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.  

Sunday, October 2, 2016

September 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. 

Sept 28  A Nest of Worlds -- in verse by Margaret Cavendish...
Sept 26  The Bloomsburg Fair -- with theorems and lies . . ...
Sept 21  Math-woman, be bold!
Sept 19  A rumor (in verse) about Alfred Nobel
Sept 15  Keyboard characters make a poem . . .  

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).   
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.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Keyboard characters make a poem . . .

     Here's poem found in an old email from my Bloomsburg friend, Janice B.  Its authors turn out to be Fred Bremmer and Steve Kroese and they penned it around 1990, using computer keyboard characters, during their student days at Calvin College.  Enjoy!

< > ! * ' ' #         read as   Waka waka bang splat tick tick hash
^ " ` $ $ -                  Caret quote back-tick dollar dollar dash
! * = @ $ _                  Bang splat equal at dollar underscore
% * < > ~ # 4               Percent splat waka waka tilde number 4
& [ ] . . /                   Ampersand bracket bracket dot dot slash
| { , , SYSTEM HALTED     Vertical-bar curly-bracket comma comma CRASH.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Fib (a perfect circle) -- and some math-po links

    1      Not 
    1      one 
    2      circle
    3      is perfect
    5      yet the idea
    8      of circle's useful every day.

The beauty of images and the ideas they represent is central in both mathematics and poetry.  A wonderful resource for works that join these two is the literary website TalkingWriting,com -- whose poetry editor is Carol Dorf, also a math teacher.  Here is a link to a wonderful TW essay from a few years back, "Math Girl Fights Back" by Karen J Ohlson.  This article by Dorf, "Why Poets Sometimes think in Numbers,"  introduces a 2012 collection of mathy poems.  Another collection was posted in the Spring 2016 issue.  In addition, at the TalkingWriting website, you can enter the search term "math" -- as I did -- and be offered 5 pages of links to consider. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Division by Zero

     At Victoria University in Melbourne, novelist, playwright and poet Tom Petsinis also teaches mathematics.  He participated in the 2016 Bridges Math-Arts Conference in Finland this summer:  here are two of his poems from the 2016 Bridges Poetry Anthology -- and each of them plays with mathematical ideas in new and thoughtful (sometimes amusing) ways.   "Zeno's Paradox" follows this initial poem(Names and links for other anthology poets are given below.)

     Division by Zero     by Tom Petsinis

     She could’ve been our grandmother
     Warning us of poisonous mushrooms ‒
     To stress her point she'd scratch
     The taboo bold with crimson chalk.
     It should never be used to divide,
     Or we'd be howled from lined yard
     To pit where cruel paradoxes ruled.
     Her warnings tempted us even more:
     Young, growing full in confidence,
     We’d prove the impossible for fun ‒
     Nothing she said could restrain us
     From showing two is equal to one.   

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A counting rhyme, a riddle

     During the summer I had lots of activities with grandchildren -- they all love to read and one of the books we enjoyed together was Counting Rhymes (selected by Shona McKellar, a Dorling Kindersley book, 1993).  Here are a rhyme and a riddle from that collection.

Let's Send a Rocket     by Kit Patrickson

TEN, NINE, EIGHT,                                 We're counting each second,
SEVEN, SIX, FIVE . . .                             And soon it will boom!

We'll send up a rocket,                         Get ready for . . . TWO;
And it will be LIVE .                              Get ready to go . . .
FIVE, FOUR, THREE . . .                          It's TWO--and it's--ONE!  
It's ready to zoom!                                We're OFF!  It's ZERO!

                                    RIDDLE -- What animal do these clues describe?
                                    Four stiff-standers,
                                    Four dilly-danders,
                                    Two lookers,
                                    Two crookers,
                                    And a wig-wag.

Monday, September 5, 2016

August (2016) and prior -- titles, links to 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.

     Aug 31  Twelveness -- a Fibonacci poem from G4G
     Aug 29  Math-play via verse (with George Darley)
     Aug 25  Numbers and Faces - poem, anthology
     Aug 22  Math-poetry connects with Carol Burnett
     Aug 17  Swim, Girl, Swim -- thirty-five miles 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Twelveness -- a Fibonacci poem from G4G

     Science writer, philosopher, and skeptic Martin Gardner (1914-2010) is perhaps best known for his long-running Scientific American column, "Mathematical Games."  His life and work are celebrated by G4G conferences ("Gatherings for Gardner") held in even-numbered years in Atlanta.  Here fans gather and present fun-mathematics to each other.
     A several-time participant in G4G is Kate Jones of Kadon Enterprises, an organization devoted to the development and distribution of Game PuzzlesBelow in a Fibonacci poem created for the 2016 G4G Jones tells the history of her game-puzzle enterprise.
Many Fibonacci poems use the Fibonacci number sequence 
to determine the numbers of syllables in successive lines of a poem.  
In the following poem, it is the numbers of words that are counted.
 A pentomino is a plane geometric figure formed by joining five equal squares edge to edge.  
There are twelve differently-shaped pentominos; this number gives the title of Jones's poem.

TWELVENESS  by Kate Jones

  1    Martin
  1    Gardner
  2    Long ago
  3    Wrote about pentominoes,
  5    Brainchild of young Solomon Golomb,
  8    The coolest recmath set in all the world.   

Monday, August 29, 2016

Math-play via verse (with George Darley)

A recent email from Colm Mulcahy -- who seeks out all things Irish -- alerted me to Dublin poet and math-text author, George Darley (1795-1846), and an online archived collection of his poems.    Colm's email had opened the collection to pages 70-71 and there I found -- and had fun reading --  this poem that plays with math.

     A Poetical Problem.      by George Darley

     Once on a time, at evening hour,
     A sweet, and dewy-bosom'd Flower
            Was cradling up to rest ;
     A Pilgrim, wandering near her bed,
     Raised, with his staff, her drooping head,
            And thus the Flower addrest : 

     "From matin-rise to moonlight hour,
     Tell me, my pearly-crested Flower,
            How many a lucid gem
     Hath left the high, cavernal air,
     To form upon thy queenly hair
            A rainbow diadem?" 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Numbers and Faces - poem, anthology

 "Numbers and Faces" is the title of a poem by W. H. Auden that ends with these lines:
            True, between faces almost any number
            Might come in handy, and One is always real;
            But which could any face call good, for calling
            Infinity a number does not make it one.
The complete poem is posted here.

     "Numbers and Faces" is also the title of a small anthology of poems, published in 2001 and containing Auden's poem, that I collected and edited for the Humanistic Mathematics Network.  The anthology has been out of print for many years but a file with its mathy poems is available online here
     The Humanistic Mathematics Network (started around 1987 by Alvin White) had a Newsletter and then a Journal but these paper publications faded away around 2004.  The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics emerged in 2011 to fill the void.  Recently I have learned from JHM editor Gizem Karaali, that an online archive of the prior publications is available here(Using the search box, I was able to find several of my own years-ago articles, including one from 1994 entitled "Mathematics in Literature and Poetry.")

Monday, August 22, 2016

Math-poetry connects with Carol Burnett

     When I began teaching mathematics my students compared me -- to my delight -- with Carol Burnett.  Recent thoughts of this amazing comedian have led me to Kevin Spacey's poem, "Carol" that he composed and read (imitating poet and actor Jimmy Stewart) to honor Burnett.  I share with Jimmy Stewart the hometown of Indiana, PA and I reconnected with memories of Carol Burnett this past weekend via NPR's "Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me."   Here is the text of Spacey's 14-line poem:

     Carol Burnett is a wonderful gal
     She always makes me laugh somehow
     All she has to do is put on that silly grin
     And I get this funny feeling all over my chin  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Swim, Girl, Swim -- thirty-five miles

     Today's poem uses a single number (35) as it celebrates Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003), an Olympic (1924) swimmer and (in 1926) English Channel crosser -- also, I notice, someone whose Wikipedia entry needs more work.  This poem honoring Ederle --  by a Children's Poet Laureate, J. Patrick Lewis -- I found at
     As the 2016 Olympics take place now in Rio, many of the stories feature outstanding female athletes -- and it has not gone unnoticed that male competitors are simply "athletes" whereas Olympic women are "female" athletes.   Is this unconscious bias?  It is similar to the way a mathematician who is a woman is detractingly described as "a female mathematician."

Celebrate Gertrude Ederle!   Celebrate swimmers!

     Swim, Girl, Swim     by J. Patrick Lewis
                    for Gertrude Ederle
     As Europe woke from sleep,
     Young Trudy Ederle
     At Cap Gris Nez in France
     Dived into a daunting sea.   

Monday, August 15, 2016

Find math-poetry links in BRIDGES archives

     As noted in last week's posts, the annual international math-arts festival, BRIDGES, recently was held in Finland.  Now the archives of papers presented there are available at this link.
     One of the programs related to poetry was a workshop by poet Tom Petsinis of Melbourne, “Mathematics Through the Matrix of Poetry,” archived here.

Past BRIDGES conferences have also included
a variety of poetry-math connections.
For example, in 2015, "Composing Mathematical Poetry"  by Carol Dorf,
 “Visualizing Rhyme Patterns in Sonnet Sequences” by Hartmut F. W. Hoft,
and a few remarks from me, “Inspire Math-Girls-Women (perhaps with poems)”.

Using the SEARCH box (beneath the list of years in the left column) and entering the term “poem” led me  to a total of 28 hits.   Explore! Enjoy!!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

More from BRIDGES poets . . .

     The 2016 BRIDGES Math-Arts Conference is currently taking place at the University of Jyväskylä in Jyväskylä, Finland.  Poets on this year's program include: Manfred Stern, Vera Schwarcz, Eveline Pye, Tom Petsinis, Mike Naylor, Alice Major, Emily Grosholz, Carol Dorf, Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya, Madhur Anand and the organizer, Sarah Glaz.
      Although he is not a participant in this year's BRIDGES, the name of Portuguese mathematician, poet, and translator Francisco José Craveiro de Carvalho appears near the top of the conference's poetry page for his translation of these lines that have become a sort of motto for BRIDGES poetry:

             Newton's binomial is as beautiful as Venus de Milo.
             What happens is that few people notice it.

                        --Fernando Pessoa (as Álvaro de Campos)
                          translated from the Portuguese by Francisco Craveiro  

Monday, August 8, 2016

Words -- and Meanings -- and BRIDGES, 2016

     Tomorrow the 2016 BRIDGES Conference (which celebrates the connections between mathematics and the arts) will open at the University of Jyväskylä in Jyväskylä, Finland.  Helping the conference to celebrate poetry will be Sarah Glaz, who has organized a poetry reading for the afternoon of August 12 and prepared a poetry collection that anthologizes poets who have been BRIDGES participants.   Here is a one of my favorite poems from the collection -- by Maryland poet Deanna Nikaido who, alas (and like me), will not be able to attend the conference.

     Trouble with Word Problems  by Deanna Nikaido

     Once asked to solve the arrival time of two trains
     traveling at different speeds
     toward the same destination—I failed.
     Mathlexia my friend said. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

POETRY -- in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics

     Pomona College mathematician Gizem Karaali, one of the editors of the online Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, is also a poet.  And the journal conscientiously features links between mathematics and the literary arts.  
     The current issue (online since late July) features my review of Madhur Anand's vibrant new collection, A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes (Penguin Random House, 2015) and these poems:  
       "The Greatest Integer Function" by Alanna Rae, 
              "Quantitative Literacy" by Thomas L. Moore,  
                      "Menger Sponge"  by E. Laura Golberg, 
                             "Calculus Problems" by Joshua N. Cooper, and
                                    "An Exercise on Limits" by Manya Raman-Sundström.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Loving the difference quotient ... and more ...

     From Philadelphia poet-mathematician, Marion Cohen, a new collection  -- Closer to Dying (Word Tech, 2016).  When I received the book a few days ago and began to read I did, of course, seek out mathy poems.  Two of these are included below. In this first poem Cohen has some fun with the terms and symbols of introductory calculus.  In the second, she tells of an encounter of the sort that happens to many mathematicians  -- meeting someone who supposes that mathematicians do what calculators do. (This link leads to a collection of mathy poems (including ones by Cohen) at talkingwriting,com.)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Homage to Godel

From Erica Jolly, an Australian poet and online friend, I have learned of a fine anthology of science poems --  A Quark for Mister Mark:  101 Poems about Science, edited by Maurice Riordan and Jon Turney (Faber and Faber, 2000).  A poem in that collection that was new to me -- and one I like a lot -- is "Homage to Gödel" by German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger; I offer it below.  This link leads to a thoughtful review (by Richard Dove) of Enzensberger's poetry -- one of Dove's observations is that thought processes fascinate Enzenberger; "Homage to Gödel" illustrates that fascination. 

     Homage to Gödel     by Hans Magnus Enzensberger  
(translated from German by the poet)

     'Pull yourself out of the mire
     by your own hair': Münchhausen's theorem
     is charming, but do not forget:
     the Baron was a great liar. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

One thing leads to another -- "Do the Math"

     I offer poetry workshops for Peer Wellness and Recovery Services -- and PWRS coordinator Miriam Yarmolinsky invited me to go with her to the very fine DC Fringe Festival event featuring Leah Harris --  and Leah is also a poet whose work I found in the anthology Word Warriors:  35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution  -- where I also found "Do the Math" -- a crowd-pleaser by a 2002 slam champion Meliza Bañales -- available here on YouTube and included belowEnjoy!

Do the Math       by Meliza Bañales

The equation goes something like this:
one white mother plus one brown father divided by two 
          different worlds
equals a daughter. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A number tells the story -- in these Haiku

     One of my neighbors, Carol, has been cleaning out bookshelves and offered me her old copy of Gary Snyder's collection,  The Back Country (New Directions, 1971) -- and in it I have found four pages of "Hitch Haiku."  Three of these little poems each depend on a number -- and I offer them below.
     A truck went by
                    three hours ago:
     Smoke Creek desert

Over the Mindano Deep             
                                                  Scrap brass
                                                                 dumpt off the fantail
                                                  falling six miles

     Stray white mare
                    neck rope dangling
     forty miles from farms.

Monday, July 18, 2016

String Theory

     String Theory is a theoretical framework that attempts to explain, among other things, quantum gravity.  Its basic elements are open and closed strings -- rather than point-like particles.  The poem "String Theory" by Ronald Wallace offers imaginative and thoughtful interplay between these strings of theoretical physics and the strings of musical instruments -- I found the poem at the VerseDaily website and Wallace has given me permission to use it here.

      String Theory     by Ronald Wallace

      I have to believe a Beethoven
      string quartet is not unlike
      the elliptical music of gossip:
      one violin excited
      to pass its small story along  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Continue to celebrate Szymborska

If you are a frequent visitor to this blog, you know that Polish Nobelist (1996) Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012) is one of my favorite poets.  My Romanian friend Doru Radu, who now lives in Poland, visited New York recently and during my visit with him there he surprised me with a gift -- a posthumous bilingual Szymborska collection, Enough (Wydawnictwo a5, translated by Clare Cavanagh).  Here is the English version of a small poem with numbers from that collection:


          Twenty seven bones,
          thirty five muscles,
          around two thousand nerve cells
          in every tip of all five fingers.
          It's more than enough
          to write "Mein Kampf"
          or "Pooh Corner."

Links to additional postings of Szymborska's work may be found here.
Remember also to visit the wonderful Spring 2016 issue of TalkingWriting -- with its smorgasbord of mathy poems.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Remembering Reza Sarhangi

     In 1998 at Southwestern College in Winfield, KS an Iranian mathematician, Reza Sarhangi, organized the first of a series of annual Bridges conferences that celebrate the intersection of mathematics and the arts.  On July 1, 2016, this vital mathematician-artist passed away.  Many will celebrate the life of this warm and generous and talented man.
where you can learn a bit about Reza Sarhangi and about this year's conference in Finland. 
 Here is a link to an article by Sarhangi on Persian art -- indeed, it includes a poem. 
Sarhangi was at the time of his death, a professor at Towson University. 
 Here is a link to his informative Towson webpage which I hope the university will keep alive.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What Math Teachers Do

     They ignore me.  I
     raise my hand -- wave it
     to ask questions, to
     offer answers -- but
     they call on the boys.
A 5x5 syllable-square of protest, from JoAnne Growney

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Revolutions and singularities

     Early in June it was my privilege to hear poet Lesley Wheeler read as part of the Joaquin Miller Poetry Series on summer Sundays in Washington, DC's Rock Creek Park.  Lesley read from her wonderful 2015 collection, Radioland, in which I found this mathy sonnet, a poem of twists and singularities and rich with double meanings:

       Concentric Grooves, 1983     by Lesley Wheeler

       Every whorl in the floorboard spins clockwise,
       the grain widening round the stain, a stream
       of years circling a burn-brown knot.  Strum
       and crackly gap.  Music drowns a wheeze 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Important online sources for mathy poems

Every issue of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics contains poetry.
The Spring 2016 issue of TalkingWriting has more than a score of mathy poems.

This blog has offered math-linked poetry online since 2010, now with over 800 posts.  Scroll down to browse OR use the SEARCH box to look for poems with a particular mathematical image. The lower right-hand-column offers key-words that can be useful search terms.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Exponential power

From this week's New Yorker (June 27, 2016) from a poem by Maya Ribault entitled "Society of Butterflies" this mathy statement:

                                . . .                 I save  
            for retirement—to my bohemian eyes, 
            a fortune—though they say you need more
            than a million. Immerse yourself in the exponential
            power of dividends.      . . . 

Read the entire poem here.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A sonnet with numbers

     Sonnet: Now I see them    by Michael Palmer

          Now I see them sitting me before a mirror.
          There’s noise and laughter. Somebody
          mentions that hearing is silver
          before we move on to Table One
          with the random numbers. I look down
          a long street containing numbers.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Wanting things proportional . . .

Here is a reflective poem by San Diego poet Ben Doller (found also at and included here with permission of the poet).

       Proportion    by Ben Doller

       Just want things

       Just things,
       not all.

       Not kings, kings
       should be below:    

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Women occupy mathematics

     Poems thrive on imagery created from specific (rather than vague) details -- and numbers and other math terms are very specific!  Below I present several samples of mathematical imagery in poems from an excellent and important recent anthology Raising Lilly Ledbetter:  Women Poets Occupy the Workspace.

Here are the opening lines of "Circle of Silence" by Stacy K. Vargas:

     Like an electron trapped in an unstable orbit, I am seated 
                           in a circle of powerful men.
     In an awkward moment small talk ends 
                           and the meeting abruptly begins.
     The superintendent turns to me and says, 
                           "This was not sexual harassment."

And the opening lines of "The Typist" by Barbara Drake:

     I made 87 1/2 cents an hour typing,
     when I was a college student.