Friday, September 18, 2020

What is x?

     This thoughtful poem by versatile poet Mary Peelen appeared in the Winter, 2016 issue of The Massachusetts Review.   

       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,
       cathedral bells.

       Instead—what a lark—
       it’s laughter. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Venn Diagram Poem

     One of my granddaughters has been working with Venn diagrams in her middle school math class.  And my thoughts turned to this poem -- back in 2018, Twitter poet Brian Bilston (@brian_bilston) celebrated the August 4 birthday of the diagram's inventor, logician John Venn (1834-1923), with this clever poem in a Venn diagram.

Lots more of Brian's poetry adventures can be found here at his website.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

TEACHERS are important ... enlarge Hardy's view!

     One of the classics written about mathematics is G. H. Hardy's 1940 book-essay, A Mathematician's Apology -- a treatise that gives valued insights into the nature of mathematics, its beauty, and the roles of mathematicians.   But today I want to urge us all to enlarge Hardy's view (shown in the box below) which offers scorn for those who talk ABOUT mathematics instead of creating it.  Our teachers and the others who spread mathematics out into the world ALSO are vital.
    Let us use geometry as Edwin Markham does -- and include
in the important world of mathematics those persons who communicate about that world.

          Outwitted     by Edwin Markham (1852-1940)

          He drew a circle that shut me out--
               Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
          But Love and I had the wit to win:
               We drew a circle that took him in!

Monday, September 7, 2020


     The September 2020 issue of Scientific American contains a poem by British Poet Laureate Simon Armitage -- "Bring Back the Leaf"  -- AND an announcement that from now on each monthly issue will contain poetry. Like!
     Although this poem is not mathematical, I offer news of it here because the Scientific American's inclusion of the arts with the sciences and mathematics (STEM enlarged to STEAM) is a very important step.

From:  "Bring Back the Leaf"      by Simon Armitage

Bring back, bring back the leaf.
Bring back the tusk and the horn
Bring back the fern, the fish, the frond and the fowl,
the golden toad and the pygmy owl,
revisit the scene
where swallowtails fly
through acres of unexhausted sky.

The complete poem, "Bring Back the Leaf" is available here.
 At this link is info about a Simon Armitage poem that helps to clean the air . . .

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Another Fibonacci poem . . .

     Through many years of the history of poetry, the sonnet has been a treasured form -- as poets strive carefully to match the iambic pentameter rhythm and some pattern of rhyme, this concentrated thinking leads to careful word choices and memorable poems.  (Here is a link to a mathy sonnet by a math teacher's son, John Updike.)
     Modern poetry has many "free verse" poems that follow no particular form AND ALSO a variety of new forms.  One particularly popular format (appearing often in this blog) is to count syllables-per-line using the Fibonacci numbers   Here an interesting example by poet Marian Christie which describes increasing complexities of crocheting using Fibonacci syllable-counts.

"Crochet" -- a FIB by Marian Christie

 Christie's poem was first published in here in Issue 36 of The Fib Review.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Poetry on Twitter

      Dubbed the "unofficial poet laureate of Twitter" Brian Bilston (a pen-name) sometimes uses mathematics to shape his poems; for example, this poem whose word-counts follow the Fibonacci numbers:

from "Brian Bilston's  POETRY LABOETRY"

Look for Brian on Twitter (@brian_bilston) 
and also on Facebook (
Links and comments for many of my blog-posts also on twitter on Twitter  @mathypoems
and a search using the hash-tag #NPRpoetry leads to lots of interesting stuff!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Ten thousand parts of cat . . .

As a cat-lover, I am drawn to David Manning's mathy poem that I offer below:  

       Live Round     by David T. Manning

       All ten thousand
       parts of cat run
       like seventeen jewels
       in velvet.  Target locked,
       she tucks white forepaws.
       folds couchant     and waits.
       One thousand gyros idling
       quietly, ordnance round
       of bottled death with nose
       that never sleeps
       tuned to the frequency
              of mouse.

After a long career as organic chemist, David Manning turned to poetry.  "Live Round" is on my shelves in his collection Negotiating Physics and Other Poems from a Peaceable Kingdom  (Old Mountain Press, 1999).

Monday, August 24, 2020

What can we count on?

As the August days grow shorter in a hot summer of social distancing, here is a sample of my thoughts:
        I learned to count
        on my fingers.
        Now, years later,
        in twenty-twenty
        what can I count on? 

And I'd like also to make a quick mention of a project I've been part of -- with results that you are likely to enjoy. Gathered by Rosemary Winslow and Catherine Lee, a collection of thoughtful essays,  DEEP BEAUTY --  Experiencing Wonder When the World Is on Fire (Woodhall Press, 2020).  My essay, "When I'm Quiet Enough to See" tells of beauty's connection to my childhood on a farm, to poetry, to mathematics, and is available here.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

From an engineer who loves poetry . . .

João Augusto Sampaio is an Environmental and Civil Engineer who loves poetry; here is a sample:
by João Augusto Sampaio
Sampaio has let me know that he is on Instagram using @jota_sampa;  for another aspect of his work, this link leads to his lovely "visualizing math" posting of Ulam's Spiral, showing the distribution of primes. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Voting and being counted . . .

      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.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Heart Arithmetic

      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.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Poems can help us teach/learn mathematics . . .

     With increasing awareness of the value of integrating the arts in science and mathematics (expanding STEM to STEAM), numerous teachers are sharing their experiences of what works.  Here, from the archive for BRIDGES 2020, is "Poetry in the Lesson of Mathematics"-- an article by Natalija Budinski and Zsolt Lavicza that describes a series of mathematical poetry activities for math and science students.  Here's a sample of student lines (by F.T.):

           Because when you practice math a lot,
           it almost always pays off.

Another article "Enrich Mathematics Discussions with Poems" (written by me and available here) suggests class-inclusion of poems about the nature of mathematics and its history, the lives and contributions of mathematicians -- including the work of women and minorities -- and similarities between mathematics and poetry.  Discussion of student attitudes -- from excitement to math anxiety -- often can be facilitated by discussion of a poem; the article offers suggestions.  
To find a host of additional poetry samples, 
the blog Search offers a way to find poems on a topic of your choice.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Celebrate the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics

     Recently Vol.10, No.2 of the online Journal of Humanistic Mathematics has become available online.  This issue is a "Special Issue on Creativity in Mathematics" and the richly varied Table of Contents is available at this link.

Seven of the articles feature poetry with links to mathematics; these are:
     Poetry Folder:     Mental Logic: Two Poems     by Ashley Delvento
                           Natural by Design     by Craig Steele
     Poetry:         four seasons (haikus)     by Stephen Luecking
                    Dear Arithmetic     by Mary Soon Lee
                    Galileo's Verse     by Bruce F. McGuffin
                    Hexagons     by Barbara Quick
                    Changes and Deltas     by Jim Wolper

And here are a couple of samples: 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Point of Inflection -- and the coronavirus

     In the UK, the Radical Statistics Group describes itself as "using statistics to support progressive social change."  The June 2020 issue of their Journal -- Issue 126  -- is a "Coronavirus Special Issue" and it contains a poem by Texas professor-poet Lawrence Lesser.  Here are the opening stanzas.

     The Point of Inflection       by Lawrence M. Lesser

     The point of inflection
     is where towering terror of
     cumulative cases
     slows its rise.   

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Census . . . correct counting is not easy. . .

     One of the challenges of applying mathematics is doing it correctly.  Each of us has a limited view, often affected by biases such as racism and sexism. And Covid-19 concerns have further-limited our access to accurate information in situations such as counting election-ballots or counting all Americans for the 2020 census.  The following thoughtful poem, "Census," is not new; it was first published in 1981.  What does it show us about counting?

     Census     by Carol Muske-Dukes

     Here's how we were counted: 
     firstborn, nay-sayers, 
     veterans, slow-payers, 
     seditionists, convicts, 
     half-breeds, has-beens, 
     the nearly defined dead, 
     all the disenfranchised live.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Prove it . . .

This post's title "Prove it" occurs several times within the poem,

DREAMers Mark Themselves     by Maricielo Ampudia Gutiérrez,

a poem (found here, followed by an author bio) that arrived in a recent e-mail from the socially-engaged poetry group, Split This Rock -- and I have been reflecting on its use of the term "prove it" as compared with mathematical usage.  The poem by Gutiérrez is included in a rich poetry database maintained by Split this Rock.
     One of the editors of the online journal Better Than Starbucks, Joseph E. Petta, has let me know of his liking for poems with links to mathematics and encourages submissions.  Petta's "Experimental & Form Poetry" section of the July August 2020 issue contains a thoughtful a thoughtful matrix poem, a word-prison:

Freedom        by Stuthi Iyer

Both of these poems offer ideas for thoughtful contemplation -- for math people and for others!

Friday, July 24, 2020

A favorite recursion . . .

      memories bring back

            memories bring back

                   memories bring back  

                          memories bring back

                                 memories . . .

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Finishing halfway . . .

     Recently I have enjoyed thinking about the poem "Bunny Slope" by Polish poet Tadeusz Dabrowski (found here in The Paris Review, Issue 219, Winter 2016) and offered below.
     When I write a poem, the first draft often is the longest -- I spill words onto the page and then attempt to edit out what does not need to be said.  When I read poetry, I like it when the poem does not "tell all" but offers a framework for my discovery.

Bunny Slope      by Tadeusz Dabrowski
                                   (translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones)

     When I’m writing a poem,
     there’s less and less of it.

     As I approach the mountains,
     they vanish behind a gentle hill,
     behind the bunny slope. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Math-Arts Connections -- links to rich reading . . .

     The Table of Contents for the  latest issue of the Journal of Mathematics and the Arts offers titles for a rich array of "Artists Viewpoints" -- brief articles (assembled under the leadership of Guest Editor, Susan Happersett) in which artists who link mathematics with various genres talk about their views and processes.  (Access to these articles currently is FREE -- through 2020.)
     One of the 53 artists' viewpoints contained therein is mine, and here is a permanent link to that brief article ("Everything Connects") that links my mathematics and poetry.  Another math-poet whose work is featured is South Dakota mathematician Dan May, whose article "In the beginning all is null" features multiple-choice poetry.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Poetry contest winners --- π-ku

     The website is described as "a meeting-place for people who already know they like maths and would like to know more"  -- and one of its organizing forces is Katie Steckles Several weeks ago, Katie initiated a  π-ku poetry contest -- looking for 3-line submissions that follow the digits of the π-approximation 3.14.

          For example,      Green grass and
                                sky and sun's heat.
                                                                      In π-ku
                                                                      shrink what I think.

The numbers 3, 1, and 4 also may -- instead of counting syllables -- count words.

                  Today in July
                  pushes the temperature skyward.

To enjoy the winning results in the Aperiodical π-ku contest, go here.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A thoughtful Fibonacci poem

     An email message from Washington, DC poet and blogger Karren Alenier alerted me to this mathy Fibonacci poem found online in the Summer 2020 Issue (#36) of The Fib Review.  The poet., Roberto Christiano, has given me permission to offer it to you here.

the irrational   by Roberto Christiano

c'est moi?
a number that
cannot be expressed by the
ratio of two integers / and what's an integer?  

Monday, July 13, 2020

Math-Poetry for a virtual BRIDGES Conference

     Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year's 2020 Bridges Math-Arts Conference will not be held.  One of the regular events at this international conference has been a poetry reading organized by mathematician and poet Sarah Glaz.  This year, Glaz has prodded math-poets to develop on-line videos of their poems and offers a wonderful program of poetry here at this link.  (Brief poet-bios and links to more info about each are also found at the preceding link.)

Participating poets, with links to their poetry videos are
Thank you, Sarah Glaz, for organizing and presenting all of this poetry!
We look forward to the forthcoming BRIDGES 2020 Poetry Anthology

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Wonderful math-poetry . . . in lots of online places

      Carol Dorf, poetry editor of the online journal, TalkingWriting, has been sharing (during the pandemic) daily poems via e-mail -- and occasionally they are a bit mathematical.  For example, "Morning Song" by Sawako Nakayasu (found here at has this opening line . . . .

     Every time, these days, it seems, an equation gets forced.  . . .

At, as at many poetry websites, there is an opportunity to search -- using, for example, "geometry" or "equation" -- and to find lots of poems with mathematical connections.

     Carol Dorf is a retired math teacher and a wonderful poet;  this link leads to poems from her published in this blog and this link leads to "Wild Equations,"   a collection of some the mathy poems found in TalkingWriting.

     An ongoing source of original and delightful math-poetry is the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics.  Visit often and explore! 

AND, one more item . . .  Recently I revisited Issue 17 (Released November 1, 1917)  of The Cordite Poetry Review which has the theme "Mathematics."  That issue is online here.  Many of the poems seem at first quite distant from the theme -- but browsing the collection of 60 poems (selected by Fiona Hile) has proved thought-provoking.  Here is a sample, "Venn Diagram" by Caroline Williamson.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Life Lessons in Math and Rhyme

     One of my former colleagues at Pennsylvania's Bloomsburg University is statistician Reza Noubary.  This Iran-born mathematician has a love of poetry as well as mathematics and here are a few lines from his recent collection, Feelings and Dealings (Archway Publishing, 2020).

                    In a math book there is wisdom.
                    In a theorem there is a kingdom.
                    No solution can be made up or faked.
                    The reasoning buys you freedom.

There is a secret in every equation that provokes curiosity and passion.
To uncover it we need to see its beauty and realize
its worth to complete the mission.
The outcome is refreshing; it always results in long-term compassion.
It is satisfying as participants understand its
logic and its beautiful expression.

Thank you, Reza, for these words.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Independence . . .

     Tomorrow, July 4, the US celebrates "Independence" Day and I am reflecting on the following quote by Albert Einstein (1879-1955):

     How can it be that mathematics
     being after all a product of human thought 
          . . . independent of experience, 
     is so admirably appropriate
     to the objects of reality?
(found here, along with lots of Einstein quotes) 
I am trying to decide to what degree I agree with Einstein's words.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Opening our minds to New Views . . .

     One of the values of study of mathematics is that to make progress we must continually revise our ways of looking at things. (Yes, there can be numbers less than zero . . . Yes, there can be different sizes for infinite sets . . . And a challenge for our society today is to carefully reconsider our racism.   Recently the American Mathematical Society's Blog On Math Blogs has offered this thoughtful posting, "What does anti-racism in mathematics look like?"  
     From visual poet Karl Kempton (who celebrates a birthday today) I offer a visual-poetry reminder of multiple ways of viewing a situation -- illustrated by two views of dividing the number 8.

For more ways of looking at 8 and other mathematical poems by Kempton, go here.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Considering opposites . . . and finding union . . .

     The categorization of different points of view as opposites can disappear as a unified system embraces both of them.  In mathematics, the counting numbers and their opposites become the integers,the rational and irrational numbers join to give the reals, the real and imaginary numbers yield the complex numbers.  In our global world with its biases and dangers and uncertainties, we will, I hope, evaluate our differences and unite our strengths to form a larger, stronger unity.
     A syllable-square poem by Carmela Martino (offered below) illustrates one of the unifications that can benefit our society: inclusion of the arts to enrich the sciences, from STEM forming STEAM.

Carmela Martino's poem first appeared here at TeachingAuthors.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Math-poetry in The Mathematical Intelligencer

     In a recent e-mail, this message:  "The Mathematical Intelligencer. Vol. 42 No. 2 is now available online."  Most Intelligencer articles require a subscription or a fee-payment but one that is freely available to all of us is the poem, "Pandemic Math:  X and Y Axes" by Wisconsin painter and poet Robin Chapman.  Here are its opening lines:

          I'm thinking of those graphs we anxiously scan each day
          carry news of infection's spread, asking if we
          will find death stalking our neighborhoods . . .

Chapman's complete poem is available here.  

Monday, June 22, 2020

Counting on ... and on ... BLACK LIVES MATTER!

     In these days of learning to recognize the racism and racial injustice that has gone on in the United States for SO LONG I am reminded of a poem, "Learning to Count" by Romanian poet Nichita Stanescu (1933-1983) (posted at this link back in 2011), a poem that captures the horror of barbarianism.

     Learning to count     by Nichita Stanescu                   
     Hairy and sweaty sit                            
     the barbarian Hittites.       
     Learning to count they pull from corpses
     fingers, legs, arms, eyes.                                    
     Oh, divided ones,    
     how bloody              
     is the idea of having ideas!