Monday, February 19, 2024

Mathematician, Poet -- Blind to the worth of Women

     As we study mathematics and learn of outstanding mathematicians, many of us do not also learn which of those mathematicians also were poets.  A posting that I found recently in Marian Christie's blog, Poetry and Mathematics, features poetry by  Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-39).

     Maxwell's verse also is featured in the math-poetry anthology, Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (A.K Peters, Ltd., 2008);  preview available here at

     Below I offer a stanza from a Maxwell poem (posted in this blog back in December, 2015) -- a stanza that shows the long-mistaken attitude that has existed about inferior abilities of math-women: 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Poems of Math -- from a teacher and his students

      Occasionally I Google the pair "mathematics, poetry" to see what a web search can find for me.  Many of the sites found this way are familiar -- including this blog and poetry I have cited herein.  But a few days ago I found a new site -- posted by the New England Literary Resource Center and featuring poems by a GED teacher Phillip Howard (at the Adult Literacy Center at Dorchester, MA) and his students.  Howard asks his students to write poems about math as a way of communicating their accomplishments and frustrations.   Here is the poem that Howard offers his students; their responses are collected here

       Me & Math       by  Phillip Howard

          I have a problem … a math problem
          Math is always throwing problems at me
          I solve 1 and Boom   Math throws a harder 1
          A Brain Buster … so I rage
          But I can’t GIVE UP MATH
          Math is in my blood … PROBLEMS CALL 2 ME
          I want 2 BREAK THE HABIT … but I can’t
          So I push MATH
          I push on the WEB
          I push on the STREETS
          I push in the CLASS
          I push MATH 2 YOU
          So YOU 2 have a MATH PROBLEM

Monday, February 12, 2024

Math Poems for Students of All Ages

      In my recent use of Google -- in search of mathy poems -- I came across this website:  38 Math Poems for Students in All Grade Levels (a featured page at  It contains these words:

"Poetry can transforms kids’ attitudes about math exponentially!"

Here's a sample.

And here is  a link to more about poet Rebecca Kai Dotlich.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Rules that someone made up -- Is that MATH?

      As frequent readers of this blog know, I am indebted to many people for their contributions of poems -- their own and links to others.  An alert to today's poem came from Canadian poet Alice Major -- with previous contibutions to this blog found at this link.   The poem, "BOUNDARY CONDITIONS"  by Sneha Madhavan-Reese was published in the journal Rattle I offer, below, its opening and closing stanzas, followed by a link to the complete poem.

from   BOUNDARY CONDITIONS     by   Sneha Madhavan-Reese

                    who but men blame the angels for the wild
                           exceptionalism of men?   
 —Sam Sax, “Anti-Zionist Abecedarian”

       Along the border of any governed region, there exists a value which must
       satisfy its laws. This is a rule I learned for solving differential equations.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Going to Mars -- film profile of poet Nikki Giovanni

     Poet Nikki Giovanni is someone I much admire -- for her poetry and for her activism -- and recently I had had a chance to see the documentary film "Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project."  I valued learning more about Giovanni's life and was reminded to revisit her poetry.   In her 1975 collection, The Woman and the Men (of which I have an autographed copy), I re-found her poem "The Way I Feel" and I offer below its mathy final stanza during this 2024 leap year.   

from  THE WAY I FEEL   by Nikki Giovanni

            in my mind you're a clock
            and i'm the second hand sweeping
            around you sixty times an hour
            twenty-four hours a day
            three-hundred-sixty-five days a year
            and an extra day
            in leap year
            cause that's the way
            that's the way
            that's the way i feel
            about you

from The Women and the Men (William Morrow & Company, New York, 1975)

Friday, February 2, 2024

Distance and Time

        Poetry 180 was a project initiated back in 2002 by the poet laureate Billy Collins -- a project with the goal of providing for students a thoughtful and accessible poem for each day of the school year.  A recent email alerted me to a slightly mathy poem within that collection -- Poem 081, "After Years" by Iowa poet Ted Kooser (also a former US poet laureate);  I offer Kooser's poem below.

From Solo: A Journal of Poetry, 1996.

Today, February 2, is Groundhog Day.  Celebrate the day with some poems

Monday, January 29, 2024

Women in Math -- Don't Hide Them!!

     In the days and years since my schooling, the numbers of math-women have increased and their public recognition also has increased.  But not enough!  This list of 18 remarkable women in STEM includes only one math-woman  AND. here are several book-seller links to explore: 

Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World
30 Remarkable Women in Science and Math
The First Woman in Space: Valentina Tereshkova
20 Greatest Mathematicians: Masters of Mathematics from the Past, Present, Future

     A very important math-influence in my life was my high school math teacher for my junior and senior years, Laura Church.  Today, exploring the internet, searching for her name, I found only this memorial statement and, although it tells of her teaching at Indiana Joint High School, it does not mention that her teaching-subject was math.  Here is a stanza that celebrates her:  

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Mathematical Wellness

      As I read this poem, I was reminded of attitudes toward mathematics:

by poet Sunil Singh, from Words

Friday, January 19, 2024

Films about math and math-people

    One of my recent finds has been an article that offers a list of 20 films about math, mathematicians, and math-geniuses.  Eagerly, I opened the article to read about the films and to see which of them also involved poetry.  ALAS, I did not find that these math-people connected with poetry.  Following that non-find, I turned to a favorite source of mathy poems to discover something to post.

    That favorite source is Against Infinity, edited by Ernest Robson and Jet Wimp (Primary Press, 1979 and now out of print); this collection has been on my shelf for many years and is the first math-poetry anthology that I ever encountered.  Here is a poem from that collection, written by a Missouri high school senior, Carol Clark.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Poetry at the Joint Mathematics Meetings

        During January 4-7, 2024, mathematics meetings were held in San Francisco, CA.  Although unable to attend, I have spent some time browsing abstracts of the presentations there and found several that involve poetry.  Suzanne Sumner of the University of Mary Washington, gave a presentation entitled "How Poetry Informs the History of Mathematics" and here is a link to the abstract for Sumner's presenation.

     From Sumner's abstract I learn that the ancient Sanskrit scholar Acharya Pingala was likely to have been the first to use Fibonacci numbers and Pascal's triangle in his poetry. Using this blog's SEARCH feature, I found this link to prior mentions of Fibonacci in this blog and this link to mentions of Pascal.

Friday, January 12, 2024

A Mathy-Poetic Quote

     Recently my thoughts have turned often to these mathy-poetic words by Danish-American comedian-musician Victor Borge (1909-2000):

Laughter is the
shortest distance
between two people.

*  *  *  *

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Thinking with my fingers . . .

Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)

This quote from science fiction writer Isaac Asimov is found here along with other related views.  For me also -- with poetry or math or some other subject -- writing is an important thinking strategy:  my fingers with my pen lead me to new ideas.  And counting syllables shapes my words like this:

start with
just a few
words -- and write them --
AND my fingers help
to develop my thoughts.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Many accessible MATHY POEMS -- from BRIDGES

      One of the wonderful supporters of connections between mathematics and the arts has been BRIDGES, a conference-gathering that was initiated by Reza Sarhanghi (1952-2016) in 1998.  

     Here, at the BRIDGES website, one may find information about the upcoming 2024 conference.  This website also offers -- via the link Papers Archive -- access to conference papers from 1998 to 2023.  

     Poetry became part of the conference in 2011 and, at the link Mathematical Poetry, we are taken to a website maintained by math-poet Sarah Glaz -- a website that offers access to a vast and wonderful collection of poems, anthologies, recordings, videos, . . .

   Below I include an anthology sample, a very fine poem by Deanna Nikaido from the Bridges Stockholm 2018 Anthology.

     Ratio     by Deanna Nikaido

          They say there are two sides to everything.  

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Student Contests -- Essays, Poems -- Due by Feb. 1

 STUDENTS – Middle School, High School, College

    Write a Mathy POEM


    Interview a Math-Woman, write an ESSAY                                 about her

Entries are being accepted now – and up to FEBRUARY 1, 2024.

Information about the MATH-POETRY competition is available here.

Information about the MATH-WOMAN ESSAY CONTEST is available here.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

The true spirit of delight . . .

As the year ends, remembering an important truth . . .

 The true spirit of delight, the exultation,

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 (1972-1970)

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

A Christmas-tree poem

As I enjoy the brightness that Christmas tree lights bring to a grey day, I am reminded of the following poem by Brian Bilston, found on Twitter (X) early in December:

Previous mentions of Brian Bilston in this blog may be found at this link.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Counting on Christmas . . .

      One of my favorite memories of Christmas when I was a child involves recitation -- with family or classmates -- of this holiday rhyme, "The Twelve Days of Christmas."  I include a few lines below, and a here is a link to the entire poem:

       On the first day of Christmas,
       my true love sent to me
       A partridge in a pear tree.

       On the second day of Christmas,
       my true love sent to me
       Two turtle doves,
       And a partridge in a pear tree.

       On the third day of Christmas,
       my true love sent to me
       Three French hens,
       Two turtle doves,
       And a partridge in a pear tree.

       On the fourth day of Christmas,
       my true love sent to me
       Four calling birds,
       Three French hens,
       Two turtle doves,
       And a partridge in a pear tree.                   
            . . .                                                             Read more here.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Explore a new idea by writing a poem . . .

      Often I try to unravel the intricacies of a new idea by writing -- using communication with my fingers as steps toward understanding.  And when I found the poem below (here at the website VIA NEGATIVA) I saw it also as a poem of discovery -- and I offer it to you:

Every Line Intersects the Line
                           at Infinity at Some Point                       
by Luisa A. Igloria

"Out of nothing I have created a strange new universe."   - János Bolyai (1802-1860)

The optometrist asks you to look into 
the autorefractor: two dark lines form 

a road that stretches from where you sit
to a red barn at the horizon. If your brain 

tells you that you're looking at a point 
at infinity rather than just mere inches away, 

it helps the eyes focus. Things have to end 
somewhere, don't they? In projective geometry, 

Monday, December 11, 2023

Stories of Women and Girls in Science

The website for Agnes Scott College has a wonderful collection of biographies of math women  -- and today I focus particularly on the story of mathematician Marie-Sophie Germain (1776-1831).   I quote below a few words about Germain:

Sophie began teaching herself mathematics using the books in her father's library. Her parents felt that her interest was inappropriate for a female (the common belief of the middle-class in the 19th century) and did all that they could to discourage her.  

Related to the idea expressed in this quote is a thoughtful poem about Germain by Colorado poet Jessy Randall;  the poem is part of Randall's very special collection Mathematics for Ladies, Goldsmiths Press, 2022 and I offer it below:

Friday, December 8, 2023

A Must-Read Journal -- Humanistic Mathematics

    One of the very special online resources for connections between mathematics and poetry (and also other art forms) is the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics.  Edited by California mathematicians Mark Huber of Claremont McKenna College and Gizem Karaali of Pomona College, this free-access journal has online issues published each six months -- available here.

     Poetry of many different forms is available in JHM -- and a poem from the January, 2023 issue that I enjoyed rereading recently is "Mathematics" by Northwestern Math Professor Kim Regnier Jongerius -- a poem inspired by the song "Memories" from the musical Cats and describing some of the joys and frustrations inherent in doing mathematical work.  I offer one of its stanzas below and I invite you to go here (to the JHM website) to read more.

     from    Mathematics     by Kim Regnier Jongerius

     I must wait for an insight
     Try to think of connections
     That I haven't before.
     When the day breaks with no solution coming to me
     Then my courage sinks to the floor.

Enjoy all six stanzas of the poem here in JHM.

THANK YOU, Jongerius and JHM for sharing thought-provoking words.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Should I take notes?

One of the things about my learning process that I was not fully aware of during many of my school years was the role that my fingers play in my thinking and learning.  Taking notes -- as I read or as I listen to a teacher's presentation -- helps the ideas to become part of me, even if i do not reread and study the notes afterward.

A Fib about how I think and learn

When I began writing poetry I started to notice that my fingers also became part of the creative writing process . ..  sometimes my fingers wrote words before my mind knew them.  And I loved these discoveries!

Is this writing-thinking link also part of you?

Friday, December 1, 2023

The First Thing . . .

Found in a posting on November 26 on Twitter the following thoughtful lines -- featuring counting -- by poet and editor Dr. Maya C. Popa,

Monday, November 27, 2023

A Proof in a Poem . . .

     I was led to this information by a recent (11/23/23) posting by @OxUniMaths on  𝕏 (at

     Mathematicians Germano Cardano and Nicolo Tartaglia  lived in Italy in the 16th century.  When Cardano tried to persuade Tartaglia to tell him the solution method for  to cubic equations, he received a description that he calls a poem. Andrew Wiles discusses this situation in a YouTube video, as part of his talk on the Langlands program.  The posting by @OxUniMaths on  𝕏 offers a brief section of that talk -- and includes this translation (from the original Italian) of Tartaglia's poem:

Tartaglia considers solving a cubic

To the right (above), Wiles has noted a symbolic translation of Tartaglia's words.  In his discussion of the poem, Wiles also notes that back in the 16th century all math was written using words.  

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Write about a MATH-WOMAN -- and WIN!

     Years ago -- when I was the only woman in the Bloomsburg University mathematics department --  I wrote a poem, "My Dance is Mathematics," about the mathematician Emmy Noether -- and it contained the following lines:

               If a woman's dance is mathematics,
               She dances alone.

But things are changing!  Founded in 1971, AWM (Association for Women in Mathematics) has been actively celebrating the lives of female mathematicians  -- and one of AWM's current and far-reaching activities is a STUDENT ESSAY CONTEST for which students -- in middle-school, high-school, and college categories -- are invited to interview a female mathematician and write about her.  The essay-submission period is December 1, 2023 - February 1, 2024.  Questions may be directed to AWM Essay Contest Organizer, Dr. Johanna Franklin ( 

Monday, November 13, 2023

ADDING -- a List Poem

      Via an X (Twitter) posting by poet and blogger Marian Christie (@marian_v_o), I learned about a blog by writer Mike Ferguson entitled Gravy from the Gazebo -- available at this link.  Ferguson has posted a series of mathy list poems -- starting on November 10 with "Adding list poem".  The poem's opening lines are offered below and the complete poem is found at this link

The poem is introduced with these words:   Love a list poem, this is my latest – the kind of content and ideas I would like to introduce to students for writing their own:

Opening lines of a poem by Mike Ferguson -- the rest is here.

Ferguson next offered more lists: "Subtracting list poem" at this link AND "Multiplying list poem" at this link AND "Dividing list poem" at this link.

Read.  Reread.  Share.  Write your poetic response.  Share!

Thursday, November 9, 2023

A Mathy-Poetic Trajectory

      Carol Dorf is a retired math teacher and poet -- and at New Verse News I have discovered one of her recent mathy poems, "TRAJECTORY," posted on 10/09/2023.   I offer its opening lines below.

from   TRAJECTORY     by Carol Dorf

          The problem set gives us: a stone, force, an angle.
          Given this, predict when the stone will hit the ground.
          Outside the book this problem grows more complex
          even if there are no dragons to interfere with the trajectory.
          Imagine a missile. No don’t. There’s no need to imagine:
          haven’t you opened the paper today? Imagine a war
          where children’s bodies form the location of the necessary
          violence. Don’t authorities always say necessary?

                . . . . .              Dorf's complete TRAJECTORY is available at this link.

Carol Dorf is a Zoeglossia fellow, whose poetry has been published in several chapbooks and in a wide variety of journals; and she is a founding poetry editor of Talking Writing.  

Here is a link to the New Verse News website -- a collection of many, many poems.  This link leads to poems at that site by Carol Dorf, including "Trajectory." 

Monday, November 6, 2023

Take a Tour -- of Mathy Poems

       Recently I have discovered (at the website of the American Mathematical Society, AMS) a blog posting that features my blog.  Entitled "A Tour of Intersections:  Poetry with Mathematics," the posting by math and science writer Rachel Crowell.  Below I post a sample:

"MATH WOMAN"  -- acrostic poem by JoAnne Growney

AND . . .  readers are invited to EXPLORE THIS  BLOG for more!
CREATE mathy poems!  and share them with joannegrowney (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Upcoming AMS Math-Poetry Contest

 Middle School Students

High School Students

College Students

Share YOUR POEMS via the 2024 Math-Poetry Contest

sponsored by the American Mathematical Society

Submit between November 27, 2023 and February 1, 2024

Detailed instructions for contest entries are found AT THIS LINK!  

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Thirst to Know HOW MANY?

    One of the important math-poetry projects that I have been involved in is Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics, a poetry anthology collected and edited by mathematician-poet Sarah Glaz and me -- published by AK Peters/CRC Press in 2008 and now available on Kindle and at various online used-book sites.

     A poem in Strange Attractors that I have been drawn to again recently is "Ode to Numbers" by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973).  Here are its opening lines: 

from  Ode to Numbers     by Pablo Neruda

          Oh, the thirst to know
          how many!
          The hunger
          to know
          how many
          stars in the sky!   

Monday, October 23, 2023

Zero Man of India

     An interesting story that Google led me to is told in this article about "Zero Man of India" --  the article tells of  Shahbaz Khan, famously known as Shahbaz Hakbari, a multifaceted individual with talent in poetry, prose, mathematics, and education -- well-educated AND he he is a widely celebrated teacher.

"Mathematics and poetry may seem like two different worlds, but both require creativity, imagination, and thinking outside the box," Shahbaz Khan explained.

The article "Zero Man of India" contains many mentions of Khan/Hakbari's life as a poet -- but has no poems.  Nonetheless, the phrases quoted are poetic -- and, below, I have given two of them the shapes of  poems.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Remembering Louise Gluck

        Poet-Laureate of the United States (2003-2004), winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature, Louise Glück died recently.  (10/13/23)  (A biographical sketch and many of Glück's  poems are available here at  The quotation below -- sharing her desire "to make something never heard before"  -- links closely to the desires of those of us in mathematics, to create the new.

A quote given with Gluck's obituary in The Washington Post

This 2020 blog posting features Gluck's "Parable of the Swans" and here, at, is "A Fable" -- a poem about two women and one baby.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

An infinite design -- in a poem

Like a circle, the "lazy 8" or infinity symbol -- shown below --never ends.

Recently it was a delight to me to find -- here in the Harpy Hybrid Review -- the following diagram-poem by Philip Wexler entitled "INFINITY".   And I have enjoyed reading and rereading -- exploring the ways that shape and meaning intertwine.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Celebrate Ada Lovelace -- and all women in STEM

     The second Tuesday in October -- this year, Tuesday, October 10 -- is Ada Lovelace Day..  Details of the celebration planned by The Royal Institution of Science are available here at this link.  A careful biography of this pioneering female mathematician -- Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) -- is available here.

"Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) is an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). It aims to increase the profile of women in STEM and, in doing so, create new role models who will encourage more girls into STEM careers and support women already working in STEM."  Quote from

Although her father, poet Lord Byron, had no interest in mathematics, Ada's mother, Lady Byron, was supportive as was astronomer-mathematician Mary Somerville (1780-1872) -- who became a longtime friend and math-encourager. (Lots more details of Lovelace's math-life are available here at the St Andrews Math-History website and her pioneering work with the Analytical Engine is featured here.)

      Below is a poem by Twitter poet Brian Bilston (@brian_bilston) that celebrates Ada Lovelace.

Indigenous Peoples Day

      Today (October 9, 2023) is Indigenous Peoples Day -- and I call attention to a thought-provoking activist poem by Linda Hogan, a member of the Chickasaw Nation and an important contributor to indigenous literature.  Here are the opening lines of Hogan's "Embodied."

     I am embodied first by the numbers
     given by my grandparents,
     no choice but to sign the Dawes Act.

Hogan's complete poem is available here in World LIterature Today

A portion of Hogan's poem was also posted here in this blog -- back in 2020.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Sunflower Swirls

     From Sharon Jones at Connell Co-op College in Manchester, UK, I have learned about National Poetry Day -- an event organised by Forward Arts Foundation and held on the first Thursday of October -- an annual celebration encouraging everyone to make, experience, and share poetry with family and friends.  Today, October 5, I celebrate the day by offering one of Sharon Jones' poems.

Turing's Sunflowers       by Sharon Jones

I am perplexed by mathematics.
The numbers and patterns make no sense to me.
I am transfixed by the yellow blaze of sunflowers.
Like you.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Celebrating a WINNING Woman!

     The International Congress of Mathematicians meets every four years (next in 2026) and, at these meetings, awards the Fields Medal --  an award given to two or three or four outstanding mathematicians aged 40 or younger.  The year 2014 was the first in which a woman won this medal -- "For her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces." -- she was Maryam Mirzakhani (1977-2017) -- who died too young of breast cancer.

     In her collection, Mathematics for Ladies:  Poems on Women in Science (Goldsmiths Press, 2022), Jessy Randall has a poem that celebrates Mirzakhani -- and I offer it below.

     MARYAM MIRZAKHANI (1977-2017)      by Jessy Randall   

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Geometry in Poetry

     Poet Marian Christie's blog, Poetry and Mathematics -- found at -- is a website I much enjoy visiting; there I learn many many new things.  (Here is a link that leads to a list of my previous postings that feature Christie and her work.)

    The idea that the shape of a poem may be part of its message is not new -- but Christie has brought more than line-length and syllable-count into the picture and today I focus on her Circular Poems 

A Circular poem by Marian Christie

Monday, September 25, 2023

Poetry on the Side . . .

     My friend Gregory Coxson (engineering professor at the US Naval Academy) is an explorer of new ideas and I enjoy his frequent emails that share his discovered math-poetry connections.  Recently Coxson introduced me to the website of retired Virginia Tech professor Ezra Brown and, following the link Inspirational and Fun Stuff, I found this interesting collection of number-related Haiku --  beginning with a recollection of September 11. 

Day of Horror

There is no doubt that
on September Eleventh
God sat down and cried.

“I worked hard…”

Bach was prolific:
One thousand compositions
and twenty children.  

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Chat GPT writes about Emmy Noether

       Learning about AI and exploring its possibilities has been an interesting recent activity for me.  One of my own favorite math-related poems is a poem I wrote many years ago about mathematician Emmy Noether -- and that poem, "My Dance is Mathematics," is available here in this blog at this link.  I offer below a poem from ChatGPT;  my instructions were:  write a poem about Emmy Noether -- and I got this:

     In realms of math where brilliance takes its flight,
     There dwells a star whose radiance shines so bright,
     Emmy Noether, a name of boundless grace,
     A mathematician whose legacy we embrace.

     Born in Erlangen, a spark in her eyes,
     She defied the norms, reached for the skies,
     In a time when women faced a daunting door,
     She pushed it open, forevermore.  

Friday, September 15, 2023

Attitudes toward Mathematics

     A wonderful place to visit is PLANET INFINITY -- a website maintained by Rashmi Kathuria, math teacher from Delhi, India.  Exploring this site I found, in the posting for July 24. 2012, the following poem.   Rashmi Kathuria introduces the poem with the following statement.   

     "Yesterday one of my school student came to me and shared her self composed poem on her feelings regarding Mathematics. Shreeya composed it when she was in grade 8."

A posting of student poetry from Planet Infinity.

Mathematics is a beautiful subject. It is the way in which it is taught and learnt makes it difficult or boring.    -- Rashmi Kathuria

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Poetry of Science

     One of the interesting regular online postings is a new science poem EVERY FRIDAY -- offered by Sam Illingworth via an email subscription or in his  Poetry of Science blog.  Recently I have found and valued Illingworth's interview late in 2020 with poet Donald Beagle, author of the poetry collection, Driving into the Dreamtime (Library Partners Press, 2020).

     One of Beagle's publications involved editing a poetry collection by James Radcliffe Squires (1917-1993) -- a collection in which many of the poems are informed by science.  Here is a sample from Squires' collection Where the Compass Spins -- now presented in Radcliffe Squires: Selected Poems; edited by Donald Beagle).

          “…We are one motion and we see
          Another. Then we overtake two flying birds
          And at the crisis of the wan parabola
          Assume their speed. Thus motion dies…”

The lines above are from Squires' poem “The Subway Bridge, Charles Station to Kendall.”  This same poem concludes by touching upon the Einsteinian concept of the gravitational bending of light: “Faring with the straightness that curves. The line / Of brightness bending as it nears the sun.”    When you have an available hour, visit and enjoy the whole of Illingworth's 2020 posting about Donald Beagle's poetry.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Is reading POETRY like reading MATHEMATICS?

Back in June I found an interesting article online by USAToday Entertainment Editor Pamela Avila  that raises questions about how to read poetry -- questions that are similar to those asked about reading mathematics.  I offer samples below:  

Here are words from poet Clint Smith, author of new poetry collection Above Ground and writer for The Atlantic:

"Sometimes we're taught to read poetry as if it's a code that we have to unlock or that it's a puzzle or a geometric proof with a specific answer," says  "I don't think that that's what poems are or should be."  ("Counting Descent" is a mathy poem that explores Smith's family history.)

The beauty of a poem can lie in not knowing. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Steam Powered Poetry

       Some of us -- perhaps because of the structure of our minds, perhaps because of our education -- focus strongly on a few key ideas.  And some of us -- perhaps this is common among teachers -- focus on the linking of ideas that we encounter.   My own learning activity seems to be hybrid and to focus on linking and integrating -- perhaps stemming from my childhood mix of rural and urban environments, perhaps from my interests in both mathematics and poetry.

    It is a delight for me to learn of growing numbers of teachers who are combining STEAM subjects with the arts -- and one of the outstanding contributors to this effort is children's author and teacher Heidi Bee Roemer.  Roemer is one of the contributors to the website Steam Powered Poetry and recently I found on YouTube her poem. "Going Bananas" -- about mean, median, and mode .  A text version of "Going Bananas" may be found in this April 2021 posting.

Here is a link to a broad selection of steam powered poetry videos.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

A Nine-Sided Diamond

   One of my much-appreciated math-poetry connections is with Scott W. Williams, a Professor of Mathematics at SUNY Buffalo and author of many scholarly papers and many poems.  In a recent issue of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics (JHM) I found (and valued reading) his "Impossible Haiku" -- a series of Haiku-stanzas that play with the Collatz Conjecture -- an unproven belief that for any starting number these two steps, performed in appropriate succession, eventually reach the number 1:

   If the number is odd, multiply by 3 and add 1; if the number is even, divide it by 2. 

Williams' "Impossible Haiku" may be found at this link.      Another mathy poem by Williams (found here at his website) that I especially value is the one that I offer below -- a poem dedicated to his mother.


Monday, August 28, 2023

Hunger -- portrayed in poetry and numbers

      Since 2003, SPLIT THIS ROCK has been an activist poetry organization that protests war and injustice.   Besides readings and conferences, Split this Rock also connects members by emailing a POEM OF THE WEEK series.  Most often, these poems are not mathematical in nature -- but one of the recent offerings is a verbal picture that uses numbers -- "meat market" by New York multidisciplinary artist Lara Attallah.  I include a portion of this poem below.   

    meat market    by Lara Atallah

             after Lebanon, a country with one of the worst economic crises since the nineteenth century

    the price of bread has gone up again. throngs of cars
    slouch towards shuttering gas stations. the currency, a farce

    with each swing of the gavel, numbers
    soar. fifty thousand pounds by day’s end,  

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

MAA Math Values Blog values poetry!

     I am a long-time member of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) -- an organization (with administrative offices in Washington, DC)  whose mission is "to advance the understanding of mathematics and its impact on our world."   The MAA website states:

Our members include university, college, middle, and high school mathematics faculty; graduate and undergraduate students; pure and applied mathematicians; computer scientists; statisticians; and many others in government, business, and industry. We welcome all who are interested in the mathematical sciences.

     An important feature on the MAA website is their Math Values blog -- which has frequent postings from diverse voices within mathematics; these postings include important mathematical information and also math's connections to the larger world -- including teaching and learning, the arts, practical math-applications  . . .and more . . . 

     Recently in the Math Values blog I came across this posting (from June 2023) by Czech poet and artist Radoslav Rochallyi of what he calls VECTOR poetry; here is a screen-shot of a sample -- a poem developed from the phrase: Time is pouring out of my broken watch glass. You look ahead, and you're right. Because the potential of the past is just … a sandcastle.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Shaping a Poem with Fibonacci numbers

      One of my favorite websites to visit is this varied and thoughtful "Poetry and Mathematics"  collection of postings by Marian Christie.

     Throughout history, people who write poems have often been aided by constraints.  When we sit down to write, writing the words that first occur to us -- then shaping the word into extended meanings but following a pattern of rhythm or rhyme or word-count . . . or . . .  .  For many poets the sonnet, for example, has been a poetic structure that shapes thoughts into special arrangements of words.

     In long-ago days, when print and screen versions of poems were not easily available, rhyme schemes were an important aid -- helping one's memory to keep a poem in one's head.  Now, aided by widely available print and online visibility, poetry has moved into new forms -- including a variety of visual arrangements.  

Thursday, August 17, 2023

A Template for Student Math Poems

      Earlier this month, mathematician, songwriter, and poet Larry Lesser posted a link on Facebook to an article (found here at "The Conversation") about ways that Penn State University Professor Ricardo Martinez combines mathematics and poetry in a course entitled "The Ways Math and Poetry Can Open Your Eyes to the World."   When asked, "What prompted the idea for the course?", Martinex responded:

I have always enjoyed writing poetry. As a high school mathematics teacher, I recall telling my students that everything is and can be connected to math, even creative writing. Then, as a graduate student, I read about people using “I am” poem templates for young people to express who they are through a series of “I am” statements, and I thought to myself, where is the “I am” math poem template? So I created one.

Here is a portion of a template that Martinez has created to use with students: 

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Lost Women of Science

     One of the fascinating websites that I have found recently "Lost Women of Science" -- a podcast series available at  This site has lots of bios and I browsed among them using the search term "mathematics".  One of the fascinating stories that I found is that of Naomi Livesay -- who played a key role in the Manhattan project.

Learn more about Naomi Livesay at this link.

     These recent considerations of women in science have led me to recall a blog posting that I made back in June of 2012 that featured this poem of mine (with stanzas that are syllable-squares):

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Math Biographies at the University of St. Andrews

     One of the very informative and math-related Twitter postings that I follow is @StA_Maths_Stats --which features postings from the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.  These include postings that feature mathematicians.  Today's Mathematicians of the day posting features a list of math people (with links to bios) who were born or died on August 10  -- and it includes this quote from Oswald Veblen, topologist and geometer from the United States who died on this date in 1960:

Mathematics is one of the essential emanations of the human spirit, a thing to be valued in and for itself, like art or poetry.

My search at the St. Andrews website for occurrences of the word "poem" led to a list of 179 responses.  Here is the poem I found at the first item on that list:

Monday, August 7, 2023

Life described by counting -- "My Math"

      One of my art-and-poetry friends, Kyi May Kaung alerted me to the online journal, Glass -- and I had lots of fun browsing in the archives . . . . and found (in Volume 1, Issue 2) a mathy poem-- which I offer below.

      My Math     by Allan Peterson

          Two egrets and three gulls are five,
          ten with shadows, doubles of the night in daylight,
          plus two for the red hawks watching.
          This is my math, just as I was multiplied by the bear
          and her cubs crossing at Chama,
          by the swarm of winged ants and the warblers
          that came frenzied for them.
          If I wait for the fall migration, if I am my integer
          while being stalked by bacteria,
          I might calculate an uneasiness of earth, including
          the skink that hides in the dryer vent,
          a continent about to shift in its chair, but I am impatient,
          still counting deliberately on my fingers and stars.

Another poem by Peterson with lots of numbers may be found here at

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Creative, Mathy, Poetic -- Mathematickles

       The website of author and screenwriter Betsy Franco contains a great variety of literary links (including this link to this interview of Franco by Oprah).  Her writing includes poetry -- including collections of mathy poems for kids:  Counting Our Way to the 100th Day   and Mathematickles -- small mathy stanzas that are a bit like Haiku.

Here is a sample from Mathematickles

Mathematickles are math haiku that tickle your brain. Fun words take the place of numbers in all sorts of math problems. Math becomes playful, beautiful, sassy, and creative in this whimsical romp through the seasons! 

Mathematickles -- by Betsy Franco

Monday, July 31, 2023

The geometry of pleasure . . . .

     My late-July days have been wonderfully busy with family activities -- time with my children and grandchildren (and not much time for this blog).  Poetry that I have recently enjoyed is this selection at from "Pink Waves" by Sawaka Nakayasu.  Many thoughts have been stimulated by its opening and its final lines:

          it was a wave, it was infectious  . . . .
                      . . . .  geometry of pleasure  

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Winning Math-Communication with Haiku

     Each spring at MoMath (The National Museum of Mathematics in New York City) a contest is held -- for the Stephen Strogatz Prize for Math Communication -- inviting entries in Art, Audio, Performance, Social media, Video, and Writing.  This year's deadline was April 28, 2023 and winners are posted at this link(Info about mathematician Stephen Strogatz is available here.)

     This year's winner in the Writing category was "An Exploration of Communicating Math Concepts Through Haiku" by Anaya Willabus  -- a selection from her runner-up entry is shown below and the complete creation by Willabus is available here.

Winning math communication by Anaya Willabus

Previous mentions in this blog of the Strogatz Prize may be found at this link.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Remembering Amy Uyematsu . . .

     This is a time of sadness in the math-poetry community as we  mourn the loss of poet and retired mathematics teacher, Amy Uyematsu (1947-1923).  Here is a link to an obituary that celebrates her life and scrolling down at this link leads to information about Uymatsu's scheduled contribution to an upcoming BRIDGES Math-Arts Conference.

     It was my delight to connect with Amy lots of years ago and I have featured her and her work often in this blog (This link leads to Blog-SEARCH results for Uyematsu.)  

     A frequently-discussed question in math circles is "Is mathematics discovered or invented?" -- and below I offer the opening stanzas of Uymatsu's poem, "The Invention of Mathematics."  The entire poem is available here in my blog posting for September 29, 2010.

The Invention of Mathematics        by Amy Uyematsu

                         A man who is not somewhat of a poet
                         can never be a mathematician.
                                      Karl Weierstrass, German mathematics teacher

     / one

               one is the only true number
               the I in the eye
               each baby the god
               in a mother's sigh       

Thursday, July 13, 2023


      As a follow-up to my recent posting about OEDILF (Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form), I can't resist posting my limerick that appears on that site.  Years ago when I first learned of the dictionary I submitted several limerick-definitions but the only one that has survived is this definition of "factor":

This limerick is found here at the OEDILF site