Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Zero is three!

     February's second weekend was a busy one with the AWP Writer's conference in downtown Washington, DC -- and one of the special treats of that weekend was browsing the Book Fair, renewing connections and finding special books.  One of my great finds was the bilingual collection of Jean Cocteau's Grace Notes (The Word Works, 2017), translated by Mary-Sherman Willis.  Cocteau surely is a challenge for translators as he plays with with connections between disparate images; in the poem I offer below I much enjoyed the mathy connections -- person and number, three and zero, triangle and oval, and so on.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Geometry of Poetry

     Some poems lie around for A LONG TIME waiting for me to pick them up.  Or I pick them up and put them down in a special place and then place something else on top of them.  Such is the case with Janet Kirchheimer's "The Geometry of Poetry" -- several years ago Janet and I corresponded and then I didn't follow through with posting her poem.  And now, this week, I am working on a paper for Bridges 2017 -- a math-arts conference to be held in Waterloo, Ontario at the end of July -- and my working title is the same as the title of Janet's poem.  AND, this coincidence helped me to FIND her poem to give you to enjoy.
     I first read "The Geometry of Poetry" by Janet R. Kirchheimer online in Poemeleon -- and her work also has appeared in many other journals, anthologies and websites. She is currently producing AFTER, a film that explores poetry written about the Holocaust.  Thanks, Janet, for this poem with its mathy comparisons.
The Geometry of Poetry    by Janet R. Kirchheimer  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

An old link but a GOOD one!

     Today I have been working on some ideas for a paper for the 2017 BRIDGES Math-Arts Conference and I have needed to refer back to an old paper of mine, "Mathematics in Poetry," that I wrote for MAA's JOMA more than 10 years ago -- a survey article that introduces a variety of viewpoints and examples.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Infinite

     On page 53 of the February 6 issue of The New Yorker I recently found and enjoyed a poem entitled "The Infinite" by Charles Simic.  Here are its opening lines:

     The infinite yawns and keeps yawning.
     Is it sleepy?
     Does it miss Pythagoras?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Love and Mathematics -- and Valentine's Day

     Perhaps you need a love poem for a mathematician, or about a mathematician -- you might enter the words love and mathematician in the search box to the right and find what this blog has to offer.  And here is a link to previous postings that celebrate Valentine's Day.  Enjoy!!

Read it (math OR poem) more than once . ..

     Recently my poet-friend, Millicent Borges Accardi, sent me a copy of her latest book, Only More So (Salmon Poetry, 2016).  She mentioned a poem entitled "The Night of Broken Glass" for its mathematics -- indeed it includes several numbers as it movingly describes attempts at normalcy amid the horrors of urban attack; and it ends with this stanza :

      The essential business of living well
      Continues in shock waves
      That fall into the ground of innocent
      People, triggered inside a soul
      Of nothingness that pretended
      To solve an impossible equation.

     My favorite poem in Accardi's collection is "Amazing Grace" which I give you below.   It is a poem that, like an intriguing piece of mathematics, I have read, and read again, and again . ..  each time getting more meaning than the time before.
     For me, one of the similarities of poetry and math is their density, the need for several readings -- for reading both aloud and silently, for reading with pencil and paper for note-taking, for reading in the library and at the kitchen table, sitting or standing.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Like James Baldwin - refuse labels!

     Last Sunday evening -- instead of watching Super Bowl LI -- in a crowded theater in downtown Silver Spring I watched the recently-released documentary "I Am Not Your Negro," narrated using words of writer James Baldwin (1924-1986).  Baldwin was a contrarian, he avoided or contradicted labels and categories.
     One of my favorite quotes -- that I see as intimately related to discovery in mathematics (from Hungarian-American Nobelist, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1893-1986)) -- applies also to Baldwin:

                     Discovery is seeing
                     what everybody else has seen, and thinking 
                     what nobody else has thought.

And here, from Jimmy's Blues & Other Poems (Beacon Press, 2014) is Baldwin's little poem "Imagination" which captures the same sort of mind-play that occurs with mathematics.   

Monday, February 6, 2017

Celebrate Francis Su

     In this morning's email I got a link (Thanks, Greg Coxson!) to this story that celebrates the talented mathematician and compassionate human being, Francis SuDr Su (of Harvey Mudd College) has recently completed a term as president of the Mathematical Association of America.  Here is a link to Dr Su's retiring presidential address -- for which he received a standing ovation.  Read.  Learn.  Admire.  Celebrate.  Imitate!
     Scrolling down in this blog to my posting for January 11, 2017 will lead you to links to several poems that celebrate mathematicians. And a blog-SEARCH using "mathematician" will find even more such poems.  Enjoy!

       A thorough advocate in a just cause, 
             a penetrating mathematician facing the starry heavens, 
                   both alike bear the semblance of divinity.
                                                                     -- Goethe (1749-1832)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Groundhog Day 2017

      My scan of this morning's Washington Post did not find a mention of today's important status as Groundhog Day -- and I am worried that perhaps the new President 45 has banned these useful creatures.  If you wish, you may search this blog for postings related to Groundhog Day and, if you do, you can get these results.  Enjoy!

January 2017 and prior -- titles and dates of 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. 

Jan 31  Life is Short
Jan 29  Girls can do EVERYTHING!
Jan 26  Ultimately, all mathematics is poetry . . .
Jan 23  All Mathematicians are Equal!
Jan 19  Dickens, from A Tale of Two Cities
Jan 16  Celebrate Martin Luther King
Jan 11  Poems starring mathematicians
Jan  6   2017 is prime!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Life is Short

     These recent days in the reign of the 45th US President have given new drama to the word survival.  Looking for wisdom I revisited this poem, a survival-poem with a couple of numbers -- by Maggie Smith -- found at one of my favorite sources for poetry, PoetryFoundation.org.

Good Bones       by Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Girls can do EVERYTHING!

     In a conversation years ago with one my math colleagues at Bloomsburg University,  each of us learned that the other had grown up on a farm.  My colleague credited the problem-solving requirements of farm-life with being good training for mathematics. In time, I came to agree with him.  Some environments EXPECT you to be a problem-solver and, in spite of yourself, you comply.  I have tried to write poetically about this.  My efforts so far include these 3x3 syllable-square poems.

Girls who change                              
light-bulbs change                             
everything!                             

     Girls who prove
     theorems can
     do it all!

     And, here is a link to a recent NPR story about the underestimates that girls make about how smart they are -- so little has changed since I was a girl.  Hoping I can help to change things for my granddaughters!


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ultimately, all mathematics is poetry . . .

     A popular vote on the truth of "all mathematics is poetry" might not lead to its affirmation. Because mathematics is a concise language, with emphasis on placing the best words in the best order, it often is described by mathematicians and scientists as poetry.  Alternatively, and more accessible to most readers than poetic mathematics, we find verses by poets who include the objects and terminology of mathematics in their lines.
     Perhaps due to aesthetic distance (featured in The Art of Mathematics by Jerry King), non-math poets like Christina M. Rau are able to be more playful in their uses of mathematical vocabulary than mathematicians dare to be.  Enjoy below several stanzas from Rau's collection, Liberating the Astronauts -- which also includes titles like "Chasing Zero" and "Kepler's Laws" -- soon to be released by Aqueduct Press.

   from:     Overnight Rain      by Christina M. Rau

                    Rain over Night
                    Equals
                    X over Autumn   

Monday, January 23, 2017

All Mathematicians are Equal!

     Last Saturday's Women's March in Washington was one the great events of my lifetime -- the feeling of community that bonded us participants was palpable.  We chatted and hugged and celebrated our differences and our common ideals. Here is a photo of the sign that I carried and, beneath the sign, are links to poems about women in mathematics who struggled to be considered equal.

This is the sign I carried at the Women's March on January 21, 2017.

This link leads to "Hanging Fire" by Audre Lorde.  This link leads to a few words of mine, "Square Attitudes."  A posting on girls and mathematics includes samples from Sharon Olds and Kyoko Mori and is available here.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Dickens, from A Tale of Two Cities

     Today I am facing tomorrow and the inauguration ceremony of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States.  With many uncertainties and little mathematics in mind (see, however, math-poem link below), I have looked back to the opening words of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1812-1870). Published in 1859, these words echo some of my thoughts today.

       It was the best of times, 
       it was the worst of times, 
       it was the age of wisdom, 
       it was the age of foolishness, 
       it was the epoch of belief, 
       it was the epoch of incredulity, 
       it was the season of Light, 
       it was the season of Darkness, 
       it was the spring of hope, 
       it was the winter of despair, 
       we had everything before us, 
       we had nothing before us . . .

     Here is a link to a poem posted in 2014 that also features the words of Dickens.  Written by Halifax mathematician and poet Robert Dawson, that 2014 poem was formed by applying a mathematical procedure to a passage from Dickens' Great Expectations

Monday, January 16, 2017

Celebrate Martin Luther King

     Today is our public celebration of the January 15 birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr (1929-1968) who was both preacher and poet in the "I have a dream" speech he delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. 

Dr King's speech began with:

     Five score years ago, a great American,
     in whose symbolic shadow we stand
     signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
     This momentous decree came as a
     great beacon light of hope
     to millions of Negro slaves who had been
     seared in the flames of withering injustice.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Poems starring mathematicians

      One of the challenges posed by a multi-year blog is locating interesting old posts.  One of  my frequent early topics was "poems starring mathematicians" and I offer links to several of these from 2011 below:
     December 8 "Monsieur Probability" by Brian McCabe
     November 13  My abecedarian poems, "I Know a Mathematician" and "Mathematician" 
     July 5  "Fixed Points" by Susan Case -- about mathematicians in Poland during WWII
     July 2  "To Myself" by Abba Kovner
     January 30  "Mr Glusenkamp," a sonnet to a geometry teacher by Ronald Wallace
     January 28  "Mathematician" by Sherman K Stein

     And, here is a link, via PoemHunter.com to "The Mathematician in Love," a poem by William John Macquorn Rankine, a poem that appears also in the multi-variable  anthology, Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (AK Peters, 2008), edited by Sarah Glaz and me.  Here is the first (of 8) stanza of Rankine's entertaining poem:

          A mathematician fell madly in love
          With a lady, young, handsome, and charming:
          By angles and ratios harmonic he strove
          Her curves and proportions all faultless to prove.
          As he scrawled hieroglyphics alarming.

Friday, January 6, 2017

2017 is prime!

     For her December 31 posting in Roots of Unity (Scientific American blog) mathematician Evelyn Lamb wrote about favorite primes -- and starring in her list is our new year-number, 2017.
     My own relationship with primes also is admiring-- here is an excerpt from my poem, "Fool's Gold," (found in full here) that suggests a prime as a suitable birthday gift:

          Select and give a number.  I like large primes—
          they check my tendency to subdivide
          myself among the dreams that tease
          like iron pyrites in declining light.

     "Fool's Gold" appears in my chapbook, My Dance is Mathematics (Paper Kite Press, 2006); the collection is now out-of-print but is available online here
     Several poems about primes have been included in earlier postings in this blog.  For example, here is a link to a 2013 posting of "The Sieve of Erastosthenes" by Robin Chapman.  And, for further exploration, here is a link to the results of searching the six years of postings using the term "prime." 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

December 2016 (and prior) -- titles, dates of 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. 

     Dec 31  Happy New Year! -- Resolve to REWARD WOMEN!
     Dec 27  Celebrate Vera Rubin -- a WOMAN of science!
     Dec 26  Post-Christmas reflections from W. H. Auden
     Dec 19  Numbers for Christmas . . .
     Dec 15  Remembering Thomas Schelling (1921-2016)
     Dec 12  When one isn't enough ... words from a Cuban poet

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year! -- Resolve to REWARD WOMEN!

     My December 27 post celebrated the life of Vera Rubin (b 1928) who died on Christmas Day -- and a more recent Washington Post article by columnist Petula Dvorak has used the example of Vera Rubin to call further attention to ongoing discrimination against high-achieving women.

     On a different note, my e-mail "poem-a-day" from poets.org is "Earthy Anecdotes" by Reading, Pennsylvania poet Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)-- follow this link to visit the poem (with its morsel of mathematics) and see the vivid image of Oklahoma bucks moving in "a swift, circular line".

Happy New Year, 2017!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Celebrate Vera Rubin -- a WOMAN of science!

     This morning's Washington Post carried an obituary of Vera Rubin (1928-2016),  a pioneering astronomer who confirmed the existence of dark matter.  Yesterday's NPR feature -- noting Rubin's death and celebrating her life -- contained several quotes from this outstanding scientist about women's roles.  Two of these poetic statements I have shaped into syllable-square stanzas:

World wide, half
of    all    brains
are    women's. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Post-Christmas reflections from W. H. Auden

     A favorite writer whose works I enjoy again and again is English poet W. H. Auden (1907-1973). Here is a mathy excerpt from a very long Auden poem (around 1500 lines) entitled "FOR THE TIME BEING: A Christmas Oratorio," written during World War II and available in his Collected Poems.   

     The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
     And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
     Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
     Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
     Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
     Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
     Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry
     And Newton's mechanics would account for our experience,
     And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.


Another mathy Auden poem, "Numbers and Faces," is available here.   And this link leads to more of his work.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Numbers for Christmas . . .


*
o n
t o p
g i v e
l i g h t
f r e e l y
f o r e v e r
a b u n d a n t
b r i l l i a n t
e v e r y w h e r e
LOVE MATH!

Christmas is coming and I have looked back to earlier posts for holiday greetings -- a version of the growing snowball poem above was first posted in 2012 and here, from 2010, is a Christmas verse that celebrates pi:

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Remembering Thomas Schelling (1921-2016)

     On December 13, Nobel-prize-winning economist Thomas Schelling (b 1921) died.  I had the privilege of meeting this outstanding scholar in Cambridge, MA back in 1980 when I dropped by his office after hearing him lecture at the Kennedy School of Government.  I became very interested in his ideas of critical mass (found along with lots of other good stuff in Micromotives and Macrobehavior and eventually included the topic in a textbook that I wrote  for a liberal arts mathematics course, "Mathematical Thinking," that I helped to develop at Bloomsburg University.
     I want to honor Schelling with a poem, but . . .

        I
        can’t
        find a
        poem for
        Thomas Schelling – thus
        I am compelled to write this Fib.

        Thanks for thinking well, for sharing your keen thoughts with us. 

(Fibonacci Numbers:  1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 . . .)

Monday, December 12, 2016

When one isn't enough ... words from a Cuban poet

     Last week I traveled (as part of an organized people-to-people program) to Cuba.  I will need many days to sort and digest and organize the details of that experience.
     Neither poetry nor mathematics was part of our Cuba schedule but I did have a chance to visit the sparse collection at La Moderna Poesia in Havana and to purchase their only two bilingual poetry collections (by poets José Martí and Nicolás Guillén).  The PoetryFoundation website has introduced me to the work of Cuban poet Omar Pérez  (son of Ernesto "Che" Guevara) and I found there, at this link,  Pérez's poem "The Progression"  -- which includes some mathematical ideas.

The Progression     by Omar Pérez  
                                             translated by Kristin Dykstra 

When one isn’t enough, you need two
when two aren’t enough, you need four
with four the progression begins, moving toward a number
that schoolteachers will call absurd.   

Monday, November 28, 2016

Celebrate MATH-POETRY at JMM (1-5-17) in Atlanta

     Repeating what has become an annual tradition, the Joint Mathematics Meetings of 2017 in Atlanta will include a poetry reading. 

Thursday January 5, 2017, 5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m.
Regency Ballroom VII, Ballroom Level, Hyatt Regency


Here is info about the reading and how to participate:     Poetry + Math, organized by Gizem Karaali, Pomona College; Lawrence M. Lesser, University of Texas at El Paso; and Douglas Norton, Villanova University; Thursday, January 5, 5:30–7:00 pm.  All who are interested in mathematical poetry and/or mathematical art are invited. Though we do not discourage last-minute decisions to participate, we invite and encourage poets to submit poetry (no more than three poems, no longer than five minutes) and a bio in advance—and, as a result, be listed on our printed program. Inquiries and submissions (by December 15, 2016) may be made to Gizem Karaali (gizem.karaali@pomona.edu). Sponsors for this event are the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics and SIGMAA ARTS.  A complete program for the Mathematics Meetings is available here.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Number-rhymes from Muriel Spark

     A dozen years ago I visited Edinburgh and there became acquainted with the poetry of Scottish writer Muriel Spark (1918-2006)  -- prior to that visit I had known Spark only as a novelist.  Today -- prompted by Thanksgiving celebration with grandchildren -- I have remembered an English rhyme that my own grandmother teased me with in childhood, "Going to St Ives" and, from there, I've recalled a pair of Spark's rhymes that follow a similar pattern.  I offer them below; despite strong rhyme, these are not entirely light fare--instead, they make us aware of the sad multiplication of bonds and wounds . . .

       Conundrum     by Muriel Spark

       As I was going to Handover Fists
       I met a man with seven wrists.
       The seven wrists had seven hands;

Monday, November 21, 2016

An immeasurable continuum

This poem by Emily Warn (a founder of PoetryFoundation.org) uses mathematical terminology to introduce us to the immeasurable horror of death by slow torture.  May our nation never again engage in such atrocities!

The Vanishing Point     by Emily Warn

You slow down to watch cumulus clouds stream across the
sky. You choose a more circuitous route home and pass a
tree with white bags tied around random apples. The apples
remind you of clouds, how each hangs in the sky, singular
yet part of a flock. Each item in the flock is a coordinate of
earth and sky, enumerating space. The flocks of apples and
clouds are actual infinities, an endless collection of discrete
items that one can conceivably count to the end. This is

Friday, November 18, 2016

A well-constructed language

     California math teacher, poet and editor, Carol Dorf is a vital force in the production and dissemination of mathy poems.  A blog SEARCH using her name will find links to all of my mentions of her activity.  Here is one such link --  to my list of titles of mathy poems in Talking-Writing, an online journal for which Dorf is poetry editor.    Dorf's poem below speaks of Ada Lovelace, a math-woman who has been featured herein on July 16, 2015  and September 18, 2015.

Mathematics is "a well-constructed language."
 Dorf's "Ada" first appeared in Volume 14 of The Mom Egg Review.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Poetry and Protest

      One of the fine new anthologies of 2016 is Of Poetry and Protest:  From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin, published by W W Norton -- put together by Phil Cushway (Compiler), Michael Warr (Editor), and Victoria Smith (Photographer).  Here, from that collection, are the opening stanzas of Marilyn Nelson's "Cells and Windows" -- a poem that gains much of its power from the awful truth conveyed by its numbers.
 
Cells and Windows          by Marilyn Nelson
             after work by neogeo painter Peter Halley   

Black men in their prime
working years, especially
those without a high school
diploma, are much more likely
to be in jail than white men are.
(a) true   (b) true    

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

So much depends on . . . normality

<<   >>
     I found an lovely little autumn poem (after William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow") by Michael Khmelnitsky -- who declined to let me use it herein, and so I offer a link to it -- enjoy "The Gaussian Function."  
<<   >>

Monday, November 7, 2016

Happy Birthday, Marie Curie

Today, November 7, is the birthday of Marie Curie (1867-1934, Nobel prize in physics, 1903).  Curie is celebrated in this poem by Richard Aston, first posted in this blog on December 6, 2014 along with two other math-science-themed poems.

Scientist     by Richard Aston

It took more than a figure, face, skin, and hair
for me to become Marie Curie,
wife of simple, smiling, selective, Pierre
who could recognize — because he was one — my genius.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Calculating costs of pollution ... and other news

     Recently I was browsing through an oldish collection, The Best American Poetry 1999 (edited by Robert Bly) where I found and liked this poem by Marcia Southwick -- a poem that drew me in with its anti-pollution attitudes and its enumeration of some of the costs of pollution.
 
A Star Is Born in the Eagle Nebula     by Marcia Southwick
                           To Larry Levis, 1946–1996
They’ve finally admitted that trying to save oil-soaked
seabirds doesn’t work. You can wash them, rinse them
with a high-pressure nozzle, feed them activated charcoal
to absorb toxic chemicals, & test them for anemia, but the oil
still disrupts the microscopic alignment of feathers that creates
a kind of wet suit around the body. (Besides, it costs $6oo to wash
the oil slick off a penguin & $32,000 to clean an Alaskan seabird.)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Geometry -- in art and poetry

     St. Louis poet Constance Levy is an acclaimed author of children's poetry -- I found her poem "Madinat as Salam" (included below) in the collection, Heart to Heart, (Edited by Jan Greenberg; Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2001),  a beautifully presented and illustrated anthology of poems inspired by American art.  Enjoy!

Frank Stella.  Madinat as Salam III  1971.  Acrylic on canvas

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Make Something of Nothing ... with Bob Dylan

     The puzzle of nothing actually being something is central to our use of numbers -- and I use it today as an excuse to link to a Bob Dylan song and celebrate his recent Nobel prize.  Below I offer one (the 3rd, of six) of the stanzas of "Too Much of Nothing" -- followed by a link to the complete lyrics.  (And for those readers seeking other poems of nothing, here is a link to blog poetry from 2011 about division by zero, this link leads to making something of nothing . . .  and this link leads to several nothing links -- it was found via a blog search using the search term "zero.")

from     Too Much of Nothing     by Bob Dylan

          Too much of nothing
          Can make a man abuse a king
          He can walk the streets and boast like most
          But he wouldn’t know a thing
          Now, it’s all been done before
          It’s all been written in the book
          But when there’s too much of nothing
          Nobody should look

Here is a link to the complete lyrics of "Too Much of Nothing."  Enjoy.
                                          

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Have a Happy "Hamilton Day"

 April 15-23, 2016 is Maths Week in Ireland.
 
     AND, as this recent Slate article by Katharine Merow announces, in Ireland October 16 is "Hamilton Day" -- named for Irish mathematician William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865).  Math-science writer Merow entertainingly describes Hamilton's mathematical contributions and suggests that the holiday be celebrated by more of us than just Ireland. 
     This blog adds some poetry to the celebratory fare -- here is a link (from a 2011 posting) to a poem by Hamilton, himself and this January, 2016 link leads to a sonnet about Hamilton by poet Iggy McGovern.

Friday, October 14, 2016

From order to chaos -- "Fig Tree Rag"

     Robert Dawson, a mathematician and poet from Halifax, Nova Scotia, is wide-ranging in the mathematics that he includes in poetry.  Here is a link to my posting of his "Statistical Lament."  Still others may be found with a SEARCH using the poet's name.
     Dawson's poem below is motivated by chaos and period doublings -- and their patterns -- a complicated system that, under certain conditions approaches a number called Feigenbaum's constant.  (Mitchell Feigenbaum is a mathematical physicist who did pioneering work in chaos theory.   "Feigenbaum" is a German surname meaning "Fig Tree" -- hence the title of the poem.)  Probably you will want to read the poem aloud to get a feel for the rhythmic patterns -- and chaos -- that Dawson has designed for us. 

Fig Tree Rag    (after Scott Joplin)   by Robert Dawson

The music drifts across the room:
from clarinet and saxophone
a sliding stream of melody,
piano chords beneath it, and
upon the cymbal and the snare
the drummer paints a lazy beat
with wire brushes, regular
and cool and uninflected as
a music teacher’s metronome.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

She argued for Newton's physics

     Here, by Voltaire, is a poem about mathematician/scientist Émilie du Châtelet (1706-1749) -- who explained Newton's physics but was not remembered for her own work as she should have been.  

At this link, one may begin to learn about du Châtelet's many contributions.

       The Divine Émilie      by Voltaire (1694-1778)

       Here's a portrait of my Émilie:
       She's both a beauty and a friend to me.
       Her keen imagination is always in bloom.
       Her noble mind brightens every room.
       She's possessed of charm and wit,
       Though sometimes shows too much of it.
       She has, I assure you, a genius rare.
       With Horace and Newton, she can compare.
       Yet, she will sit for hours and hours
       With people who bore her
       And card-playing gamblers.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Be astonished -- National Poetry Day (British)

Today I celebrate British partnership with Romanian poetry!
     One of the internet treasures I have found is to Contemporary Literature Press, the online publishing house at the University of Bucharest which offers bilingual (Romanian and English) presentations of both classical and contemporary work.  The creators say this about themselves:

The Contemporary Literature Press, under The University of Bucharest,
in conjunction with The British Council, The Romanian Cultural Institute, 
and The Embassy of Ireland.
We publish poetry, fiction, drama and criticism, in the original and in translation, 
whether English or Romanian.
We are a well-fused group of staff and graduate students, 
very enthusiastic about our work.

     This particular link from Contemporary Literature Press celebrates British-Romanian week and includes a poem with a bit of mathematics by Australian-born, London-resident poet Katherine Gallagher; I offer it here and invite you also to visit its Romanian translation.

     Take-Off     by Katherine Gallagher
                 (after a line by Derek Walcott)
     Have you seen the way the day grows
     around you, neither perpendicular
     nor horizontal—  

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Generating a sonnet -- human vs computer

     News last month from UC Berkeley's School of Information described a computer that writes poetry. In particular, it writes sonnets.  This article describes in much detail the creation of several sonnet stanzas.  This link offers the winner in Dartmouth's 2016 PoetiX sonnet-generation competition -- in which Berkeley earned a second.  Here, from an article in Slate, is an example of what Berkeley's generator produced:

    Kindred pens my path lies where a flock of
    feast in natures mysteries an adept
    you are my songs my soft skies shine above
    love after my restless eyes I have kept.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Nest of Worlds -- in verse by Margaret Cavendish

     Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673) was an English aristocrat, scientist, writer and philosopher.  The following interesting and charming poem by Cavendish I found in A Quark for Mister Mark: 101 Poems about Science, edited by Maurice Riordan and Jon Turney (Faber & Faber, 2000). 

     Of many Worlds in this World    by Margaret Cavendish

     Just like as in a Nest of Boxes round,
     Degrees of Sizes in each Box are found:
     So, in this World, may many others be
     Thinner and less, and less still by degree:
     Although they are not subject to our sense,
     A World may be no bigger than Two-pence.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Bloomsburg Fair -- with theorems and lies . . .

     Along the north branch of the Susquehanna River in east-central Pennsylvania lies the town of Bloomsburg -- known for Bloomsburg University (where I taught math for a bunch of years) and for the Bloomsburg Fair -- an annual celebration that attracts hundreds of thousands of people during each last week of September.  
     I grew up loving fairs -- in my hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania, the last week of August brought the Indiana County Fair where we celebrated, with livestock and a carnival, the end of summer vacation.
     More than twenty years ago I gathered some of my Bloomsburg Fair memories in a poem.  The entire poem is found at this link; below I offer a sample of the mathy imagery from the poem.

from   The Bloomsburg Fair      by JoAnne Growney  
. . .
       In front of side-show tents,
       a barker barks his come-on-ins.
       Why don't my students receive theorems
       as willingly as passersby
       accept his lies?
. . .
       If parallels will never meet—
       then here's a man with snakes for hair,
       and there's a woman with three eyes.

      This poem appears in the anthology, COMMON WEALTH: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, Edited by Marjorie Maddox and Jerry Wemple, (2005, PSU Press).

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Math-woman, be bold!

     During these days in which discrimination against math-women happens again and again I have wanted to write a poem that celebrates us.  My efforts at traditional verse seemed whining.  Sense left me.  Eventually this came:  

     M ultiply
     A xioms,
     T risect
     H yperbolas,
     W ager
     O rthogonal
     M artingales
     A ll
     N ight  !

Dear reader, please share your own words -- via comments below!

Monday, September 19, 2016

A rumor (in verse) about Alfred Nobel

 Before the poem a bit of history about its source of publication:
     The Humanistic Mathematics Network Newsletter (HMNN) was founded by Alvin White (1925-2009) of Harvey Mudd College in the summer of 1987. The Newsletter was later renamed The Humanistic Mathematics Network Journal (HMNJ). The last issue of the HMNJ was published in 2004 -- and a current, related (online, open-accesss) journal is the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics (JHM).  Recently the digital archive of the full run of the HMNN/HMNJ (1987-2004) has become available at this link.
      I was an active participant in HMNJ  -- contributing articles and serving for several years as poetry editor -- and have enjoyed browsing the archives.  One of my articles, "Mathematics and Poetry: Isolated or Integrated" is available here (Issue 6, 1991).   
Explore!  
There's lots more!
     Back in Issue 3 of HMNJ (from 1988) I found these entertaining lines from topologist and math historian William Dunham -- setting to rhyme an an apocryphal tale of why there is no Nobel prize in mathematics.

       For Whom Nobel Tolls    by William Dunham  

       It is well-known that Nobel Prizes
       Come in many shapes and sizes.
       But one is missing from the list --
       The Nobel Math Prize does not exist.