Monday, August 20, 2018

Celebrating Visual Poetry

     One of my delights in both poetry and mathematics is the multiplicity of meanings that come from careful attention to a particular text.  Today I have been revisiting the work of visual-poets Robert "Bob" Grumman (1941-2015) and  Karl Kempton and loving the surprises as I rediscover them.  Visual-mathematical poet Kazmier Maslanka in his blog, "Mathematical Poetry,"  generously features the work of many other poets beside his own -- and here (from this link) is one of Kempton's poems:
by Karl Kempton

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Imaginary Numbers

     Today a fine poem that plays with the meanings of "real" and "imaginary" -- and one that I like a lot.  Its author, Scottish mathematician-statistician-poet Eveline Pye is, like me, these days enjoying being a grandmother.  

       Imaginary Numbers      by Eveline Pye

       A real life ends, but is imagined  
       by those left behind. An imagined  
       death becomes reality, eventually.   

       The square root of minus one  
       can't exist since a squared number 
       can’t be negative 

       but imaginary numbers yield  
       real answers in the real world.   
       The difference between reality 

       and imagination: a false oasis  
       that blurs, shimmers  
       and melts before my eyes.  

Pye's poem is included in the anthology Bridges Stockholm 2018 from Tesselations Publishing.  This article, "Eveline Pye:  Poetry in Numbers" is a great place to read more about the poet and her work.  

Monday, August 13, 2018

Speaking, understanding . . . where is truth?

     A review in the Washington Post of a new book about Oscar Wilde opens with this quote:
"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person."
and Wilde's words have gotten me thinking again about subtleties of language.
     Also in recent news, the death of Nobelist V. S. Naipaul (1932-2018) -- and here is one of  this writer's thought-provoking statements:

            Non-fiction can distort;
            facts can be realigned.
            But fiction never lies.            V.S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River

My own thoughts about language most often focus on the condensed languages of mathematics and poetry -- and the need for frequent re-readings before understanding arrives.  Here, below, I include a poem by Stephanie Strickland that speaks eloquently of the struggles in which our minds engage concerning objects and the symbols that represent them -- struggles that are involved in creating and reading both mathematics and poetry . . .

     Striving All My Life     by Stephanie Strickland

Maxwell said: There is no more powerful way
     to introduce knowledge to the mind than … as many different
     ways as we can, wrenching the mind   

Friday, August 10, 2018

Code switching -- and a Fib . . .

     1       When 
     1        I
     2        speak to
     3        you, I wish
     5        to be understood.
     8        If I change my language for you
    13       am I being thoughtful -- or phony and insincere?

     My recent viewing of the film Sorry to Bother You --  in which a black telemarketer is helped to succeed by using a "white" voice -- has led me to think more about times that I, often unconsciously, switch my language for different listeners.  
     I grew up on a farm and learned early that farmer lingo was not welcomed in my chatter with town friends, and later, as a mathematics professor, I saved my academic and my mathematical vocabularies for "suitable" occasions and did not use them with my farm family or small-town friends.  Indeed, much of my life I have completely avoided math vocabulary in almost all social situations.  Mostly, I have thought of this "code-switching" as politeness, though I can see that it also conceals parts of myself.
      This thinking about "different languages" has led me to look back to a posting from 2013 that involves a fine poem by June Jordan, "Problems of Translation: Problems of Language" that considers measurements on maps.            What does three inches mean?
This link leads to more information 
about poems structured by the Fibonacci numbers.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

American Arithmetic

     Last Monday -- with visiting friends (Janet and Terry) from Pennsylvania -- I again visited the National Museum of the American Indian and this visit, rather than focusing on the contributions of a particular native culture, seemed to draw me to exhibits focused on numbers -- most notably on the figures related to Cherokee relocation via the Trail of Tears.  This visit to the museum also allowed me to discover that a variety of books are for sale in the museum's second-floor gift shop and I found this collection of poetry which I have begun to read and love:
Edited by Heid E Erdrich (Graywolf Press, 2018)
Within the collection, the poem "American Arithmetic" by Mojave poet Natalie Diaz quickly caught my eye -- and she has given me permission to offer it here:

       American Arithmetic     by Natalie Diaz
       Native Americans make up less than
       one percent of the population of America.
       0.8 percent of 100 percent.

       O, mine efficient country.     

Friday, August 3, 2018

Highlighting Poetry-Math Favorites

     Looking back over the eight years of  postings in this blog, I find several items that have stood out in their popularity.  In case you have missed any of these, I list their titles (with links) below.
          The favorite posting, by a large margin, is: 
     "Varieties of triangles -- by Guillevic" posted on October 13, 2010.
Three other postings fall into second place:
          "Mathematical Limericks" posted on March 29, 2010,   
          "Loving a mathematician (Valentine's Day and . . .)" on February 12, 2011,
          "Rhymes help to remember the digits of Pi" on September 2, 2010.
Two more-recent and popular postings are:
          "The World is Round or Flat" on January 8, 2016,
          "Celebrate Math-Women" on March 2, 2017.

The list of labels in the lower right-hand column of  the blog gives the names of numerous mathematicians and topics that are featured in the blog -- and one may click on any label to retrieve the posts.  Additionally, the blog's SEARCH feature may be used to locate postings on a particular topic of interest.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Looking back -- dates, titles, links for past postings

Scroll down to find titles and links to posts going back to this blog's start in March, 2010.  
If you are searching for a particular topic or poet, 
      Jun 18  Choose the right LINE     

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Mathematics and Motherhood

     The latest issue of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics focuses on the theme "Mathematics and Motherhood" -- go here to explore the Table of Contents.  In that issue is my poem "Wondering" - found here.

for your editorship of this fine publication.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Sixty years is a long time . . ..

      Yesterday in my Honda, in heavy traffic -- driving to my present home in Silver Spring, MD from a high school reunion weekend in Indiana, PA -- my thoughts began to shape a poem.  Here, with thanks to Kathy Rend Armstrong and a host of other classmates who helped get a bunch of us together for a 60th reunion of the Indiana Joint High School Class of 1958.  Here is my brief poem.

     For readers unfamiliar with the Fibonacci numbers, here is a link to an explanation, and this link leads to other postings of Fibonacci poems in this blog.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Mathematics . . . an encrypted love song . . .

      Australian poet Geoffrey Lehmann is also a writer of children's books and a tax lawyer.  This mathy poem comes from his collection, Spring Forest (Faber & Faber, 1994); I found it in the anthology A Quark for Mister Mark:  101 Poems about Science (editors--Maurice Riordan, Jon Turney; Faber & Faber, 2000) -- a collection introduced to me by Australian poet, Erica Jolly.

       Not Yet Found     by Geoffrey Lehmann

       I chose the name Spring Forest
       and I've yet to find the spring.

       Some unfinished equations
       are the closest I've come
       to the puzzle of why I'm here.   

Monday, July 23, 2018

Poetry at BRIDGES 2018

The 2018 Brides Math-Arts Conference in Stockholm will take place this week -- July 25-29, 2018.  Mathematician Sarah Glaz has been a leader in stimulating the poetry portion of this conference -- including organization of a reading to be held on Saturday, July 28 and a Poetry Anthology, of which a portion of the cover is shown below.

Poetry Anthology
edited by Sarah Glaz, Tessellations Publishing

Here, from the anthology, is a sample of its finery -- a poem by mathematician, poet, and editor, Sarah Glaz:  

Friday, July 20, 2018

Counting insects, counting on them . . .

     Recently I had the opportunity to vacation in southern Portugal with my older daughter and her family and there -- with clear, bright-blue skies and cooled-down night-time temperatures -- not only did we vacationers thrive but so do many insects.  Their busy behavior reminded me of their presence on the childhood farm in Pennsylvania on which I grew up and their important role as partners in the agricultural process -- pollinating and irrigating and . . . 
    And so -- jet lagged yet continuing in my appreciation of the population-mathematics of insects -- I offer below a poem of bees by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), also found here.  Another bee-poem by Dickinson posted back in August 2013 is available at this link.

The most important population   (1746)   by Emily Dickinson

       The most important population
       Unnoticed dwell,
       They have a heaven each instant
       Not any hell.

       Their names, unless you know them,
       'Twere useless tell.
       Of bumble-bees and other nations
       The grass is full.

An interesting Smithsonian article, "Bees May Understand Zero . . ." may be found here and the Washington POST has featured bees at this  recent link and this earlier one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

After Waking, Running

     Today's posting is a villanelle about running -- and it is was written as a response to Theodore Roethke's villanelle, "The Waking" -- posted a few days ago on July 3.  Moving quickly has been a part of my mental life (as I dart from rhymes to equations, looking for connections) and my physical life (as I try to burn enough energy that I may sit thoughtfully for a while).  Runners are among those I admire; my heroes include  Flo-Jo -- Florence Delores Griffith-Joyner (1959-98), whose 1988 records still stand, making her "the fastest woman in the world" -- and Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister (1929-2018) -- whom I remember from a lunchtime news broadcast in 1954 when I was a girl on a farm in Pennsylvania and he ran the first sub-4 minute mile in Oxford, England.
     A villanelle has a rather complex structure -- stated somewhat simply, it is a nineteen-line poem with two rhymes in its five stanzas and two lines that each are repeated (precisely or approximately) four times.  These repetitions can lead to an interesting back-and-forth in the development of images and ideas. Although not about mathematics, this villanelle may, it seems to me, say a bit about mathematicians.

          Response (by JoAnne Growney) to “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke 

       My sleep is brief.  I rise to run again,
       to flee the doubts that catch me when I'm still.
       I live by going faster than I can.

Monday, July 9, 2018

What does MEAN mean?

Visual poetry by Mathemusician Larry Lesser:

These diagrams are part of a paper by L.M. Lesser found here.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

A proof in limericks

     The word "transcendental" is an adjective that refers to an abstract or supernatural noun.  In mathematics, the term's meaning is specified more precisely -- a transcendental number is one that cannot be a root of any algebraic equation with rational numbers as coefficients. The number π (ratio of the length of the circumference of a circle to its diameter) and the number e (base for the system of natural logarithms) are the best known examples of transcendental numbers.
     Retired Arkansas law professor (and former math teacher) Robert Laurence has fun with this pair of transcendentals using limerick stanzas.  Get out your pencil and graph paper -- and enjoy puzzling through his rhymes.

A Transcendental Proof in Six Stanzas     
by Robert Laurence   © 2018
       They are transcendent you see:
       eπ and πe.
       The prize you’ll win when,
       With pencil or pen,
       You prove which is smaller to me. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Waking -- to mathematics, to poetry

Bridges-Math-Arts-Conferences --   Places to make connections!
Yesterday I posted a bit of information about POETRY at the 2018 Bridges Conference.
At the 2017 conference in Waterloo, Canada -- via a dramatic presentation -- I met Peter Taylor 
and some of his math-poetry ideas are featured below.

     One of my high school literature texts included "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) and I remember it particularly because its author was alive and its subject matter relevant to the experiences of those of us in rural Pennsylvania who were assigned to read it.  Not all of Roethke's poems are favorites -- one that I have wrestled with is "The Waking" -- which I recently found in a lecture entitled "Mathematics and Poetry," -- prepared and delivered by Professor Peter Taylor of Queens University (and available here).  In that lecture, Taylor's remarks range widely.  For example, he considers the equation
24 = 42
and suggests it as a poem.
     Both mathematics and poetry challenge us with difficult ideas -- and Taylor wonders if we might see more similarity between the two if we did not place higher economic value on mathematics.
     Roethke's poem, "The Waking," is a villanelle -- a poem of 19 lines with two lines repeated four times, each time in a new context -- and this structure helps create the vivid feeling of waking to new knowing.  Taylor challenges us:  as teachers, as students -- of mathematics, of poetry -- we need to be WAKING.  Roethke's poem explores the complexity of that process.   

Monday, July 2, 2018

BRIDGES, 2018 -- math-art-poetry -- in Stockholm

       During each summer since 1998, mathematicians and visual artists, poets and musicians, have gotten together at a BRIDGES conference to celebrate the overlapping connections of their arts.  This years conference, BRIDGES 2018, will be held July 25-59 in Stockholm.  As she has done in several previous years, mathematician-poet Sarah Glaz has organized a poetry reading as part of that event; this link leads to information about the participating poets.  Available for purchase, a poetry anthology with work from past and present Bridges poets.  The small poem offered below is one that is featured in the anthology.

          Good Fortune       by JoAnne Growney

          is good numbers—
          the length of a furrow,
          the count of years,
          the depth of a broken heart,
          the cost of camouflage, 
          the volume of tears.

     "Good Fortune" also is found in my collection, Red Has No Reason (Plain View Press, 2010).

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Reaching out . . .

Consider the geometry and community of  trees .  Can we learn from them?

          We plant two trees.

          Their trunks grow strong
          and straight--and parallel.
          Parallel lines don't meet.

          These trees, however--
          straight and tall and parallel--
          reach out with branches.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Visual, Poetical -- Mathematical Impressions

Art / Visual poetry      by Anatolii T Fomenko 

Statistical fantasy . .. imagining our random world . . .
     The art by Fomenko shown above conveys multiple meanings and thus is a good fit with both mathematics and poetry.  It invites contemplation -- give it some of your time! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Our place in the universe . . .

     Nanao Sakaki  (1923-2009) was a Japanese poet who began to wander the world after his term in the Japanese military in WWII -- and his poems give views of these travel experiences. He met Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg in the 1960s and his work has been noticeably influenced by theirs.  Here, from his collection Break the Mirror (Blackberry Books, 1996) is "A Love Letter" -- a poem that considers how the universe spreads out around us.

       A Love Letter      by Nanao Sakaki

       Within a circle of one meter
       You sit, pray and sing.

       Within a shelter ten meters large
       You sleep well, rain sounds a lullaby.

       Within a field a hundred meters large
       Grow rice and raise goats.       

Monday, June 18, 2018

Choose the right LINE

     Recently, looking through my copies of POETRY Magazine, in the September 2008 issue I found this quote (used as an epigraph) from a poet whose work I greatly admire, British poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985):

The whole point of drawing is choosing the right line.

Finding the Larkin quote led me to look back in my blog for poems that feature the concept of line  -- with its multiple meanings -- and I offer this link to search-results that offer a variety of choices for poems with line for you to explore.

And here are links to a couple of my own recent attempts to choose the right line:

    The online journal TalkingWriting has recently interviewed me
a portion of my poem, "My Dance is Mathematics,"  
that stars mathematician Emmy Noether.  
"They Say She Was Good -- for a Woman,"  features that same poem 
and some additional reflections on the struggles of women in mathematics.

Friday, June 15, 2018


Thinking today about ZERO -- zero tolerance, zero fear!

     In recent days, there's been widespread reporting of results of a study done by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concerning the large number of instances of sexual harassment in scientific professions, the most common type being   "degrading jokes and comments that made women feel excluded."
     These findings take me back to the 1980's and "affirmative action" at Pennsylvania's Bloomsburg University (where I was a member of the Mathematics Department).  The University had an Affirmative Action Officer who worked to help faculty and staff develop behaviors and policies that endeavored to end discrimination against women and minorities.  One important test of the appropriateness of an activity was a "symmetry test" -- if a remark or act did not seem proper when the roles of two participants were reversed, then the original was probably something to avoid. In those days, my male colleagues needed to reconsider some of their behaviors and I needed to overcome my fear of speaking up.
      The concept of  zero as "something" that signifies "nothing" is an ever-thought-provoking one.  In support of ZERO TOLERANCE -- with a goal of NOTHING, I offer the following poem, "The Zero," by Israel Har.   

Monday, June 11, 2018

Use MUSIC to enrich STEM teaching

     Last year this blog announced an online conference involving the use of song in teaching STEM subjects.  From one of the organizers, Gregory Crowther, I have this update -- announcing a second annual VOICES conference in September 2018:
       featured 40 presentations on teaching STEM subjects with music. 
       Presentation ideas are now being solicited for the 2018 conference
                     to be held on 26 September 2018.   All are welcome to enter!"

     Song lyrics often are poetry; here are links to several lyrics featured earlier in this blog:  "The Derivative Song" by Tom Lehrer,  Lines from "Mandlebrot Set" by Jonathan Coulton,  "Circle Song" and lines from "Hotel Infinity"  by Larry Lesser,  "Questions You Can't Ever Decide" by Bill Calhoun.  

Friday, June 8, 2018

More people are reading poetry!!

     In an email today from, I received a link to an article describing increases in the numbers of readers of poetry in recent years (comparing 2017 with 2012).  The article, published by the National Endowment for the Arts, is available here.   Although that article does not mention or credit the STEM to STEAM movement, I'd like to think it may be a factor in enlarging poetry's readership.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A visual poem

     One of the delights of today's Internet is that it enables us to find friends with common interests all over the world.  An email message from Tope Salaudeen-Adegoke of Nigeria has introduced me to one of his visual poems:
               "Coding Colonisation" is a visual poem written and arranged
               in the computer programming indentation of HTML/CSS. 
               The poem fuses what seem to be mathematics and poetry together . . ."
I have included this poem below; for those who wish background information, some explanation is given in this linked essay.  Please take time to explore the meanings coded here.

      /*Coding Colonisation */       by Tope Saludeen-Adegoke

       #menu nativity {

Monday, June 4, 2018

Nature's Examples of Fibonacci Numbers

     Recently I have been reexamining some of the treasures that have been on my bookshelves for a while.  One of these is Discovering Patterns in Mathematics and Poetry by Marcia Birken and Anne C. Coon (Rodopi B. V., 2008).  And, on page 60 of that collection,  I find "Fibonacci Time Lines" by Kansas poet Michael L.Johnson --  the poem is a lovely weave of the Fibonacci numbers with objects they count  (and was originally published in The Unicorn Captured (Cottonwood Review Press, 1980)) and, with the poet's permission, is offered below.

     Fibonacci Time Lines    by Michael Johnson

     curl, pine
     cone's swirl, goat's
     horn's turn, nautilus'
     shell's homing out, pineapple's whorl,
     sneezewort's branchings, hair's twist, parrot's beak's growth, 
     tusk's curve, monkey's tail's spiral, cochlea's whirl of sound, 
           Vitruvius' analogies, 
     Parthenon's geometry, logarithms' golden sections, time's way 
            through form, mind's acceleration on its helical vector 
            to death . . .

Here is a link to a host of poems linked to the Fibonacci numbers and found in earlier postings in this blog.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A self, divided

     On this very humid summer morning it is a treat to be drawn by Virginia poet Joan Mazza's poem to the chill of a winter morning as the poet divides her energies, measuring her world using fractions.  

Fractions             by Joan Mazza

Half awake at 5 AM, I leave my half of a warm bed
and quilts to the dog, hold the banister to descend
the narrow stairs. The woodstove’s still warm,
only one-tenth the coals aglow under their blanket
of gray ashes. I’ve half a mind to let it be, use electric,
only a quarter more cost than wood. No labor.
Clean heat, with some say one hundredth
the pollution I contribute with my stove.   

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Celebrating with a Fib

is to
all those people who
connect poetry and math -- CHEERS!

For more about Fibs, do a SEARCH of this blog -- or, for one rich source, go here.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Time comes quantized . . .

     Earlier this month, I saw a poem ("Time/text") by wonderful Canadian poet and friend Alice Major on Facebook and she has given me permission to offer it here.  It is from her first book of poetry, Time Travels Light, (Rowan Books, 1992).

Time/text     by Alice Major

Time comes quantized
in little books     pocked
with fifteen-minute intervals
that mark my progress
through the day —

          Niggling book of kells
      spelling out the duties
  and services
         peculiar to each hour.    

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Counting What's Left

     Recently at the 2018 Split This Rock Poetry Festival, I purchased a copy of ghost fishing:  An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology edited by poet Melissa Tuckey (University of Georgia Press, 2018) and, below, I offer a sad poem about "counting" from this anthology.   There is much to value in this fine anthology; follow this link for more information.

As If Hearing Heavy Furniture Moved on the Floor Above Us
                                                 by Jane Hirshfield
As things grow rarer, they enter the ranges of counting.
Remain this many Siberian tigers,
that many African elephants. Three hundred red egrets.
We scrape from the world its tilt and meander of wonder
as if eating the last burned onions and carrots from a cast iron pan.
Closing eyes to taste better the char of ordinary sweetness.

Hirshfield's poem also is found in the Split This Rock Poetry Database along with many other poems of environmental concern and protest.  It was first published in Washington Square Review.   This link connects to work by Jane Hirshfield featured in previous postings for this blog.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Playing with time

        Here is a poem that plays with the geometry of time -- a poem that first appeared in Mathematics Magazine, Vol 68, No 6 (December 1995), page 288.   Several of my other mathy poems written around that same time were collected in a booklet, My Dance is Mathematics, now out of print but available here on my website.  

       Finding Time     by JoAnne Growney

       Points chase points
       around the circle,
       fighting time.
       You know time's a circle,
       rather than a line.          

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Meeting the horizon line . . .

Poet James Galvin's work is described in this bio as both musical and "profoundly ecological" -- both qualities that strongly draw me to it.  The following poem, "Art Class," plays with math terminology -- drifting back and forth between reality and abstraction -- in a way that is fun to read as well as thoughtful.  Enjoy!

       Art Class  by James Galvin
       Let us begin with a simple line,
       Drawn as a child would draw it,
       To indicate the horizon,

       More real than the real horizon,
       Which is less than line,
       Which is visible abstraction, a ratio.   

Monday, May 14, 2018

Counting to 13

     I am a long-time New Yorker subscriber and what a delight it is, occasionally, to open a new issue of the magazine and find that one of their poems has links to mathematics. Such happened for the issue of April 2, 2-18 -- on page 70 of that issue is the poem, "Who Knows One" by Jane Shore.  
     Shore's poem features thirteen stanzas, one for each of the counting numbers 1, 2, 3, ... 13.  The nth stanza has n+2 lines -- except for n=13 -- and that last stanza has n+4 lines.
     Thanks, Jane Shore, for playing with numbers!
     Readers -- here is stanza 4.
          Who knows four. I know four.
          What were you doing on all fours?
          Three’s the hearts in a ménage à trois.
          Two’s the jump ropes in double Dutch.
          One is God for God is One—
          One good turn deserves another.

Here is a link to the rest of Shore's poem.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Math gems -- in the imagery of poems

     Much of mathematical terminology is of the flexible sort that can create vivid and interesting images in poetry -- and many poets embed jewels of mathematics here and there in their work.  Whenever I am with a group of poets it almost always turns out that at least one has poems that feature math terms and ideas.  For example, Allyson Lima, a Montgomery College faculty member whom I met at a recent Silver Spring, MD meeting of DC-area translators, shared with me her poem "Turn" -- offered below.  At a recent Takoma Park (MD) Community Center Poetry Reading I met retired attorney Richard Lorr and he has shared with me his poem, "Sweet Crumbs."   At an Arlington, VA reading of prize-winning poems to appear on busses, I met dentist Eric Forsbergh and learned of his poem about DNA-Testing, "Police will Swab Your Cheek."    PLEASE, scroll down, read, Enjoy! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Appreciation of Teachers (this week and FOREVER)

 This is National Teacher Appreciation Week 
 Celebrate your teachers with poems 
This link leads to a poem (previously posted) that celebrates four of my teachers -- Miriam Ayer, Laura Church, T. K. Pan (all math teachers) and Elinor Blair.
Here is a link to a poem by a favorite poetry teacher, Karl Patten.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Statistics and Mindfulness . . .

     April was Math-Stat Awareness Month and National Poetry Month  -- and here in this blog we celebrate those topics year-round -- today with a selection from Larry Lesser, professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, and first published at the website of  The American Statistical Association.

     Mindful Means      by Lawrence M. Lesser

     An explanatory variable has a response and
     The space
     Before response is deemed
     Sought by degrees:
     More time to reflect
     If randomness is
     Uniform, if correlation is
     Causal, chance, or complexity yet

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Counting on . . . and on . . .

     Claudia Gary is an active and celebrated poet in the Washington, DC area and she has a lifelong interest in mathematics -- starting, she tells me, "at age 8 when my father gave me a copy of George Gamow's One, Two, Three, Infinity."  Her poem, "In Binary," offered below, was first published in Rattle and features her and poet Richard Moore (1927-2009) who also was fascinated by mathematics.  Enjoy the fun of counting on and on, in verse.

In Binary     by Claudia Gary

What brought them together were gifts without number,
but binary digits enticed them to stay.
A system that each had discovered in childhood
cemented their fate at an offbeat café.


For her it was somewhat like playing piano.
He would make loops as if stringing small beads.
Both had departed the realm of addition,
since shapes, such as hands, had geometry’s needs.

While nursing their coffee and ordering breakfast,
asking more questions and ordering tea,
learning how deeply their temperaments nested,
each counted on fingers to ten-twenty-three.  

Monday, April 30, 2018

Embrace both art and mathematics

      A recent news article in The Hofstra Chronicle opens with a statement attributed to John Adams that begins something like this:

          I must study Politiks and War that my sons
               may have liberty to study  ...

And then, questions begin -- 
          is it painting and poetry 
                 or mathematics and philosophy      that should follow.

But why must a divide be proposed?

Whether mathematics or painting or philosophy or poetry, let us connect the best thoughts of each -- let our STEM be STEAM.  In this vein, consider the opening stanza of  "To Divine Proportion,"a sonnet by Rafael Alberti (translated from the Spanish by Carolyn Tipton):    

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Poem for My Pocket

April 26 is "Poem in Your Pocket Day" for 2018
This poem is in my pocket!

The Great Figure      by William Carlos Williams  (1883-1963)

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.

This link leads to several of my previous "Poem in Your Pocket" choices.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Move beyond dislike to the genuine . . .

April celebrates National Poetry Month and
     One of the sad similarities between mathematics and poetry is that both are subjects many people dislike -- with reasons such as "I'm lousy at  ___" or "I don't get it" or "It's stupid -- who needs it?"  Lots of us are trying to change that.

     The title for this posting is the opening line of "Poetry"  by Marianne Moore (1887-1972) -- and the poem goes on like this:

I, too, dislike it.
     Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in 
     it, after all, a place for the genuine.

In my copy of The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore (Penguin Books, 1981), there is a short version of this poem, "Poetry," that contains only the lines above and, here at we find a longer version that goes on for twenty-three more lines.

 Allow yourself to look for the special, to find it.  
 Celebrate the genuine       in poetry       and       in mathematics.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Poetry sometimes OPPOSES mathematics!

     One of the finest historians of mathematics is Judith V. Grabiner, professor emerita of Pitzer College;  here is a link to one of her thoughtful and widely informative articles, "The Centrality of Mathematics in the History of Western Thought," (originally published in Mathematics Magazine, 1988).
     Toward the end of this article is a section with the header "Opposition."  It opens with this statement:
          The best proof of the centrality of mathematics is that 
               every example of its influence given so far 
               has provoked strong and significant opposition.
Grabiner includes the voices of poets among the resisters.  She mentions Walt Whitman becoming "tired and sick" and leaving to look at the stars in "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" and quotes stanza from William Wordsworth's "The Tables Turned."   Wordsworth's condemnation of learning as an opponent to nature ends with these stanzas: