Monday, August 29, 2016

Math-play via verse (with George Darley)

A recent email from Colm Mulcahy -- who seeks out all things Irish -- alerted me to Dublin poet and math-text author, George Darley (1795-1846), and an online archived collection of his poems.    Colm's email had opened the collection to pages 70-71 and there I found -- and had fun reading --  this poem that plays with math.

     A Poetical Problem.      by George Darley

     Once on a time, at evening hour,
     A sweet, and dewy-bosom'd Flower
            Was cradling up to rest ;
     A Pilgrim, wandering near her bed,
     Raised, with his staff, her drooping head,
            And thus the Flower addrest : 

     "From matin-rise to moonlight hour,
     Tell me, my pearly-crested Flower,
            How many a lucid gem
     Hath left the high, cavernal air,
     To form upon thy queenly hair
            A rainbow diadem?" 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Numbers and Faces - poem, anthology

 "Numbers and Faces" is the title of a poem by W. H. Auden that ends with these lines:
            True, between faces almost any number
            Might come in handy, and One is always real;
            But which could any face call good, for calling
            Infinity a number does not make it one.
The complete poem is posted here.

     "Numbers and Faces" is also the title of a small anthology of poems, published in 2001 and containing Auden's poem, that I collected and edited for the Humanistic Mathematics Network.  The anthology has been out of print for many years but a file with its mathy poems is available online here
     The Humanistic Mathematics Network (started around 1987 by Alvin White) had a Newsletter and then a Journal but these paper publications faded away around 2004.  The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics emerged in 2011 to fill the void.  Recently I have learned from JHM editor Gizem Karaali, that an online archive of the prior publications is available here(Using the search box, I was able to find several of my own years-ago articles, including one from 1994 entitled "Mathematics in Literature and Poetry.")

Monday, August 22, 2016

Math-poetry connects with Carol Burnett

     When I began teaching mathematics my students compared me -- to my delight -- with Carol Burnett.  Recent thoughts of this amazing comedian have led me to Kevin Spacey's poem, "Carol" that he composed and read (imitating poet and actor Jimmy Stewart) to honor Burnett.  I share with Jimmy Stewart the hometown of Indiana, PA and I reconnected with memories of Carol Burnett this past weekend via NPR's "Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me."   Here is the text of Spacey's 14-line poem:

     Carol Burnett is a wonderful gal
     She always makes me laugh somehow
     All she has to do is put on that silly grin
     And I get this funny feeling all over my chin  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Swim, Girl, Swim -- thirty-five miles

     Today's poem uses a single number (35) as it celebrates Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003), an Olympic (1924) swimmer and (in 1926) English Channel crosser -- also, I notice, someone whose Wikipedia entry needs more work.  This poem honoring Ederle --  by a Children's Poet Laureate, J. Patrick Lewis -- I found at
     As the 2016 Olympics take place now in Rio, many of the stories feature outstanding female athletes -- and it has not gone unnoticed that male competitors are simply "athletes" whereas Olympic women are "female" athletes.   Is this unconscious bias?  It is similar to the way a mathematician who is a woman is detractingly described as "a female mathematician."

Celebrate Gertrude Ederle!   Celebrate swimmers!

     Swim, Girl, Swim     by J. Patrick Lewis
                    for Gertrude Ederle
     As Europe woke from sleep,
     Young Trudy Ederle
     At Cap Gris Nez in France
     Dived into a daunting sea.   

Monday, August 15, 2016

Find math-poetry links in BRIDGES archives

     As noted in last week's posts, the annual international math-arts festival, BRIDGES, recently was held in Finland.  Now the archives of papers presented there are available at this link.
     One of the programs related to poetry was a workshop by poet Tom Petsinis of Melbourne, “Mathematics Through the Matrix of Poetry,” archived here.

Past BRIDGES conferences have also included
a variety of poetry-math connections.
For example, in 2015, "Composing Mathematical Poetry"  by Carol Dorf,
 “Visualizing Rhyme Patterns in Sonnet Sequences” by Hartmut F. W. Hoft,
and a few remarks from me, “Inspire Math-Girls-Women (perhaps with poems)”.

Using the SEARCH box (beneath the list of years in the left column) and entering the term “poem” led me  to a total of 28 hits.   Explore! Enjoy!!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

More from BRIDGES poets . . .

     The 2016 BRIDGES Math-Arts Conference is currently taking place at the University of Jyväskylä in Jyväskylä, Finland.  Poets on this year's program include: Manfred Stern, Vera Schwarcz, Eveline Pye, Tom Petsinis, Mike Naylor, Alice Major, Emily Grosholz, Carol Dorf, Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya, Madhur Anand and the organizer, Sarah Glaz.
      Although he is not a participant in this year's BRIDGES, the name of Portuguese mathematician, poet, and translator Francisco José Craveiro de Carvalho appears near the top of the conference's poetry page for his translation of these lines that have become a sort of motto for BRIDGES poetry:

             Newton's binomial is as beautiful as Venus de Milo.
             What happens is that few people notice it.

                        --Fernando Pessoa (as Álvaro de Campos)
                          translated from the Portuguese by Francisco Craveiro  

Monday, August 8, 2016

Words -- and Meanings -- and BRIDGES, 2016

     Tomorrow the 2016 BRIDGES Conference (which celebrates the connections between mathematics and the arts) will open at the University of Jyväskylä in Jyväskylä, Finland.  Helping the conference to celebrate poetry will be Sarah Glaz, who has organized a poetry reading for the afternoon of August 12 and prepared a poetry collection that anthologizes poets who have been BRIDGES participants.   Here is a one of my favorite poems from the collection -- by Maryland poet Deanna Nikaido who, alas (and like me), will not be able to attend the conference.

     Trouble with Word Problems  by Deanna Nikaido

     Once asked to solve the arrival time of two trains
     traveling at different speeds
     toward the same destination—I failed.
     Mathlexia my friend said. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

POETRY -- in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics

     Pomona College mathematician Gizem Karaali, one of the editors of the online Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, is also a poet.  And the journal conscientiously features links between mathematics and the literary arts.  
     The current issue (online since late July) features my review of Madhur Anand's vibrant new collection, A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes (Penguin Random House, 2015) and these poems:  
       "The Greatest Integer Function" by Alanna Rae, 
              "Quantitative Literacy" by Thomas L. Moore,  
                      "Menger Sponge"  by E. Laura Golberg, 
                             "Calculus Problems" by Joshua N. Cooper, and
                                    "An Exercise on Limits" by Manya Raman-Sundström.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

July 2016 (and prior) -- titles, links to posts

Here are the titles and dates of previous blog postings,
moving backward from the present.
For mathy poems related to a particular mathy topic -- such as women in math or climate or triangle or circle or teacher or . . . -- click on a selected title below or enter the desired term in the SEARCH box in the right-hand column.  For example, here is a link to a selection of poems found using the pair of search terms "women  equal."  For poems about calculus, follow this linkTo find a list of useful search terms, scroll down the right-hand column.

July 31   Loving the difference quotient ... and more ...
July 25  Homage to Godel
July 21  One thing leads to another -- "Do the Math"
July 19  A number tells the story -- in these Haiku
July 18  String Theory
July 12  Continue to celebrate Szymborska 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Loving the difference quotient ... and more ...

     From Philadelphia poet-mathematician, Marion Cohen, a new collection  -- Closer to Dying (Word Tech, 2016).  When I received the book a few days ago and began to read I did, of course, seek out mathy poems.  Two of these are included below. In this first poem Cohen has some fun with the terms and symbols of introductory calculus.  In the second, she tells of an encounter of the sort that happens to many mathematicians  -- meeting someone who supposes that mathematicians do what calculators do. (This link leads to a collection of mathy poems (including ones by Cohen) at talkingwriting,com.)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Homage to Godel

From Erica Jolly, an Australian poet and online friend, I have learned of a fine anthology of science poems --  A Quark for Mister Mark:  101 Poems about Science, edited by Maurice Riordan and Jon Turney (Faber and Faber, 2000).  A poem in that collection that was new to me -- and one I like a lot -- is "Homage to Gödel" by German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger; I offer it below.  This link leads to a thoughtful review (by Richard Dove) of Enzensberger's poetry -- one of Dove's observations is that thought processes fascinate Enzenberger; "Homage to Gödel" illustrates that fascination. 

     Homage to Gödel     by Hans Magnus Enzensberger  
(translated from German by the poet)

     'Pull yourself out of the mire
     by your own hair': Münchhausen's theorem
     is charming, but do not forget:
     the Baron was a great liar. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

One thing leads to another -- "Do the Math"

     I offer poetry workshops for Peer Wellness and Recovery Services -- and PWRS coordinator Miriam Yarmolinsky invited me to go with her to the very fine DC Fringe Festival event featuring Leah Harris --  and Leah is also a poet whose work I found in the anthology Word Warriors:  35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution  -- where I also found "Do the Math" -- a crowd-pleaser by a 2002 slam champion Meliza Bañales -- available here on YouTube and included belowEnjoy!

Do the Math       by Meliza Bañales

The equation goes something like this:
one white mother plus one brown father divided by two 
          different worlds
equals a daughter. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A number tells the story -- in these Haiku

     One of my neighbors, Carol, has been cleaning out bookshelves and offered me her old copy of Gary Snyder's collection,  The Back Country (New Directions, 1971) -- and in it I have found four pages of "Hitch Haiku."  Three of these little poems each depend on a number -- and I offer them below.
     A truck went by
                    three hours ago:
     Smoke Creek desert

Over the Mindano Deep             
                                                  Scrap brass
                                                                 dumpt off the fantail
                                                  falling six miles

     Stray white mare
                    neck rope dangling
     forty miles from farms.

Monday, July 18, 2016

String Theory

     String Theory is a theoretical framework that attempts to explain, among other things, quantum gravity.  Its basic elements are open and closed strings -- rather than point-like particles.  The poem "String Theory" by Ronald Wallace offers imaginative and thoughtful interplay between these strings of theoretical physics and the strings of musical instruments -- I found the poem at the VerseDaily website and Wallace has given me permission to use it here.

      String Theory     by Ronald Wallace

      I have to believe a Beethoven
      string quartet is not unlike
      the elliptical music of gossip:
      one violin excited
      to pass its small story along  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Continue to celebrate Szymborska

If you are a frequent visitor to this blog, you know that Polish Nobelist (1996) Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012) is one of my favorite poets.  My Romanian friend Doru Radu, who now lives in Poland, visited New York recently and during my visit with him there he surprised me with a gift -- a posthumous bilingual Szymborska collection, Enough (Wydawnictwo a5, translated by Clare Cavanagh).  Here is the English version of a small poem with numbers from that collection:


          Twenty seven bones,
          thirty five muscles,
          around two thousand nerve cells
          in every tip of all five fingers.
          It's more than enough
          to write "Mein Kampf"
          or "Pooh Corner."

Links to additional postings of Szymborska's work may be found here.
Remember also to visit the wonderful Spring 2016 issue of TalkingWriting -- with its smorgasbord of mathy poems.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Remembering Reza Sarhangi

     In 1998 at Southwestern College in Winfield, KS an Iranian mathematician, Reza Sarhangi, organized the first of a series of annual Bridges conferences that celebrate the intersection of mathematics and the arts.  On July 1, 2016, this vital mathematician-artist passed away.  Many will celebrate the life of this warm and generous and talented man.
where you can learn a bit about Reza Sarhangi and about this year's conference in Finland. 
 Here is a link to an article by Sarhangi on Persian art -- indeed, it includes a poem. 
Sarhangi was at the time of his death, a professor at Towson University. 
 Here is a link to his informative Towson webpage which I hope the university will keep alive.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What Math Teachers Do

     They ignore me.  I
     raise my hand -- wave it
     to ask questions, to
     offer answers -- but
     they call on the boys.
A 5x5 syllable-square of protest, from JoAnne Growney

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Revolutions and singularities

     Early in June it was my privilege to hear poet Lesley Wheeler read as part of the Joaquin Miller Poetry Series on summer Sundays in Washington, DC's Rock Creek Park.  Lesley read from her wonderful 2015 collection, Radioland, in which I found this mathy sonnet, a poem of twists and singularities and rich with double meanings:

       Concentric Grooves, 1983     by Lesley Wheeler

       Every whorl in the floorboard spins clockwise,
       the grain widening round the stain, a stream
       of years circling a burn-brown knot.  Strum
       and crackly gap.  Music drowns a wheeze 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Important online sources for mathy poems

Every issue of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics contains poetry.
The Spring 2016 issue of TalkingWriting has more than a score of mathy poems.

This blog has offered math-linked poetry online since 2010, now with over 800 posts.  Scroll down to browse OR use the SEARCH box to look for poems with a particular mathematical image. The lower right-hand-column offers key-words that can be useful search terms.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Exponential power

From this week's New Yorker (June 27, 2016) from a poem by Maya Ribault entitled "Society of Butterflies" this mathy statement:

                                . . .                 I save  
            for retirement—to my bohemian eyes, 
            a fortune—though they say you need more
            than a million. Immerse yourself in the exponential
            power of dividends.      . . . 

Read the entire poem here.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A sonnet with numbers

     Sonnet: Now I see them    by Michael Palmer

          Now I see them sitting me before a mirror.
          There’s noise and laughter. Somebody
          mentions that hearing is silver
          before we move on to Table One
          with the random numbers. I look down
          a long street containing numbers.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Wanting things proportional . . .

Here is a reflective poem by San Diego poet Ben Doller (found also at and included here with permission of the poet).

       Proportion    by Ben Doller

       Just want things

       Just things,
       not all.

       Not kings, kings
       should be below:    

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Women occupy mathematics

     Poems thrive on imagery created from specific (rather than vague) details -- and numbers and other math terms are very specific!  Below I present several samples of mathematical imagery in poems from an excellent and important recent anthology Raising Lilly Ledbetter:  Women Poets Occupy the Workspace.

Here are the opening lines of "Circle of Silence" by Stacy K. Vargas:

     Like an electron trapped in an unstable orbit, I am seated 
                           in a circle of powerful men.
     In an awkward moment small talk ends 
                           and the meeting abruptly begins.
     The superintendent turns to me and says, 
                           "This was not sexual harassment."

And the opening lines of "The Typist" by Barbara Drake:

     I made 87 1/2 cents an hour typing,
     when I was a college student. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

When parallel lines meet, that is LOVE

Bernadette Turner teaches mathematics at Lincoln University in Missouri. And, via a long-ago email (lost for a while, and then found) she has offered this love poem enlivened by the terminology of geometry.

Parallel Lines Joined Forever    by Bernadette Turner

       We started out as just two parallel lines
       in the plane of life.
       I noticed your good points from afar,
       but always kept same distance.
       I assumed that you had not noticed me at all.  

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Symbols shape our thoughts

     In mathematics -- as in spoken languages -- we have learned to use symbols to shape our thoughts.  Pioneering artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) carefully expresses this important idea in terms of chess. 
     “The chess pieces are the block alphabet
     which shapes thoughts; and these thoughts, although
     making a visual design on the chess-board,
     express their beauty abstractly, like a poem...

     I have come to the personal conclusion
     that while all artists are not chess players,
     all chess players are artists.”
―Marcel Duchamp
This and other stimulating statements from Duchamp are available here.

During these days of celebration of the life of Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) I have refreshed my memory of his notable quotes (many of which are found here).  Here is one with some numbers:
     A man who views the world 
the same at 50 
     as he did at 20 
has wasted 30 years of his life.

Monday, June 6, 2016

A poem, a contradiction . . .

     One strategy for proving a mathematical theorem is a "proof by contradiction."  In such a proof one begins by supposing the opposite of what is to be proved -- and then reasons logically to obtain a statement that contradicts a known truth. This contradiction verifies that our opposite-assumption was wrong and that our original statement-to-be-proved is indeed correct.   (An easily-read introduction to "proof-by-contradiction" is given here.)
       Peggy Shumaker is an Alaskan poet whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a reading at Bloomsburg University where I was a math professor a few years ago.  Her poem, "What to Count On," below, has a beautiful surprise after a sequence of negations -- and reminds me of the structure of a proof-by-contradiction.

What to Count On     by Peggy Shumaker

Not one star, not even the half moon       
       on the night you were born
Not the flash of salmon
       nor ridges on blue snow 
Not the flicker of raven’s
       never-still eye 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Aesop's fables in verse ... the price of greed ...

     The farmhouse* in which I grew up had a room we called "The Library" because of its small bookshelf with my father's books -- including selections from Kipling and Twain and Aesop's Fables.  I liked to read.  And a lot of the morals are now stored in my head.  Recently I have found and enjoyed poetry versions of some of these in Jean de La Fontaine's Selected Fables (Dover, 2000) -- see also Project Gutenberg.  Here is one about the mathematics of greed ... .

The Hen with the Golden Eggs    by Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695)
                                   translated by Walter Thornbury
My little story will explain
An olden maxim, which expresses
How Avarice, in search of gain,
May lose the hoard that it possesses.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mathy poems OUT LOUD

     Here is a link to "Applied Mathematics" written and recited by London poet Dan Simpson.   This link leads to several math-arts samples (including two poems -- the first is by Gizem Karaali and you may scroll down to hear my poem, "A Taste of Mathematics") recorded by Samuel Hansen. (The complete text of "A Taste of Mathematics" is available here.)  This link connects to information about a 2014 YouTube video featuring a varied list of mathy poets.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Man Who Knew Infinity

     A few days ago I followed a broken link on the Poetry Foundation website and the site offered me this cryptic quatrain by American poet J. V. Cunningham (1911-1985) -- it is the final stanza of a poem I have posted here.

       Error is boundless.
       Nor hope nor doubt,
       Though both be groundless,
       Will average out.
               – J.V. Cunningham, from “Meditation on Statistical Method”

     Often on my mind these recent days has been the film I saw last week -- "The Man Who Knew Infinity" -- and I invite you to follow these links to poetry concerning its central characters, mathematicians Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) and G. H. Hardy (1877-1947).

Friday, May 20, 2016

In Wyalusing, counting pelicans

     The number in the title of Robin Chapman's poem first attracted me to it and the mention of Wyalusing in the first line drew me further in -- for Wyalusing is the name of a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania (a region in which I lived and taught -- at Bloomsburg University -- for many years).  But, of course, Google was able to tell me of another Wyalusing, a park in Wisconsin, home state of the poet, and a place advertised as having plentiful bird-watching.  Enjoy:

       One Hundred White Pelicans     by Robin Chapman

       Over Wyalusing, riding thermals, they shine
       and disappear, vanish like thought,
       re-emerge stacked, stretched, 
       a drifting fireworks' burst.   

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A math problem or a word problem?

     One of my recent poetry-finds has been the anthology Regreen:  New Canadian Ecological Poetry, edited by Madhur Anand and Adam Dickinson (Scrivener Press, 2009) and in it some small mentions of mathematics.  The following poem by artist and poet Erin Robinsong considers things big and small -- and observes some paradoxes. Is math the puzzle or the explanation or . . .?

SEED : CEDE   by Erin Robinsong  

Looking into the peach-pit, we find a vast spaciousness, as if actually looking into a pit –

A math problem:
A peach pit is weighed against
the year’s yield plus the tree: 
30 g, 900 kg.
Which weighs more? 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Squaring the Circle -- from the POETRY App

     One of my smart-phone delights is the App (available from that gives me a selection of poems on the go. (My posting for 15 October 2015 gives a description of how the App works.)  A few days ago, spinning its dials -- matching the categories "Humor," "& Arts and Sciences"-- I found the exceptional poem "Squaring the Circle" in which poet Philip Fried has some fun with the impossible problem.   ("Squaring the Circle" first appeared in the July /August 2014 issue of Poetry and Fried has given me permission to include it here.)

Squaring the Circle      by Philip Fried

It’s a little-known fact that God’s headgear — 
A magician’s collapsible silk top hat,
When viewed from Earth, from the bottom up — 
sub specie aeternitatis,   

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A 6 x 6 syllable-square -- and links to more . . .

          Last Sunday's paper had
          an essay by a clown
          who said as long as I
          play dumb people let me
          do what I want.  And I
          cannot stop wondering.
 6, a perfect number    

Find lots of mathy poems here at; this week featuring Sarah Glaz.
At this link find poems, etc. by Spelman College math students working with Colm Mulcahy.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Poems that count: Eight Buffalo

     In mid-April at the Split This Rock Poetry Festival, one of the sessions I attended and valued had the title " "Eco-Feminist Poetry, Intersectionality, & the End of the Earth."  In the midst of my concern about ecology and women is my addiction to mathematics -- and a poem by Cecilia Llompart started me counting.  See if you, too, count the word "buffalo" eight times during this poem; and shudder when you read the final word.

       Eight Buffalo      by Cecilia Llompart

       An obstinacy of buffalo 
       is not to say that the buffalo 
       are stubborn. No, not like 
       a grass stain. More that 
       the very bulk of one— 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Can you multiply with Roman numerals?

     Canadian writer Siobhan Roberts (whom I know from BIRS workshops) has a recent New Yorker article that celebrates the 100th birthday and achievements of Claude Shannon (1916 -2001) -- often referred to as "the father of the information age." Most of the important information in that article I leave for you to read for yourself, but I call to your attention to one of Shannon's accomplishments featured therein -- Claude Shannon built a machine for doing arithmetic with Roman numerals.  This connects to poetry via a poem by Ron Padgett, below.
The Roman numeral system has largely been abandoned 
because arithmetic is less cumbersome with a place-value system.
 Here is a link to a site that exhibits procedures for Roman numeral arithmetic.

 The Roman Numerals     by Ron Padgett

       It must have been hard
       for the Romans to multiply
       —I don’t mean reproduce,
       but to do that computation.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Talking-Writing offers Math Poems

     In recent weeks, the online journal Talking-Writing has been featuring math poems and last Monday they posted my "Skagway Study" -- which follows a style explored in one of my favorite poems by Wislawa Szymborska.
      Carol Dorf, poetry editor of Talking-Writing, is a math teacher as well as a poet and her work as well as those of others with math interest are explored in "Wild Equations," the Spring 2016 Issue of Talking-Writing.   Here are some links:

By Giavanna Munafo    "Twenty-Four Hours"
By JoAnne Growney    "Skagway Study" 
By Alice Major     "Euclid's Iron Hand" and "Bird Singularities"
By Amy Uyematsu   "Three Quick Studies of Math-Art"
By Carol Dorf   "Action Potential" and "e"
By Eveline Pye   "Celestial Navigation," "Three," and "The Law of Statistics"
By Larry Lesser    "Margins" 
By Katie Manning   "28, 065 Nights" and "Week by Week" (Fibonacci poem)
By Stephanie Strickland   "Doomed calculations which God acknowledged
                                                Islands (Invaginated by Saltwater
                                           Bays with a Stream and Another Both Flowing
                                              All Through Them along Enfolded Paths)" 

Earlier this week in an American Mathematical Society blog posting entitled "Math and Verbal Gymnastics," Duquesne University mathematician Anna Haensch also celebrated the join of mathematics and poetry.

Monday, April 25, 2016

"The Mathematician"

     Here is a selection from "The Mathematician," a long poem -- found in its entirety in The Rumpus -- by Oregon poet Carl Adamshick and recommended to me by poet R Joyce Heon  --  for a sample of her ekphrastic poems, follow this link and go to pages 37-42.  And this link leads to more poems (in this blog) starring mathematicians --- and a few of them are women!!

from   The Mathematician     by Carl Adamshick

What I do is calculate.
I’ve always seen the world as numbers,
buildings and trees factors,
math as a language better suited for explaining
how things work
than the formula of grammar.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Women in Mathematics Count!

     The theme for 2016 Mathematics Awareness Month is "The Future of Prediction."  And today I am wondering what date can be predicted for when the achievements of women in mathematics will be recognized with the same awareness as those of men.
How many female mathematicians can you name? 
Here are links to two articles to to help you lengthen your list of math-women"12 Brilliant Female Mathematicians You Should Know" -- an article by Olivia Harrison whose list starts with Hypatia (who lived around 400 AD) and continues to the 21st century, featuring Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian mathematician at Stanford who in 2014 won the prestigious Fields Medal for her work related to the symmetry of curved surfaces. Judy Green adds important names in her article "How Many Women Mathematicians Can You Name?"
     For still more, visit my 2015 post "The culture for women in math and the sciences";  additionally, a search of this blog using "math women" will lead to a host of  names and links.  Enjoy!
     Here are the closing lines of a poem of mine about the brilliant mathematician, Emmy Noether (1883-1935):   

           In spite of Emmy's talents,
           always there were reasons
           not to give her rank
           or permanent employment.
           She's a pacifist, a woman.
           She's a woman and a Jew.
           Her abstract thinking
           is female and abstruse.

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

The full poem is available here.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Remembering Solomon Marcus

     Almost five years ago I received an email from Romanian mathematician Solomon Marcus in response to my posting of a translation of  a poem by Nichita Stanescu (1933-1983) entitled "Poetic Mathematics"  -- a poem that Stanescu dedicates to Marcus.  In his email, Marcus offers 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).
Here is a link to an interview with Marcus last year (at age 90) and it tells of his ongoing literary interests.  Recently I learned the sad news of his death, last month at the age of 91.  Some interesting details of the way Marcus and Stanescu experimented with the uses of language are included in this 2008 article by Emilia Parpala and Rimona Afanaa and are illustrated in the following poem, "Ritual," in which Stanescu uses numbers to explore and extend the meaning of The Last Supper.

     Ritual     by Nichita Stanescu  (trans. Sean Cotter)

     I cry before the number five --
     the last supper, minus six.

Friday, April 15, 2016

From a math-friend and an Ohio poet

     One of the wonderful things about writing a blog about my paired passions of poetry and mathematics is that the blog connects me with fascinating and generous people whom I might not otherwise meet. One of these is Marylander Greg Coxson -- physicist, engineer, mathematician, Operations Researcher -- who took three years of Latin in high school and loves words.  With interests in art and poetry, Greg has organized exhibits of math-related art -- and is a regular recommender of mathy poems for this blog.
     A week or so ago Greg alerted me to an NPR interview with Ohio Poet Laureate Amit Majmudar (a radiologist as well as a poet) -- letting me know that Majmudar's poetry was rich with mathematical imagery.  Following Greg's lead, I found Majmudar's website and was able to contact both Majmudar and his publisher, Knopf, for permission to offer these mathematical poems.
     Here, from Amit Majmudar's new book Dothead, are two sections of the poem "Logomachia" -- sections alive with geometry and logic.  The first, "radiology," is visually vivid; the second, "the waltz of descartes and mohammed," is a sestina that plays with the logic of word-order.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"The Giraffe" -- a poem for my pocket

     I've found the poem I want to carry in my pocket (and in my head) on "Poem in Your Pocket Day" -- coming soon on April 21. It includes at least one number; here it is:

       The Giraffe     by Ron Padgett

       The 2 f's
       in giraffe
       are like
       2 giraffes
       running through
       the word giraffe

       The 2 f's
       run through giraffe
       like 2 giraffes.