Thursday, June 10, 2021

Every Seventeen Years . . .

Millions of Brood X 17-year cicadas have recently emerged in the Washington, DC area and they are the subjects of laughter, fear, recipes, and so on.  (Wikipedia information about these cicadas is available here.)  Washington Post writer John Kelly has asked readers to celebrate the cicadas with verse -- and below I offer one of the Haiku that Kelly gathered recently.

Found here in The Washington Post

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

A Life Made to Count

     The title of this blog-post is part of a headline from The Washington Post -- a headline for a review by GW Professor Lisa Page  of a posthumously published and recently released memoir by Katherine Johnson (1918 - 2020) :  My Remarkable Journey:  A Memoir, written with assistance from Joylette Hylick, Katherine Moore and Lisa Frazier Page (Amistad, 2021).

     As you might expect, numbers are at the center of Johnson's memoir -- numbers never intimidated Johnson — in fact, they thrilled her. The symmetry, the structural interplay of equations and formulas, were always in her head.  (Read a bit of the book here.)

     As Johnson looked back over her life of more than one hundred years, I too was prompted to looks back -- to an article of mine entitled "MATHEMATICS AND POETRY:  ISOLATED OR INTEGRATED?" and published in the Humanistic Mathematics Network Newsletter (forerunner of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics) in May, 1991 -- and available here.  And I can't resist quoting a bit from the article, sharing some phrases from the poem "Poetry" by Marianne Moore (1887-1972).

       . . . things are important not because a
       high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them
       but because they are useful . . . the same thing
       may be said for all of us—that we do not admire
       what we cannot understand. 

       [Not until we] can present for inspection,
       imaginary gardens with real toads in them
       shall we have it . . .

Moore's complete poem is available here.

Friday, June 4, 2021

A Few Lines of Parody

      Recently I re-found -- in my copy of The Mathematical Magpie by Clifton Fadiman (1904-1999)  (Simon and Schuster, 1962) -- these lines by Lewis Untermeyer (1885-1977):


    We drew our circle that shut him out,
    This man of Science who dared our doubt.
    But ah, with a fourth-dimensional grin
    He squared a circle that took us in.

Untermeyer's lines first appeared in his Collected Parodies.    Here is a link to a second edition (1997) of The Mathematical Magpie (for which the title page description includes:  stories, subsets of essays, rhymes, anecdotes, epigrams . . . rational or irrational . . .)

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Euclid and Barbie -- and attitudes toward math . . .

     Teacher-poet-musician Glen Brown has shared with me his mathy poem that has for its epigraph a controversial line once spoken (back in 1992) by Mattel's Teen Talk Barbie.   Brown makes playful use of a variety of math terms but with an somewhat sexist point of view.

     Euclid and Barbie      by Glen Brown
                                Math class is tough.

     Sure it doesn’t add up:
     countless camping and skiing trips with Ken,
     swimming and skating parties without danger,
     dancing and shopping engagements
     with Midge and Skipper
     like an infinite summer vacation.
     Nothing here hints at a dull math class
     for integral Barbie and her complex playmates!

Saturday, May 29, 2021

A Mathy Rhyme from Twitter

When I have a bit of extra time, it is fun for me to visit Twitter (my postings may be found as JoAnne Growney @MathyPoems) and to find introductions to lots of interesting topics in math and poetry -- and to lots of brief poems.   Recently I came upon the following post by Algebra Etc. @AlgebraFact.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

A Rhymer and an Analyst -- a Friendship

     Several recent emails have turned my attention again to Irish mathematician (?and poet?) William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865).  Available online here is Life of Sir William Rowan Hamilton by Robert Perceval Graves (Dublin University Press, 1882) -- and here is a link to a posting of a poem by Hamilton published in this blog back in 2011. Graves tells of the friendship between Hamilton and poet William Wordsworth and this link leads to some commentary about their connection.  Here are some of Wordsworth's words:

You send me showers of verses, which I receive with much pleasure, as do we all; yet have we fears that this employment may seduce you from the path of Science, which you seem so destined to tread with so much honour to yourself and profit to others. Again and again I must repeat, that the composition of verse is infinitely more of an art than men are prepared to believe, and absolute success in it depends upon innumerable minutia, which it grieves me you should stoop to acquire a knowledge of.

     Current investigation into the life of Hamilton has suggested that  parts of Graves' work has been misinterpreted and that -- over time --  Hamilton's reputation has undeservedly declined; here is a link to a 2017 article by Anne van Weerden and Steven Wepster, "A most gossiped about genius: Sir William Rowan Hamilton" -- an article that adds new insights into the Hamilton story.  

Monday, May 24, 2021

What does CANCEL mean? -- some poetic wordplay!

      Lawrence "Larry" Lesser is a professor in the Mathematical Sciences Department at the University of Texas in El Paso and a widely published creator of mathy poems.  Here are the opening stanzas of  a poem that appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics (TEEM), a journal of the NCTM affiliate organization TODOS: Mathematics for ALL

 from     ₵AN
      by Lawrence Mark Lesser

      Cancel is from Latin for ‘make like a lattice’,
      like crisscrossed wood fencing
      in our backyard where we safely
      dine with friends,

      or like COVID-caused crossouts
      on calendars--  
      a cancelled appointment (dis-appointment)
      or music event (dis-concerting).

      Teachers don’t like saying ‘cancel’
      lest students get carried away,
      cancelling sixes of 26/65,  
      which does equal two-fifths 

Friday, May 21, 2021

MoMath Celebrates Limericks!

     New York's Museum of Mathematics celebrated National Limerick Day on May 12 with an online program of contributors reading their mathy limerick stanzas.  I did not learn of the reading in time to apply for participation but here is a sample I might have submitted.

       In baseball the diamonds are square--
            And the ball has the shape of a sphere.
            Nine guys make a team--
       So, two teams make eighteen--
       And fans cheer when plays come in pairs.

     The limericks read at the May 12 MoMath program may be found here  -- and here is a link to the results of a SEARCH in this blog for "limerick."  The sample offered above was posted long ago, back in April 2010.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Reflecting on Pi . . .

     A few months ago I got an email from Adaobi Chiemelu, a Nigerian poet and spoken word artist who studied studied mathematics at the University of Nigeria.  Recently Adaobi has sent me one of their poems -- about division and infinity and pi and . . . 

Dividing Together     by Adaobi Chiemelu

The cake was holy communion
You picked one piece not fatter than your two fingers
You smiled
You watched as the next person went on to do same 
          and put the same in their mouth
You thought of pi     

Monday, May 17, 2021

Keeping Track of Chairs

 The first steps in mathematics . . . COUNTING!

      I grew up on a farm and keeping track by counting happened often -- counting chickens, counting sheep, counting the number of weeks until the early transparent apples will be ripe . . . and when I read Tom Wayman's poem in Poet Lore I found a similar habit of relentless counting.    I have not been able to obtain more than short-term permission for posting -- and so I offer here just a sample and, beneath, a a link to the full poem.

from Fifty Years of Stacking Chairs     by Tom Wayman

     Two of these chairs at a time
     are easily manageable, so back at the empty rows
     I fold three and haul them with both hands
     across the space. Next trip I try
     four: fingers on each hand curved
     under the metal backrests of
     two chairs. Fifty years 

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Mathematical Forms in Poetry . . .

      During recent days, one of my special enjoyments has been finding time to read Marian Christie's blog -- a delightful collection of poetry and poetic musings with frequent connections to mathematics.  Christie's biographical sketch (available here) indicates that she, like me, grew up enjoying both poetry and math.  She became a math teacher and, after her years of teaching ended, she turned her attention to poetry.  Below I present a sample of her mathy poetry, followed by links to several of her postings.

Today, in a season that is approaching summer, I coolly offer Christie's "Midwinter" poem (found here in her blog)  -- a stanza in which the poet uses Pascal's triangle to pattern her words:

a Pascal-triangle poem -- find it and lots of other mathy poems here.

Here, next, are links to several of Christie's math-poetry blog postings.  ENJOY!

Monday, May 10, 2021

Mathy Jokes

     In a recent search for funny mathy poems I have discovered the collection by G. Patrick Vennebush pictured below as well as a sequel to that edition and a related blog.

Book info available at this link.
Although most of the jokes are not poetic, some are.  Here is a brief sample from the blog:

                 With my head in an oven
                 And my feet on some ice,
                 I’d say that, on average,
                 I feel rather nice!

Read more and enjoy . . .

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Climate Concerns

      Ideas become internalized when we WRITE about them -- and I encourage students AND all of us to write about climate change and efforts to save our planet.  And then to act on our words!   Here are three small syllable-squares, first appearing in a post more than ten years ago and expressing my ongoing concerns for precarious imbalances we have created within our natural environment.

This link leads to several previous posts found using the search terms climate change.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Celebrate Math-Women -- Celebrate AWM

1   This
2   year's the
3   fiftieth
4   birthday of the
5   Association
6   for Women in Mathe-
7   matics.  Join celebrations --
8   hear lectures, game with playing cards,
9   interview, write essays that feature
10  math women you admire.  Speak up -- cheer girls
11  who do well in math class; look back, remember,
12  laud stars of the past  --  support A W M.

 The Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) is a national organization devoted to encouraging women and girls to study and to have active careers in the mathematical sciences, and to promote equal opportunity and the equal treatment of women and girls in the mathematical sciences.  Founding in 1971 and celebrating math-women with outreach, networks and partnerships, playing cards, essay contest (for students in middle school through college) . . . and so much more.

Explore AWM's Website and their lively WOMEN DO MATH site.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Polyform Puzzles -- presented in verse

     Many math-loving folks gather periodically at meetings called  G4G (Gatherings for Gardner) to celebrate the life and contributions of Martin Gardner (1914-2010) -- a versatile author whom I know best from his "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American -- a column that often connected math and poetry. 

     Here is a link to the YouTube channel for G4G Celebrations -- a place to view presentations of ideas that honor the spirit of Martin Gardner.   For one of the recent meetings of G4G (online due to Covid), graphic artist and designer of recreational mathematics puzzles, Kate Jones, offered a visual and poetic presentation entitled A Periodic Table of polyform puzzles.

This is the 3rd slide of Jones' presentation, "A Periodic Table of polyform puzzles"

      This link leads to a pdf of the 29 slides of Jones' presentation and this link leads to a 24-minute PowerPoint recording of the production; eventually this event will be available on the YouTube Channel noted above.   Jones describes this creation in this way:  It’s like a very condensed book on the subject; using rhymed couplets allowed for even more compact delivery of the information.  She adds:  at the gamepuzzles website, the various individual items in the puzzles can be seen more simply.

     Here is a link to an earlier posting in this  blog that includes a Fibonacci poem by Jones -- created for the 2016 meeting of G4G.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A Visit to Mathland -- where Reason rules!

Published in 1979 by PRIMARY PRESS, out of print -- try your library!

Before purchasing this anthology (found at a math conference) I had never seen a collection of mathy poems -- but then, many years later, I helped to edit one (Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics).   Today I offer an old favorite from Against Infinity  -- the poem "A Visit to Mathland" by Naomi Replansky (born May 23, 1918):

A Visit to Mathland  by Naomi Replansky  (for M., Z., and L., citizens thereof)

 I was a timid tourist
 to the land of mathematics:
 how do you behave in a country
 where Reason rules?   

Monday, April 26, 2021

Mean, Median, Mode -- and Poetry and Bananas!

 A wonderful resource for mathy poems for students is  “S.T.E.A.M. Powered Poetry Videos for Pk-8”  -- and I have recently connected there with poet and teacher, Heidi Bee Roemer; I offer a sample of her work below:

This poem --  and much more -- found at

Across the curriculum, “S.T.E.A.M. Powered Poetry Videos for Pk-8” promotes poetry in the classroom using multiple methods and strategies. In addition to kid-friendly poetry videos, this vlog features crafts, classroom activities, and reference lists for related children’s books that offer additional information on each poem’s subject.  Learn more at this link about Heidi Bee Roemer and her collaborators.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Earth Day -- are we the FINAL ones?

Tomorrow (April 22) is Earth Day.  This worried poem is structured using
The Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic.
(Some explanatory notes follow the poem.)

"We Are the Final Ones"  by JoAnne Growney

Monday, April 19, 2021

Poetry by Math Students

     Mathematics Teacher Lisa Winer (St Andrews School, Boca Raton, FL) enjoys giving her students new sorts of learning experiences.  In her eatplaymath blog, I found the results of her suggestion that students submit mathy poems to their school literary magazine.  I offer below the first of the poems in the collection that Winer offers; go here to read more -- AND, consider a poetry project for math students that YOU know!

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

    I am bad at math   (read top to bottom)
       I am horrible at math
       So I'll never say that
       I can get an A.
       But, if I try my hardest
       I will fail. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Parody with Limericks

     A limerick is a five-line rhyming verse, usually humorous, often earthy and rude.  Various limericks have appeared previous postings in this blog -- this one comes from the online journal Parody -- Poetry for the world as it really isn't.


I found Norwood's sexist limerick here in a July 2013 posting in ParodyHere is a link to previous postings in this blog of mathy limericks.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Pi-ku Contest in Australia -- deadline Two Pi Day

     Using syllable counts to help to craft poems has been with us since the sonnet and this blog has often presented square poems and Fibs and Pilish and . ..  and today we again focus on the digits of  πOn Pi-Day (3/14) Australia's Cosmos Magazine opened a Pi-Ku Contest which asks for brief Haiku-like poems whose syllables-per-line are counted by the first six digit of the decimal value of  π (Contest information is available at this link.)  Entries must be submitted by 2Pi-Day, or 6/28.

     Here are two mathy samples from the Cosmos contest-information site 

        Learning STEM
        remember science,
        technology, engineering, maths. 
    by Jennifer Chalmers

        To say safe,
        an area
        Pi times one point five
        metres squared around yourself always.
       by Lauren Fuge  

Other poetry forms shaped by the digits of  π include π-ku and Pilish.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

A Scientist's Math-Poetic Memoir

     Madhur Anand is a poet and a professor of ecology and environmental science at the University of Guelph in Ontario – her work has been noted here in earlier postings in this blog  -- and today I want to introduce readers to her memoir, This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart (Penguin Random House, 2020).  

     On the opening page we find these poetic lines:

     Biexponential Function     by Madhur Anand    

     I have of a
     book from my
     childhood is one
     entitled I Know What
     I Like
.  I remember the    

Monday, April 5, 2021

Mathy Poets plan for 2021 BRIDGES Conference

      The Annual BRIDGES Math-Art Conference will be virtual again this year (August 2-6, 2021) and mathematician-poet Sarah Glaz has developed an online array of poets and poetry to be part of this program.  Bios and sample poems are already available here.

      Participating poets include:  Marian Christie, Carol Dorf, Susan Gerofsky. David Greenslade, Emily Grosholz, JoAnne Growney, Lisa Lajeunesse, Marco Lucchesi, Mike Naylor, Osmo Pekonen, Tom Petsinis, Eveline Pye, Any Uyematsu, Ursula Whitcher -- and, also, these open-mike participants: Susana Sulic, S. Brackert Robertson, Stephen Wren, Marion Deutsche Cohen, Connie Tetteborn, Jacob Richardson, Robin Chapman. Stephanie Strickland.  (Bios and sample poems here.)

     Here is a sample from the BRIDGES poetry program:

Descartes   by Eeva-Liisa Manner
                        translated from the Finnish by Osmo Pekonen

I thought, but I wasn't.
I said animals were machines.
I had lost everything but my reason.  

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

2000 plastic bags in the stomach of a camel!

     When creating a poem, I often find that first choosing a pattern of syllable counts can be very helpful in guiding me into careful word choices.  I have used the Fibonacci numbers as a guide to forming the following lines. Information for these lines has come from a frightening story by Marcus Eriksen  (March 23, 2021 in the Washington Post).   

world from
plastics,  Now!
Don't allow more deaths
of desert camels, painful deaths
caused by eating humans' trash within its plastic bags --
chewed plastic not digestible --
causing ulcers and
lots of pain,

After a pair of 1's to start the sequence, each succeeding Fibonacci number is the sum of the preceding two numbers:  Above we have (climbing and then reversing):  1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 8, 5, 3, 2, 1, 1.

Monday, March 29, 2021

A Poetry Cube

      Gregory Coxson, professor and researcher in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the US Naval Academy, is a supporter of integration of the arts with the sciences and enjoys writing poems.  (Here is a link to his previous appearances in this blog.)   Recently Greg has sent me what he calls a CUBE poem (6 stanzas, 6 lines per stanza, 6 syllables per line).   It's FUN to read -- I offer it below:

If I Wrote Poetry     by Gregory Coxson

If I wrote poetry
  It would be efficient,
Stripped-down, like Chinese art,
  Only the sparest lines
Placed by easy habit
  Learned from ten thousand tries    

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Happy Birthday, Amalie "Emmy" Noether!

      Emmy Noether (1882-1935) is one of my heroes -- and my first posting in this blog, on March 23, 2010, celebrates her -- as do a bunch of other more recent postings.

Above, the epigraph for my poem about Noether, "My Dance is Mathematics."

Sunday, March 21, 2021

UNESCO World Poetry Day

     TODAY, March 21 is UNESCO World Poetry Day:  click on this link for a wealth of information and poetry resources:  UNESCO Creative Cities of Literature join forces to celebrate World Poetry Day 2021 | Creative Cities Network.

"Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas." 

--- Albert Einstein

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Probe the gaps between prime numbers . . .

     Each issue of The New Yorker offers poetry, but seldom do the poems link to mathematics.  However, the issue for March 8, 2021 offers us "Number Theory" by poet and translator Rosanna Warren.  Here are a few of its lines:

        . . .   like you, inquisitive.  You sit
       taut in  your chair, whispering, as you probe
       the gaps between prime numbers.  Until infinity.

       It's pattern you seek.  The opening through which
       your thought will glide suddenly into a lit space
       and be at home.   . . .

Here is a link to Warren's complete poem.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Thoughtful Poetic Paradox . . .

     Recently, looking through old piles, I found an article of mine that appeared almost twenty years ago in The Humanistic Mathematics Network Journal -- an article entitled "Journal Review: Third International Anthology on Paradoxism" (a book now available here).  Paradoxism makes heavy use of opposites, as in these examples:

SCAPEGOAT   by Florentin Smarandache (editor of Paradoxism Anthology)

Even if he didn't
he did

MULTIDISCIPLINARY     by Florentin Smarandache

History or art
Or the art of history

ORDER     by Paulo Bauler (Brazil)

Someone with all the reasons is
Somebody with no reason

DISCOVERERS    by Maria do Carmo Gaspar De Oliveira (Brazil)

Portuguese discovered Brazil
Already discovered by Indians

Visit the review -- or, even better, obtain the Anthology -- to read more.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

MATH-GIRL gives us Pi

     Sunday, 3/14, will be Pi-day and I celebrate here with a comment in Pilish from my imagined author MATH-GIRL.  And before the poetic words let me call to attention a non-imaginary story about an amazing woman who calculated trillions of digits of pi.   Go here for an NPR story about the Guinness World Record set by Emma Haruka Iwao

     MATH-GIRL calculates PI

       3.    Now
       1    a
       4    girl --
       1    a
       5    suave
       9    innovator
       2    of
       6    future
       5    style
       3    and
       5    sharp
       8    numeracy --
       9    carefully
       7    fathoms
       9    diameters
       3    for
       2    us.
                 .  .  .

What are the next words that you see for MATH-GIRL? 

Here is a link to several previous Pi-Day/Pilish postings in this blog.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Internat'l Day of the Woman--Name 5 Math-Women!

      Today, March 8, is International Day of the Woman for 2021.  I continue to consider the challenge that I heard offered lots of years ago concerning women in the art world,  Name FIVE.  Each of us who cares about mathematics should be able to name at least five women who made important contributions to the field.  A wonderful resource is this website "Biographies of Women Mathematicians" -- maintained by Larry Riddle of Agnes Scott College that tells of the important lives of math women. 

Here are a few lines that from a poem I wrote that celebrates algebraist Amalie "Emmy Noether" (1882-1935); read more here.

       Emmy Noether's abstract axiomatic view
       changed the face of algebra.
       She helped us think in simple terms
       that flowered in their generality. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Free Minds add, count . . . and . . .

     Free Minds is an organization that uses books, creative writing, and peer support to awaken incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youths and adults to their own potential.  Learn more here about this vital organization -- and reflect on this poem by a Free Minds member:   

     Today’s Mathematics    by JO

      30 minutes of chaos
      Plus 1 Public Pretender
      Plus 1 judge
      Equals 39 years
      16 years, with about 5 of those drug and alcohol-induced
      Produces a very impressionable mind
      Countless days filled with violence
      Equals a whole lot of trauma
      Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Moorish Science, History
      Plus studying mysteries
      Equals a solid understanding
      Empathy plus suffering
      Equals a road to redemption

I found the poem at this link; the Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop website posting also offers the opportunity for readers to make comments.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Celebrating Math-Women -- Caroline Herschel

      In the United States, March is National Women's History Month -- and today I am looking back to previous postings that celebrate astronomer and mathematician Caroline Herschel.   In her collection Letters from the Floating World, artist and poet Siv Cedering (1939-2007) has given us a poignant portrait of this math-woman:
      Letter from Caroline Herschel
(1750-1848)     by Siv Cedering

     William is away, and I am minding
     the heavens. I have discovered
     eight new comets and three nebulae
     never before seen by man,
     and I am preparing an Index to
     Flamsteed's observations, together with
     a catalogue of 560 stars omitted from
     the British Catalogue, plus a list of errata
     in that publication. William says

     I have a way with numbers, so I handle
     all the necessary reductions and
     calculations. I also plan
     every night's observation
     schedule, for he says my intuition
     helps me turn the telescope to discover
     star cluster after star cluster.                   . . .

The rest of this poem is found here in this posting from 2012.

 Additional poetry that celebrates Herschel may be found at this link.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Filling my coffee cup . . .

      When I am asked to give a poetry workshop that includes people who have not written poetry, I find that asking them to concentrate on syllable-counts per line helps them to lose their apprehension about finding suitable words.  And here is a silly sample that illustrates that notion.

A syllable-snowball, growing layer by layer!

Filling my new coffee cup

     cup begins
     half full – I add
     more --  one-quarter-cup   
     to make three-fourths, one-eighth
     to reach seven-eighths, next add     
     one-sixteenth, and so on, never
     overflowing  --   almost, almost full.           

A syllable-snowball is a poem built from a sequence of lines whose whose syllable-counts increase (or decrease) by one from line to line.  Here is a link to the results of a blog-search that offers additional examples of snowballs. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

In the Space of Certain Dimensions

Browsing at I found this fascinating poem by Anne Tardos and she has give me permission to post it here.

     NINE, 40     by Anne Tardos

     Take a good look, she says about her inventory.
     Palatially housed, her inflammatory and multifaceted
          set of selves.
     Old brain inside the new brain, inside the skull.
     The exact velocity of quantum particles cannot be known.
     Like wave equations in the space of certain dimensions.
     I never thought that things would go this far.
     Angular momentum of closely-knit and sexually
         adventurous people.
     Any piece of matter, when heated, starts to glow.
     It’s that kind of relationship that’s built on friction.

The poem "NINE, 40" is included in Tardos' collection NINE (BlazeVOX Books, 2015).

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Mathematician, astronomer, poet -- and female

 An amazing woman -- Wang Zhenyi!

     In this article in April Magazine, we can learn of her achievements:     Born in 1768 in a family with educated scholars and lots of books, Wang Zhenyi transcended the barriers for female education and became an astronomer and mathematician, and one of the greatest scientists in Chinese history.   She applied her calculations skills to celestial movement and also to books that made calculations simple for beginners.  Her short life ended at age 29.

     Beyond her scientific achievements, Wang Zhenyi also was a poet; in their profiles of this outstanding scientist (There's a crater on Venus named for her!) both April Magazine and Wikipedia give sample stanzas;  here is one:

    It’s made to believe,
    Women are the same as Men;
    Are you not convinced,
    Daughters can also be heroic?

And here, in The Folding Chair is still more about Wang Zhenyi (and about other women "who weren't given a seat at the table.")

Monday, February 15, 2021

Measure the Skies

     Born around 1753, Phillis Wheatley was the first enslaved black poet in America to publish a book.  Here is a stanza from her poem, "On Imagination" -- found here at

           Imagination! who can sing thy force?
     Or who describe the swiftness of thy course?
     Soaring through air to find the bright abode,
     Th’ empyreal palace of the thund’ring God,
     We on thy pinions can surpass the wind,
     And leave the rolling universe behind:
     From star to star the mental optics rove,
     Measure the skies, and range the realms above.
     There in one view we grasp the mighty whole,
     Or with new worlds amaze th’ unbounded soul.
       . . .

Wheatley's poem “On Imagination” was published in Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral (A. Bell, 1773).  Born in West Africa, at the age of eight Phillis Wheatley was kidnapped, enslaved in New England, and sold to John Wheatley of Boston.  More about the short life (1753-1784) and achievements of this amazing person is available here at and here is a link to several more of her poems.

In poetry, as in mathematics, we celebrate Imagination!

Friday, February 12, 2021

Valentine Haiku

     Since 2011 February has been National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo); serious celebration of this event requires writing a Haiku each day;  for this year's Valentine's Day, I offer a mathy Covid-Valentine Haiku. 

LOVE has 4 letters --
2 for my hands, 2 for yours.
We wave, keep distant.

For the NaHaiWriMo blog, go here.

Find lots of MATHY VALENTINES by following this link
                                                         to the results of a blog SEARCH using the term "Valentine"

Thursday, February 11, 2021

A Math-Poetry Essay -- in the Time of Corona

     Springer Publishing is developing an e-book, Mathematics in the Time of Corona, an online collection of various reactions to the pandemic – due for release sometime in May 2021.  One of the chapters to be included is by me, “Counting Syllables, Shaping Poems:  Reflections”  and this 4-page essay of mine will be available for free online reading (and download) until the end of March at this link:  Counting Syllables, Shaping Poems: Reflections | SpringerLink.

Pandemic   (Haiku)

Exponential growth:
small numbers doubling quickly—
a world upended!

To explore other postings of Haiku in this blog, click on this link
A copy of the essay "Counting Syllables . . ." is also permanently available here.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Journal of Humanistic Mathematics -- new issue

      Recently released, Issue 1 of Volume 11 (2021) of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics;  in it Editors Mark Huber and Gizem Karaali have collected for us  a wonderful selection of articles -- including a work of fiction, a folder of teaching limericks, and the following very fine (and mathy) poems:

"Early Morning Mathematics Classes"     by Angelina Schenck

       "Proof Theory"      by Stan Raatz

"One Straight Line Addresses Another Traveling in the Same Direction 
     on an Infinite Plane
"       by Daniel W. Galef

       "Turing's Machine"      by Mike Curtis 

"Iterations of Emptying"      by Marian Christie 

Go here to JHM Volume 11 to explore, to enjoy!

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Poetry from a Math Professor in China

 Does our language shape our thoughts?

Professor Ya Shi – a pen name meaning “mute stone” – teaches university-level mathematics in his home province of Sichuan, China, AND he is also an award-winning poet; recently published is Floral Mutter (Zephyr Press, 2018) a bilingual collection that includes the poems in their original Chinese along translation of Ya Shi's work by by Nick Admussen, poet and Asian Studies professor at Cornell University.  Admussen's preface gives us background information about Ya Shi.  Here is his very fine "Sorrow Poem":

Sorrow Poem     by Ya Shi  (translated by Nick Admussen)

Today, on a day in May, a shattering noise. 
At the lakeside, the green mint asks me to sit and practice forgetting.

At the university where the golden snub-nosed monkey took a position,
everywhere the noise of chains, the noise of alphabet-letters.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Celebrate Black History with Poetry

     In February now, Black History Month, I look back to one of my favorite poets, Langston Hughes (1902-1967) and bring to you, again, one of his mathy poems: 

      Addition     by Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

     7 x 7 + love =
     An amount
     Infinitely above:
     7 x 7 − love.

 Hughes' poem "Addition" is found in Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics (A K Peters/CRC Press, 2008) and was first posted in this blog on February 20, 2011.

This link leads to results of a blog SEARCH for previous postings for "Black History Month."

Monday, February 1, 2021

What will the groundhog predict?

     Having grown up in western Pennsylvania, not far from Punxsutawney, I have long been interested in Groundhog Day -- on February 2, a legendary groundhog emerges from its burrow and predicts whether the current year will have an early spring.  This year I celebrate with a Fib, a stanza whose syllable counts follow the Fibonacci numbers:

       groundhog --
       tomorrow --
       see its shadow, doom
       us to six more weeks of winter?

Here is a link to a SEARCH list of previous blog postings for Groundhog Day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, January 27, is Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Looking for mathy poems to connect to this theme I found this posting at with lines by 1966 Nobelist Nelly Sachs (1891-1970) and Paul Celan (1920-1970).  Here is a sample of what is found there:

from Nelly Sachs, 

       The crooked line of suffering
       stumbling along the godfired
       geometry of the universe . . .

              from Paul Celan, "Draft of a Landscape,"

                    Circular graves, below.  In
                    four-beat time the year's pace on
                    the steep steps around them . . .

Read more at 

Let us remember . . . and resolve never to let such happen again . . .

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Fruits of Undefinitions

     The poem "Undefined Terms" by poet-mathematician Katharine O'Brien (1901-1986) is a favorite of mine from long ago that I re-found recently here . . . for greatest enjoyment, read it aloud.

Undefined Terms     by Katharine O'Brien

A point is a point, a line is a line,
   a rose is a rose is a rose.
We thus undefine in the manner of Stein
   some terms in unrhyme and unprose.  

On these as foundation we lay definitions,
   the girders for walls and a roof.
We assume some conditions to fit requisitions
   and build us a logical proof.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Inauguration Day Poem

 Read by Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman,
an inspiring Biden-inauguration poem, "The Hill We Climb."

" . . . we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us,
                                               but to what stands before us . . ."

" . . . we will never again sow division . . ."


Monday, January 18, 2021

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr

       Today as a nation we remember and pay tribute to Rev.  Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) -- Baptist minster, Civil Rights leader -- a brave man who was assassinated for his fearless and humanitarian views.  

Here are a few of his words.
          We must accept
          finite disappointment
          but never lose
          infinite hope.  
                                               Freedom is never
                                               voluntarily given
                                               by the oppressor;
                                               it must be demanded
                                               by the oppressed.

This link leads to previous posts in this blog that celebrate this hero

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Bridges Math-Arts Conference 2021

Learn more here: 

Since 2009, interested contributors from mathematics and various arts -- poetry, music, theater, visual art . . . -- have gathered at an annual Bridges conference to celebrate and deepen math-art connections.  Due to Covid-19 the 2020 conference was virtual but so far, with hope, the 2021 conference is planned as an in-person conference in Finland.  Connecticut mathematician Sarah Glaz has been active in coordinating poetry events for the conference and here is a link to her announcement of the poetry program at Bridges 2021 -- including links to biographical sketches and poems by each participating poet.  My own poem therein honors mathematician Emmy Noether.

Here is a link to several postings in this blog that celebrate math women.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Number Personalities . . .

      Sometimes our experiences with objects or ideas leads us to assign them personalities -- a notion illustrated in the poem "Zero," by Sue Owen, a poem that lives on my shelf in the anthology Verse and Universe:  Poems about Science and Mathematics, edited by Kurt Brown (Milkweed Editions, 1998), and offered below.

Zero     by Sue Owen

       This is the story of zero,
       born to live a life
       of emptiness, only
       child of plus and minus.

       Its bones invisible
       so it could be seen through
       like an eye.
       With that vision, you could      

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Poetic Mathy Quotes

      In India, National Mathematics Day is celebrated each year on December 22 -- the birthday of mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920).  A couple of weeks ago, as this day was celebrated in India, a list of quotes about mathematics included the following:

Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas -- Albert Einstein

An equation means nothing to me unless it expresses a thought of God -- Srinivasa Ramanujan

Without mathematics, there’s nothing you can do. Everything around you is mathematics. Everything around you is numbers — Shakuntala Devi

Some mathematician, I believe, has said that true pleasure lies not in the discovery of truth, but in the search for it -- Leo Tolstoy

Math is fun. It teaches you life and death information like when you’re cold, you should go to a corner since it’s 90 degrees there  — Anonymous

Previous mentions of Ramanujan in this blog can be found at this link.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Numbers and Faces, a math-poetry anthology

 Celebrating the NEW year with a collection of OLD favorites!

      Twenty years ago in 2001, supported by a grant from EXXONMOBIL, the Humanistic Mathematics Network published:

A Collection of Poems with Mathematical Imagery

This collection of 24 poems (which I edited) is out of print but is available here (as a pdf).  A screenshot of the Table of Contents appears below:

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Doomsday Rule

     My recently posted mention of Tristian Bangert's poem about John Horton Conway (1937-2020) sent me looking through my files for materials related to Conway's visit to Pennsylvania's Bloomsburg University in 1993.  During that visit, Conway entertained students with his explanation of the Doomsday Rule -- for calculating the day-of-the-week that corresponds to a particular date -- and I tried to capture his message (a lengthy one) in the following stanzas:

On What Day of the Week Were You Born?   

by JoAnne Growney

These lines were inspired by John H. Conway's presentation, "Calendar Calisthenics and Calculations," at Bloomsburg University on January 26, 1993.

A man that I met
named Conway, said "Why?"
should the hard be hard
when the hard can be easy
with just a bit of effort.    

Monday, December 28, 2020

Geometry Personalities

 When a triangle talks to a square, what does she say?

Among my favorites of mathy poems are poems by Guillevic (1907-1997) -- in which the poet gives personalities to mathematical objects -- and many of these are available in Geometries, Englished by Richard Sieburth, Ugly Duckling Presse Ltd., Brooklyn, NY; 2010.

Here, from the August, 1970 issue of Poetry Magazine is Guillevic's "Parallels" -- one of four of his poems translated from French by Teo Savory and  published there.

Searching this blog for previous connections to work by Guillevic 
leads to this link to a list of posts.