The true spirit of delight, the exaltation,
the sense of being more than man,
which is the touchstone of the highest excellence,
is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Mathematical language can heighten the imagery of a poem; mathematical structure can deepen its effect. Feast here on an international menu of poems made rich by mathematical ingredients . . . . . . . gathered by JoAnne Growney.
Both mathematics and poetry are languages for conveying complex ideas . . . for example, Oxford mathematical physicist Roger Penrose uses mathematics to study black holes and as a foundation for his notion that the universe as we know it is not unique but one in a series of universes. Recently the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded award one-half of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics 2020 to Roger Penrose for the discovery that "black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity."
The 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to US Poet Louise Glück. In 2003 Glück was selected US Poet Laureate of the US and she has twelve published poetry collections in addition to lots of online offerings. An interesting complement to her poetry is her 1994 collection of essays, Proofs and Theories; Essays on Poetry In her opening essay, "Education of the Poet" (available online here) she makes this statement that relates well to mathematics:
"I loved those poems that seemed so small on the page
but that swelled in the mind; . . ."
Today, 13 October 2020, is Ada Lovelace Day -- celebrated each year on the second Tuesday of October and an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Born to a famous father, poet Lord Byron -- and first known as Augusta Ada Byron (1815-1852), Countess of Lovelace — this talented woman became far better known as "Ada Lovelace" (1815-1852). Lovelace worked on an early mechanical computer, "the Analytical Engine" -- and, because of her recognition of the varied applications of this machine, she is often regarded to be one of the first computer programmers.Here is a link to a poem, "Bird, Moon, Engine" by Jo Pitkin that celebrates Ada Lovelace (with opening stanzas offered below) and this link leads to some of Lovelace's own poetic words. At this link are the results of a blog search using "Ada Lovelace" that leads to the aforementioned works and lots of other poems about math women.
Recently (10/10/2020), NPR had an interview with former teachers of Louisville shooting victim Breonna Taylor -- an interview that celebrated her love of and talent for mathematics. Read about it here. I write to applaud this celebration AND to encourage increased recognition of math-women while they are alive.
A wonderful way to celebrate math-women is the annual essay contest sponsored by the Association for Women in Mathematics -- open to students from middle school to college; contest information is available here. Interviews may be conducted now; essay submission begins December 1.
|A repeat from this posting back in 2010|
Yesterday's note on "A Mathematical Morsel Every Day" -- an American Mathematical Society page-a-day calendar for 2020 assembled by mathematician and writer Evelyn Lamb -- is a fact that involves the first six digits in the decimal expansion of π : 314159 is a prime number.
And, because this is a math-poetry blog, I have turned this information into a syllable-square rhyme:
3 1 4
1 5 9
is a prime!
Perhaps you'd like to explore more: Here's a link to previous blog postings with ideas by Evelyn Lamb. Rhymes often help us to remember; here is a link to postings of rhymes used to remember the digits of π. AND here is a link to some postings that feature square stanzas.
Recently I found, in The Literary Nest, the mathy poem, "Functional" by retired math teacher and active poet Carol Dorf. Dorf's poem is a pantoum -- and the interplay of math terminology with repeated lines, gives us some new thoughts to think. Enjoy!
Functional by Carol Dorf
Fanatic is the word of the day.
The domain of the function is the set of inputs.
How did the programmer know in advance?
The range is the set of outputs.
Recently I found and enjoyed the article "Scientists Take On Poetry," an article by Katherine Wright in Physics -- a free, online magazine from the American Physical Society. After the following lead-in:
Stuck with how to present your latest scientific project? Try a poem.
Wright's article tells of numerous scientists who have been poets and offers visual poetry by Stephany Mazon and Manjula Silva. The article quotes Sam Illingworth, a poet and geoscientist at the University of Australia, "Poetry is a great tool for interrogating and questioning the world." Illingworth heads the Editorial Team of an online journal, Consilience -- a newish journal that describes itself as "the online poetry journal exploring the spaces where the sciences and the arts meet." The current issue has the theme "uncertainty" and offers 19 poems; one of these is "Heisenberg's uncertainty principle" by Alicia Sometimes -- and it begins with these words:
The reality we can put into words is never reality itself
we cannot measure
the position (x) and the momentum (p)
of a particle with absolute precision
. . .
This link leads to the rest of Sometimes' poem and to others offered in Consilience.
TalkingWriting is an online journal that's celebrating its 10th birthday -- TEN YEARS of including mathematics in its mix of poetry. This mathy connection has grown strong through the poetry editorship of Carol Dorf, poet and retired math teacher. In this anniversary issue, poems are paired with works of visual art and the effect is stunning; from it, I offer below samples of poems by Amy Uyematsu and by me.
Amy Uyematsu's poem "Lunes During This Pandemic" thoughtfully applies the counting structure of the "lune" (aka "American Haiku") with three-line stanzas of 3/5/3 words per line.
|Lots of ideas/suggestions are available at this link!|
In a summer email from math-poet-editor Carol Dorf, I first enjoyed "If a Garden of Numbers" -- a mingling of numbers with the natural world -- by California poet Cole Swensen. I offer its opening lines below followed by a link to the complete poem.
If a Garden of Numbers by Cole Swenson
If a garden is the world counted
and found analogue in nature
One does not become two by ever ending
so the stairs must be uneven in number
One of the comments that non-maths often make when they meet a math-person is "Oh, I never was good at math." An awkward start to possible friendship. Another awkward beginning rests on the assumption that mathematics is primarily calculation, that the main task of mathematicians is to organize numbers. This error is the focus of the following poem -- written in the early 90s before our banking was done electronically.
"Misunderstanding" is found in my poetry collection, My Dance is Mathematics -- its poems are online here. For non-maths (and the rest of us, too) one of the wonderful up-to-date online sources for "living mathematics" is +plus magazine -- and of course +plus includes poetry
Variable by Mary Peelen
The x could have been
anything at all,
the sound of wind chimes,
a gong, a choir, a cantor,
a mermaid, a schoolmarm,
Instead—what a lark—
|"Crochet" -- a FIB by Marian Christie|
|from "Brian Bilston's POETRY LABOETRY"|
by João Augusto Sampaio
A story in the KIDSPOST section of today's Washington Post offers a reminder that 100 years ago today -- on August 18, 1920 -- the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was officially ratified -- extending the right to vote to women.
Here is a link to a poem by Evie Shockley, women’s voting rights at one hundred (but who’s counting?) -- and, below, a few lines from that important poem:
* * *
* * *
one vote was all fannie lou
hamer wanted. in 1962, when
her constitutional right was
over forty years old, she tried
to register. all she got for her
trouble was literacy tested, poll
taxed, fired, evicted, & shot
at. a year of grassroots activism
nearly planted her mississippi
freedom democratic party
in the national convention.
* * *
For additional postings related to math and women and voting, here is a link to the results of a blog Search using the terms women and vote.
During these days of protest and politics and pandemic, a diversion -- some playful thoughts about LOVE from poet Carl Sandburg (1878-1967).
How Much? by Carl Sandburg
How much do you love me, a million bushels?
Oh, a lot more than that, Oh, a lot more.
And to-morrow maybe only half a bushel?
To-morrow maybe not even a half a bushel.
And is this your heart arithmetic?
This is the way the wind measures the weather.