Monday, November 11, 2019

Mathematics -- something useful ... or beautiful ...

     I offer a sample below from a poem by Jane Hirshfield entitled "Mathematics" and invite you to go here to read the entire poem -- and to reflect on it.  What does the poem say that is true about mathematics?

from Mathematics     by Jane Hirshfield

          I've envied those 
          who make something 
          useful, sturdy— or
          a chair, a pair of boots.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Try it -- you'll like it -- write an ACROSTIC poem!

     When solving problems in mathematics, the constraints that are imposed on the solution often are helpful in solving it. As a simple example, if we are given the lengths of  the two shorter sides in a scalene triangle, the problem becomes easily solvable if we know that the triangle is a right triangle.
     Poets also often find constrains helpful in shaping their words into special meaning.  For example, the rhythm and rhyme scheme of the poetry-pattern called a sonnet have led to many notable poems.  In this blog, in earlier postings, we have celebrated the FIB -- a six line poem whose syllable-counts obey the Fibonacci numbers. A popular form of poetry for calling attention to a particular idea is an ACROSTIC poem -- a poem in which the first (or other) letters of each line spell out a word or phrase.  Here is my sample:  MATH POEMS HELP US SEE.   

     M     My
     T      teacher

Monday, November 4, 2019

Weaving mathematics into poetry . . .

     José Alan Esparza Lozano is from the border region of Ciudad Juárez, México and El Paso, Texas -- and traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he graduated in 2019 from MIT with a BS in mathematics. Currently he is an award-winning graduate student in Santiago, Chile -- and he has a book of math-linked poems which I have much enjoyed reading (and from which I offer one of my favorites below).
    Lozano's poetry collection is called Chrysalis and Self -- and print copies are available at -- moreover, if you are interested, you may contact the poet about the possibility of obtaining an electronic copy. Here, from page 36, is "Manywhere" -- and the poem is followed by a note from the end-of-book note that offers explanation of the mathematics contained therein:

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Math-Poetry at JMM in Denver --January 2020

Deadline, November 12 -- Math-Poetry Contest for Colorado students
More details here in this blog-posting and 
here at the American Mathematical Society website.
Winners will read at the 2020 Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM)
on January 18 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

Deadline November 15:  details below about how to sign up to participate 
in a JMM poetry reading on the evening of January 17 -- 
also at the Denver Convention Center.

    Continuing a math-meetings tradition, math poets will gather at JMM for an MAA Special Presentation: An Evening of Poetry -- this upcoming program will be on Friday, January 17,  7–8:30 pm, in Room 503 of the Colorado Convention Center.  In 2020, we want especially to feature poetry with a focus on how math can help unify us and improve our world.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Celebrate Halloween with counting rhymes . . .

Halloween, Halloween, strangest sights I've ever seen . . .

Three Little Witches

One little, two little, three little witches
Fly over haystacks, fly over ditches,   

Monday, October 28, 2019

A pleasing permutation of lines -- the Villanelle

     A villanelle is a 19-line French verse form -- with lines divided into five three-line stanzas and a final quatrain -- a poem in which the first and third lines each appear four times.  This thoughtful repetition of lines, each time in a somewhat different context, is very pleasing -- and reminds me of the varied situations in which many mathematical models also are effective
     Well-known villanelles include “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas, and Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.” (And here is a link to this blog's offerings of villanelles.)   Below are the opening stanzas of a fine villanelle by Emily Grosholz; the entire poem is included in an article in The Mathematical Intelligencer, "Figures of Speech and Figures of Thought" (available here).  The article -- written by Emily Rolfe Grosholz and Edward Rothstein -- is based on an interview of Grosholz at New York City's Poets House and celebrates her book Great Circles -- The Transits of Mathematics and Poetry (Springer, 2018).  

from  Holding Pattern     by Emily Rolfe Grosholz   

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Playing with permutations of the nouns of a poem

     Founded in 1960, OULIPO  (short for French: Ouvroir de littérature potentielle) has been active in the exploration of the effects of constraints or arbitrary rules  in the production of literature.  
          Developed in the 13th century, the sonnet 
                   (with 14 lines, 10 syllables per line and a prescribed rhyme scheme) 
                       is a well-known member of these "constrained" forms.  The Haiku is another.
     Published in 2005, the Oulipo Compendium, Revised and Updated (edited by Harry Mathews and Alastair Brioche, Make Now Press, Los Angeles) contains definitions and examples of a large variety of rule-following writing.  On page 173 we find some interesting comments about language by French poet Jean Lescure (1912-2005):
     " . . . Lescure remarks that we frequently have the impression 
          that language in itself  'has something to say' and that nowhere 
          is this impression more evident than in its possibilities for permutation.  
          They are enough to teach us that to listen we must be silent
          enough to transform a well-oiled bicycle into a well-boiled icicle."   

Monday, October 21, 2019

Poems and Primes

     Recently Press 53 offered a "Prime 53 Poem" poetry challenge -- to write a poem meeting these conditions:
     ·      Total syllable count of 53
     ·      Eleven total lines 
     ·      First three stanzas are three lines each with a 7 / 5 / 3 syllable count 
     ·      Final stanza must be two lines with a 5 / 3 syllable count, for a total syllable count of 53
     ·      Rhyme scheme (slant/soft rhymes are fine) aba cdc efe gg
A Prime 53 poem’s total line count is a prime number (11), the syllable count in each line is a prime number (7 / 5 / 3) with each line of the last two-line stanza a prime number (5 / 3), and the poem’s total syllable count is a prime number (53).

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Small and large -- poetic views . . .

     A favorite on my bookshelves is The Book of Disquiet: the Complete Edition by Fernando Pessoa*.  Here is a math-poetic item from this "diary" by Pessoa:

     In a discussion about how a village may be larger than a city 
          because you can see more of the world there  -- Pessoa quotes (on p. 241) 
               these lines from Alberto Caeiro, one of his writing personas: 

                 Because I am the size of what I see
                 And not the size of my own stature.

     These lines are from Millimeters (the observation of infinitesimal things),
          on pp. 67-69: 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Using poetry to open dialogues with science . . .

     Recently I have obtained a copy of Sam Illingworth's book, A Sonnet to Science:  scientists and their poetry (Manchester University Press, 2019)  -- a collection of essays-with-poems that features these six scientist-poets:  Humphrey Davy, Ada Lovelace, James Clerk Maxwell, Ronald Ross, Miroslav Holub, and Rebecca Elson.  
       A dust-jacket blurb describes the author:  
            Sam Illingworth is a Senior Lecturer in Science Communication, where his work involves
                   using poetry to develop dialogues between scientists and non-scientists
                   especially amongst traditionally under-served and under-represented communities. 
             Illingworth also is a poet -- with a poem-a-week-blog available at this link.
From Rebecca Elson (1960-1999), an astronomer and poet whose life was cut short by cancer, we have these math-linked lines (written in 1998 and on page 168 of A Sonnet to Science):

     Is there any language, logic
     Any algebra where death is not
     The tragedy it seems   

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Math modeling is poetry . . .

      Jennifer Pazour is a professor the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at  Rensselaer Polytecnic Institute and is, like me, a blogger.  Recently I discovered in her blog this 2014 posting that modifies a description of poetry by poet Geoffrey Orr to compare poetry with mathematical modelling.   First, a brief poem that for me illustrates the mathematical nature of the poetry of Orr -- followed by Pazour's poetry-math-modeling comparison.

       Manhattan Island Poem    by Gregory Orr

       Thin river woman with a concrete star
       wedged in her ear. I wrap
       a blue scarf of old movies around my eyes.
       At night I am a jar of fireflies dying.                   found at 

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Cube of the Rainbow

     Later this week a scheduled screening (in nearby Takoma Park, MD) of a film about Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) has prompted me to return to some rereading of Dickinson's verse -- which is occasionally mathematical.   For example:

       We shall find the Cube of the Rainbow     by Emily Dickinson

       We shall find the Cube of the Rainbow.
       Of that there is no doubt.
       But the Arc of a Lover's conjecture
       Eludes the finding out.

The stanza above is found in many places; my source is Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics, ed. by S Glaz and JA Growney (AK Peters/CRC Press, 2008).  This link leads to previous postings of Dickinson's work in this blog.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

"My number is . . ."

    More than twenty years ago I found and admired Montana poet Sandra Alcosser's poem, "My Number" (included in Except by Nature, Graywolf, 1998) -- and I included it in a small anthology, Numbers and Faces, that I edited; (published in 2001 by the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics).  "My Number" also has more recently also been included in Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics  (Edited by Glaz and Growney: AK Peters/CRC Press, 2008).

My Number     by Sandra Alcosser
I’m linked with the fate of the world’s disasters 
and only have a little freedom to live or die.
My number is small.  An hundred pounds of water,
A quart of salt.  Her digit is a garment.

I wear her like a shadow.  We judge each other,
My number and I.  She is the title.  The license.

The cash drawer.  My random number.
She protects me from myself.  She desires me.

She says she’s only one of thirty million species.
She wishes she were more than anecdotal evidence.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Personalities in Mathematics . . .

     For those of us who spend time in the World of Mathematics, numbers and other mathematical objects often develop personalities.   Previous posts have featured poems by the French poet, Guillevic, whose verses animate geometric objects.  Today I offer (below) a photo of  "Glum Circles" -- found in the imaginative collection, Lyrical Diagrams   -- with prose poems by David Greenslade and images by Carolina Vasquez (Shearsman Books, 2012).

An online sample of the first 17 pages of Lyrical Diagrams is available here as a pdf.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Articles that link math and poetry . . .

Below I offer links to two articles that I rediscovered recently. 
     The first is a National Geographic Education Blog posting from 2018, "How Math and Poetry Intersect" (an article for which I found no author named).  This article offers a variety of activities for students.
     The second article comes from The American Scholar, way back in 2009 -- a thoughtful article by Joel E, Cohen entitled "A Mindful Beauty:  what poetry and applied mathematics have in common" -- an article also mentioned in this 2010 blog posting.  

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Sing a Song of Mathematics . . .

     One of the long-term supporters of links between mathematics and the arts is Douglas Norton -- a mathematics professor at Villanova University and very active in the Special Interest Group of the MAA (SIGMAA)  that celebrates Mathematics and the Arts.  
     Doug Norton also is a song-writer and often has participated in music activities at the Bridges Math-Art Conferences.  Here is a sample of his math-art lyrics:

     Take A Chance On Me   by Doug Norton

     If you change your mind and want two combined,
     Don’t do Math alone:
     Join the Math Art zone.
     If you do Art, let me know, spread some Math around.
     If you’ve got no place to go with an upper bound,
     Math or Art alone feeling monotone?
     Do as we condone:
     Join the Math Art zone.  

Monday, September 16, 2019

Beautiful algebra -- a Haiku

     One of my recent discoveries has been the POEM GENERATOR website at  In particular, I have used it to help me to generate Haiku to celebrate special birthdays.  Typically, the generator offers me a Haiku that does not quite satisfy me -- and I tweak it a bit.  STILL, the website deserves most of the credit -- for it has given me a basis to mold.  This morning, I have used the site to help me generate a math-Haiku:

          Beautiful - A Haiku   by  and JoAnne

             Abstract algebra --
         creations beautiful, so
           useful, breathtaking.

Friday, September 13, 2019

"Creation Myth on a Moebius Band"

Found at this site, several MINIMS -- brief,thought-provoking poems by Howard Nemerov (1920-1991).  This one deftly uses the mathematical Moebius Band:

          Creation Myth on a Moebius Band    by Howard Nemerov

          This world’s just mad enough to have been made
          By the Being His beings into Being prayed.

This poet frequently used mathematics in his poems.  Here is a link to previous Nemerov postings in this blog.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Colorado Math-Poetry Contest -- deadline 11-12-19

The American Mathematical Society is sponsoring  a  math-poetry contest  
 for middle school, high school, and undergraduate students in Colorado 
(deadline Nov. 12, 2019) with winning poems to be read January 18, 2020
at the Joint Mathematics Meetings at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.
 Information about contest entry is available here.  

     Last year a similar contest was held in Maryland, with winning student-poems (see poster) read  Jan. 19, 2019 in Baltimore.  And now, for students in Colorado:
          your pen.
          Think of ways
          that math is magic.
          Shape your words into a poem!

The stanza above is a Fib -- with syllables per line counted by the first six Fibonacci numbers.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Is TWO more than ONE?

     A poetry friend reminded me recently via email of the poetry of Shel Silverstein (1930-1999) -- both humorous and provocative.  The emailed poem was "Zebra Question" and it employs the strategy so often considered in mathematics -- in testing the truth of a statement, consider also the opposite.   Silverstein's "Zebra Question" opens with these lines:

       I asked the Zebra,
       Are you black with white stripes?
       Or white with black stripes?
       And the zebra asked me,
       Are you good with bad habits?
       Or are you bad with good habits?     

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Poems of Mathematics -- recalling some old posts

     Today I have been browsing some old posts, and offer below a few links to remind us of mathy poems posted in this blog more than five years ago

     “Compromise” by Charles S Allen     
           “Give Me an Epsilon and I Will Treat It Well” by Ray Bobo 
     “The Icosasphere” by Marianne Moore   
          “Mandelbrot Set” by Jonathan Coulton 
     “Numbers”  by JoAnne Growney (a syllable-snowball) 
          “Numerical Landscape” by Eveline Pye 
     “Talking Big” by John Bricuth 
         “Zito the Magician” by Miroslav Holub  
     "Gaps" by Philip Holmes

AND, please go on to SEARCH this blog for lots more poems by Eveline Pye and Miroslav Holub -- and for other names that you find listed in the right-hand column (under Labels . . .).

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Is this Fib true?

     true that
     among folks
     not anchored to math
     by study or career choice, more
     people show delight in being poor at math than good ?

The lines above have syllable counts that follow the first seven Fibonacci numbers: 1,1,2,3,5,8,13.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Enrich Mathematics Classes with Poems

    In my mathematics classrooms, I have found it a challenge to include the history and spirit of mathematics -- and its people -- along with the math topics to be covered.  Because I love poetry -- and also write some -- I gradually became aware of poems that could enrich my classes and I began to incorporate poetry in outside readings and essay topics and class discussions.

Here are links to poems that introduce the lives of four math-women:
     Sophie Germain (1776-1831)
     Florence Nightingale  (1820-1910)
     Amalie "Emmy" Noether  (1882-1935)
     Grace Murray Hopper (1906 - 1988)
And here is a poem about four influential teachers of mine; three of them math-people; three of them women.

Math Anxiety can be a hard topic for student or teacher to bring up -- but airing of views and healing might come from discussion.  Poems to consider include: 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The personal becomes mathematical -- in poetry

     Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) used counting in her description of love in her sonnet that begins "How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways."  Contemporary artist, poet, and retired math professor Sandra DeLosier Coleman finds relationships a bit more complicated -- and builds her description in the poem below on the square root of two.

       Between You and the Root of Two     by Sandra DeLozier Coleman

       I have less chance of knowing you
       than of writing out the root of two.
       How e're I start, it never ends,
       exploring how love lies, pretends.   

Monday, August 26, 2019

Counting the Women . . .

     Sometimes a professional group or a meeting-agenda or a table of contents contains so few women's names that they are easily counted.  In this syllable-square stanza, I praise the absence of that condition: 

     This stanza and others with similar attitude appear in "Give Her Your Support" -- a poetry-page published recently in Math Horizons.  For the entire collection, follow this link.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Journal of Humanistic Mathematics--a TREASURE

     Online and available FREE, the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics is a wonderful source of poems and stories and articles that connect mathematics to life.  Thanks to editors Mark Huber and Gizem Karaali who lead the effort to bring us new issues each January and July.  Here is a link to the Table of Contents for the July 2019 issue.   Included in this issue is a thoughtful article by Sarah Mayes-Tang entitled "Telling Women's Stories:  A Resource for College Mathematics Instructors" -- and, related to this, here is a link to postings in this blog found using a SEARCH for "mathematics and women and poem."  (Scroll down the list of postings to find individual poems.)
     This current issue of JHM also offers a selection of five poems and also a folder with insightful reflections in both prose and poetry -- "A Life of Equations Shifting to a Life of Words" by Thomas Willemain.

Follow the links.  And enjoy!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Celebrating Paul Erdos

     One of the most interesting and productive mathematicians of all time was Paul Erdos (1913-1996).  He was author of more than 1416 papers, and his name became associated with a labeling process for mathematicians, an idea called the Erdos Number.  A mathematician who co-authored a paper with Erdos could claim Erdos Number 1.  A mathematician who co-authored with a co-author of Erdos had Erdos Number 2.  And so on.  
     Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya (one of the poets at the 2019 Bridges MathArts  Conference) has written a wonderful poem to celebrate Erdos;  I offer below the central stanza of Bonch-Osmolovskaya's poem; the complete poem is available here.

from:   Paul Erdos     by Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya

          he inhaled and exhaled mathematics   

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Poetry and Science

     Originally from Scotland, Alice Major is a celebrated Canadian poet whose work often focuses on key ideas in mathematics and science. (Visit her website for lots of links.)  The following lines of Major's verse appear in the Canadian magazine Prairie Fire (offering Major's presentation in the Anne Szumigalski lecture series entitled "Scansion and Science"); they are taken from Major's latest collection, Welcome to the Anthropocene."  Enjoy this sample, then follow the links and read much more:

 . . . poetry by Alice Major . . .

Also from Welcome to the Anthropocene, Major's poem  "Zero divided by zero" is available at this link here in my blog "Intersections -- Poetry with Mathematics" -- and a blog-search leads to lots more of her work.

Monday, August 5, 2019

A visual poem -- Decision tree

From Norwegian math-poet Mike Naylor, this fascinating visual poem. 
(Thanks, Mike -- from JoAnne Growney -- for permission to post.)

Naylor presented this poem at the 2019 BRIDGES Math-Art conference
More information about the poets and poems for the 2019 BRIDGES Poetry reading is available here.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Recursion . . . in a life . . . in a poem . . .

     The New Yorker offers a rich variety of poetry and in their print issue of 22 July 2019 they give a poem that I love:  "Sentence" -- by Tadeusz Dabroswski  (translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones) plays with two meanings of the word "sentence" and also embodies the concept of recursion -- so important in mathematics.  Below I offer the opening lines; at this link may be found the entire poem (both a print version and an audio recording).

Sentence     by Tadeusz Dąbrowski

It’s as if you’d woken in a locked cell and found
in your pocket a slip of paper, and on it a single sentence
in a language you don’t know.   

Monday, July 29, 2019

What is beauty? Is mathematics beautiful?

     My thoughts have been turned to the beauty of mathematics by stumbling onto a very fine article, "Beauty Bare: The Sonnet Form, Geometry and Aesthetics," by Matthew Chiasson and Janine Rogers -- published in 2009 in the Journal of Literature and Science and available online here.
      The article opens with this quote from A Mathematician's Apology (see p. 14) by G. H. Hardy:       Beauty is the first test:  there is no permanent place 
                                                   in the world for ugly mathematics.

Today I'm puzzling over what "beauty" means . . .   

Thursday, July 25, 2019

As in mathematics--a lot in a few words--in Haiku

     Recently on a visit to the website Singapore Math I found dozens of "mathematical" Haiku -- and I offer several below.   Still more Haiku may be found at "The Republic of Mathematics" (a blog curated by Gary E. Davis), including a link to Haiku by Daniel Mathews.
     Haiku are three-line poems that often -- but not always -- conform to a 5-7-5 syllable count.  With their brevity they often resemble mathematics in that they have condensed a large amount of meainng into a few words.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Mathematicians are not just white dudes . . .

     Recently I found the wonderfully informative website arbitrarily close: musings on math and teaching -- my first visit to the site was to this 2016 posting about "The Mathematician's Project" -- a project and posting that offers lots of resources and links to introduce us to female mathematicians, black mathematicians, and more . . . 
     The following lines are from a puzzle-poem by mathematician-poet Benjamin Banneker -- a non-white dude; the sample has been obtained from a website that celebrates Banneker -- a website compiled by Washington, DC high school teacher John Mahoney.  These lines come from Puzzle 5:

A snip from a puzzle by Benjamin Banneker

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Math-Poetry -- Linz, Austria -- 07/19/2019

     On Friday, July 19, 2-4 PM at the 2019 Bridges Math-Arts Conference in Linz, Austria will be a Reading of Mathematical Poetry that features these poets:

Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya 
     Susan Gerofsky
          Emily Grosholz 
               Lisa Lajeunesse 
                    Marco Lucchesi 
                         Iggy McGovern 
                               Mike Naylor and
                                   Eveline Pye 
reading mathy selections from their work.

And here is a sample of the stanzas you will enjoy at the reading -- from "First Test" by Marco Lucchesi, translated from the Portuguese by Renato Rezende:  

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

An Ode to Mathematics

     One of the math-poets that I have met through this blog is Foteck Ivota, a mathematics teacher in the Cameroon.  In an email message, Ivota has offered this point of view:
       I love poetry too so much and I believe poetry  can be used as a means of making students love and develop interest in mathematics. As teachers of this beautiful subject we face a lot of challenges to make students perceive maths as easy and down to earth.   
     Ivota also has shared several poems with me; here is one of them:

      An Ode to Mathematics     by Foteck Ivota

       Your merits, maths, many may miss
       And in ignorance may dismiss
       Marvelous Maths that is life,
       Believing that all is strife.

                 Maths for you and Maths for me,
                 Maths, Maths and Maths for all,
                 Maths, Maths for everything.    

Monday, July 15, 2019

Mother-daughter geometry -- in poetry . . .

     Last week (July 9) was the birthday of my mother -- and, although her body lies in a grave, her spirit continues to dance (and to both inform and confuse me).  Recently published in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics (January 2019 issue) this poem by Jenny Patton -- a creative writing teacher at Ohio State University and a wellness coach -- has been provoking my memories. 

       Geometry of Night     by Jenny Patton

       In three-dimensional Euclidean space,

       lines in a plane that do not meet are parallel.

       My beautiful aunt loved to sleep, blogs

       my insomniac cousin about my mother
       who went to her parallel life every night.

       Those studying Playfair’s axiom note the

       constant distance between parallel lines. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Euler's Vision -- in Verse

      Scheduled to be read at the Mathematical Association of Victoria's annual conference in December of this year is a poetical choral piece for eight voices entitled "Euler's Vision" -- composed by Tom Petsinis -- a Melbourne writer (poet, playwright, and novelist) and mathematician.  Here are the opening lines:
From "Euler's Vision" by Tom Petsinis

Monday, July 8, 2019

Visual Poetry -- Newton's Third Law

     One of the long-term and talented producers and advocates of mathematical visual poetry is Kaz Maslanka; his long-term mathematical-poetry blog is found here.  Maslanka is a featured participant in The Film and Video Poetry Society's 2019 program.  On Saturday, August 3, in Pasadena, CA, Maslanka will offer a presentation entitled "Mathematics and Digital Art."  In addition, work by Maslanka on display (July 11 - August 3) at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art.  Kaz has sent me this photo of one of his featured (backlit) images:

Newton's Third Law in Karmic Warfare
by Kazmier Maslanka

Digital painting displayed as a Duratrans

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Fighting the heat -- with limericks!

     Brief poems with strict patterns -- like the FIB and the LIMERICK -- are often used to convey mathy messages.  Recently this limerick caught my eye (found at

       Heated Limerick     by Madeleine Begun Kane

       One-hundred degrees? I may swoon.
       Yes, I’m singing a very hot tune.
       And I’m down in the mouth
       Cuz this isn’t the south,
       But Bayside, New York — early June.

At her long-standing and encyclopedic website,, Kane offers lots more limericks -- and instructions for writing a limerick --  and also math-humor.  

     A wonderful source of math-humor and limericks is Ben Orlin's site, "Math with Bad Drawings."  Here is a sample:

A limerick for mathematicians -- by Ben Orlin

This next clever limerick -- originally first posted in this blog back in March 2010,  has been attributed to Leigh Mercer:  

A clever computational limerick -- by Leigh Mercer

To find limericks previously posted in this blog, use the SEARCH box in the right-hand column OR follow this link.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Out of Nothing -- A Strange New Universe

     Shashi Thutupalli is a scientist -- in Bangalore, India -- who enjoys poetry and often explores the connections between poetry and mathematics.   He has shared with me several samples of his work and I offer below the opening page (of three) of Thutupalli's poem, "Out of Nothing I Have Created a Strange New Universe."  (The full poem, together with artwork, is available in Visual Verse -- at this link.)

Page 1 of 3  -- the entire poem is found here at

Also in Visual Verse is Thutupalli's "Dimensional Reduction' -- at this link

Monday, June 24, 2019

Counting to seventy . . .

    I am exited by last week's news that Oklahoma poet-- and member of the Muskogee Nation -- Joy Harjo has been appointed Poet Laureate of the United States.  Harjo came to poetry via music and she sees in poetry a way of making connections and building understanding.  
     Struggling through complexity to understanding is a similarity between poetry and mathematics. Beyond that basic connection, however, Harjo's poetry is not closely linked to mathematics.  EXCEPT:  One of her poems (found online at follows a strict syllable count.  In a birthday tribute to a friend who has turned seventy, Harjo has produced a seventy-line poem in which the syllable counts proceed as 1, 2, 3, 4, . . . , 69, 70. (In the terminology of OULIPO, Harjo has produced a growth-only snowball.)   Here are the opening lines of Harjo's poem:

from Becoming Seventy     by Joy Harjo
                    Knoxville, December 27, 2016, for Marilyn Kallet’s 70th birthday.
                    This poem was constructed to carry any memory you want to hold close.
     when the days
     grew legs of night.  

Friday, June 21, 2019

Connecting with BRIDGES . . .

     Bridges Math-Arts Conferences have become an annual summer tradition and this year's conference is July 16-20 in Linz, Austria.  One of the participants in this year's Mathematical Poetry Program is University of British Columbia Professor Susan Gerofsky -- and I offer her "Desert Poem" below.  Gerofsky's poem was constructed using a permutation pattern called PH4 (from bell-ringing) and an explanation follows the poem.

               Desert Poem     by Susan Gerofsky

               Wings over dry land
               Over wings, land dry
               Over land, wings dry
               Land over dry wings
               Land dry over wings
               Dry land wings over
               Dry wings land over
               Wings dry over land --
               Wings over dry land.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Love, marriage, and number . . .

     Australian poet Richard Scutter has online collection of his own poems (this link leads to a chronological listing) and of favorite poems (go to this link and scroll down) by himself and others.  Here are samples:

        Marriage Mathematics

        each one bending
        to a heavenly plus
        couple greater value
                   1 + 1 = 3 + ...      

         ... and serious if a series starts
        but the minus of hell
        when one leaves  
                   2 – 1 = 0                          

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Solve a puzzle -- find a poem!

     At Canada's Capilano University, Lisa Lajeunesse teaches in mathematics in the School of STEM -- and is an enthusiastic promoter of links between mathematics and the arts.  At the 2018 Bridges Math-Arts Conference she presented this paper on "Poetry Puzzles"; a sample puzzle is offered below.
                              Place 2 or 4 or 1 or 3
                              in each cell that is free.
                              When you finish each number should show
                              once in each column and once in each row.
                                                  When you've filled in each cell --
                                                  all the numbers are there --
                                                  you can then read the poem
                                                  from your solved square.   

Monday, June 10, 2019

Sailboat Mathematics

     Celebrated on June 2 at the Joaquin Miller Poetry Series Washington DC's Rock Creek Nature Center, poetry by winners of the  Jacklyn Potter Young Poets Competition, sponsored by The Word Works, Inc.  One of these winners, Julien Berman, is a student at Georgetown Day School and a prize winning writer and accomplished violinist AND a member of the GDS Math team.
     Here is Julien's winning poem:

Sailboat Mathematics     by Julien Berman

A stretched canvas tarp
Not ungainly in style, but again not cut in a perfect polygon.
A wooden beam or two
Slung upwards and out, at ninety degrees.     

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Have fun with "The Pi Song"

     Often we celebrate the number pi -- ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, an infinite non-repeating decimal that begins with 3.1415926535 8979323846 2643383279 . . ..  Pi is a bridge between day-to-day mathematics that nearly all of us know and mathematics that is complex and difficult. 
     My own celebration of Pi includes these earrings -- but I have friends and former colleagues in the Bloomsburg University Department of Mathematics and Digital Sciences that celebrate Pi in a far more entertaining way -- in song.  Here is a link to the YouTube version of "The Pi Song" with lyrics by Bill Calhoun and Kevin Ferland and performed by "Professor Parody (Kevin Ferland).  Performance credits are found here.  And here is a link to some more details about the song.
Here is a link to a previous posting with more mathy song lyrics by Bill Calhoun.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Celebrating Walt Whitman . . .

     Last Friday -- May 31, 2019 -- was the 200th anniversary of the birth of American poet, Walt Whitman and the website of the Academy of American Poets offers poems by Whitman and background information to enrich our celebration.  Here, from his oft-revised-and-expanded Leaves of Grass (Signet Classics, 1960), is a poem -- "When I heard the learn'd astronomer" -- with mention of mathematics.  (Much of Whitman's work is available online here at Project Gutenberg.)

     WHEN I heard the learn'd astronomer
     When the proofs, the figures, were ranged before me,
     When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, 
               and measure them,