by a Poet Laureate? 
     Most of what I feel about proliferation of poetry is excitement.  I love the democracy that lets all of us participate in poetry just as we all may run races, perhaps even taking a trophy in our neighborhood's turkey-day mile;  we do not pretend excellence but, simply, it is fun and good for us.  All of us who choose it can enjoy writing poems -- and experimentation with new forms -- and, from time to time, some surprising and splendid work will emerge. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Surprise me!

Bob Grumman, a mathy poet whose work has appeared in this blog (21 June 2010) and a blogger, has recently been invited to write a Guest Blog for Scientific American.  Here is a wonderful sentence about poetry that I have taken from his posting on 22 September 2012 (the third of his guest postings).

           And I claim that nothing is more important for a poet 
               than finding new ways to surprise people with the familiar.

Visit Grumman's Guest Blog to find his illustrations of poetic surprise; after a pair of visual poems, ten x ten and Ellipsonnet, he discusses a poem by Louis Zukovsky in which the poet describes his poetics using the integral sign from calculus:


Zukovsky's definite integral (which Grumman tells us is carefully copyright-protected) has the lower limit "speech" and upper limit "music." 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

From the Scottish Cafe

     A poetry collection by Susan Case (see also 5 July 2011 and 5 August 2011 postings)  -- The Scottish Cafe (Slapering Hole Press, 2002) -- celebrates the lives and minds of a group of mathematicians in Poland during World War II.  The observations and insights of Case's poems add new dimension to the important story of The Scottish Book  -- a book in which the mathematicians recorded problems and their solutions.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The view from here -- or there

From Nashville math teacher and blogger, Tad Wert, I learned of this poem, "Geometry, Lost Cove" by his Harpeth Hall School colleague, Georganne Harmon; in it, Harmon examines the contrasts in appearances when objects are seen from different distances. (And the mathematician goes on to say, Ah, yes -- in other words, some mappings of a space do not preserve distance.)

    Geometry, Lost Cove     by Georganne Harmon

    The ridge across this cove
    is straight as a ruled line,
    its bend as pure as an angle
    on a student’s quadrilled page.
    Beyond it another ridge lies
    straight-backed, as well,
    drawn off by its touch with sky.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Is Algebra Necessary?

     Anticipating my interest, several friends sent me links to a late-July opinion piece in The New York Times entitled "Is Algebra Necessary?" (written by an emeritus political science professor, Andrew Hacker).   I more-or-less agree with Hacker that algebra is not necessary in most daily lives or places of employment.  In fact, years ago I developed a non-algebra text, Mathematics in Daily Life,  for a course designed to satisfy a math-literacy requirement at Bloomsburg University.  On the other hand, my own fluency in the language of algebra opened doors to calculus and to physics and so many other rooms of knowledge that I have loved.
     Expressing algebraic issues in verse, we have this thoughtful poem by Jeannine Hall Gailey, Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington (home of Microsoft). 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A poem for a math-friend

     On July 14, 2012, my good friend, Toni Carroll, passed on. I first knew Toni in the 1980s as a colleague in the department of mathematical sciences at Bloomsburg University.  Her warmth and inclusiveness drew many people to her and I was one of these.  In my view she also was fearless.  While I continued to contemplate action, she moved quickly toward righting an injustice.  I have learned from her to be a bit more brave.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Variations of a line

In mathematics a line plays many roles -- as in this fine poem (which is a sonnet, more or less).

     Lines     by Martha Collins

     Draw a line. Write a line. There.
     Stay in line, hold the line, a glance
     between the lines is fine but don't
     turn corners, cross, cut in, go over
     or out, between two points of no
     return's a line of flight, between
     two points of view's a line of vision.

Monday, September 10, 2012

It Crossed My Mind

     In Elinor Gordon Blair --  my English teacher during my junior and senior years at Indiana Joint High School in Indiana, Pennsylvania -- I found a woman who became a life-long inspiration to me.  An insatiable reader and always curious, Elinor Blair seemed to learn from every thing that came along. Such an excellent strategy  -- and I learned it from her.  
     Mrs Blair -- is my habit to continue to call her by this formal name -- still lives in Indiana and she is 99 years old.  Three years ago she published a poetry collection, It Crossed My Mind.  These following stanzas from Blair's collection use imagery from geometry to describe the destructive way in which "skeletons of steel" have remade our American landscapes. 
     Thank you, Mrs. Blair, for these lines and for the ways you have enriched my life.

Monday, September 3, 2012

An instrument in the shape of a woman

     Celebrating math-women with poetry is a project to which I devoted several postings earlier this summer -- see, for example, these June and July entries.  Moreover, I am looking for more such poems to post.  Please contact me (e-mail address is at the bottom of this blog-site) with poems about math-women that you have written or found.
      Mathematician-astronomer Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) appeared in a poem by Siv Cedering on 21 July, 2012 and here she is again, this time celebrated by Adrienne Rich (1929-2012).