Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Spirit of Delight . . .

        The true spirit of delight, the exaltation,

        the sense of being more than man,

        which is the touchstone of the highest excellence,

        is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

Monday, October 19, 2020

2020 Nobel Laureates -- Mathematics and Poetry

     Both mathematics and poetry are languages for conveying complex ideas . . . for example, Oxford mathematical physicist Roger Penrose uses mathematics to study black holes and as a foundation for his notion that the universe as we know it is not unique but one in a series of universes.  Recently the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded award one-half of  the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics 2020 to Roger Penrose for the discovery that "black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity."

     The 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to US Poet Louise Glück.  In 2003 Glück was selected US Poet Laureate of the US and she has twelve published poetry collections in addition to lots of online offerings.  An interesting complement to her poetry is her 1994 collection of essays, Proofs and Theories;  Essays on Poetry   In her opening essay, "Education of the Poet" (available online here) she makes this statement that relates well to mathematics:

  "I loved those poems that seemed so small on the page
but that swelled in the mind; . . ."

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Celebrating Ada Lovelace

     Today, 13 October 2020, is  Ada Lovelace Day -- celebrated each year on the second Tuesday of October and an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  Born to a famous father, poet Lord Byron -- and first known as Augusta Ada Byron (1815-1852), Countess of Lovelace — this talented woman became far better known as "Ada Lovelace" (1815-1852).  Lovelace worked on an early mechanical computer, "the Analytical Engine" -- and, because of her recognition of the varied applications of this machine, she is often regarded to be one of the first computer programmers.

Here is a link to a poem, "Bird, Moon, Engine" by Jo Pitkin that celebrates Ada Lovelace (with opening stanzas offered below) and this link leads to some of Lovelace's own poetic wordsAt this link are the results of a blog search using "Ada Lovelace" that leads to the aforementioned works and lots of other poems about math women.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Brilliant Math-Women -- Share the News!

     Recently (10/10/2020), NPR had an interview with former teachers of Louisville shooting victim Breonna Taylor  -- an interview that celebrated her love of and talent for mathematics.  Read about it here.  I write to applaud this celebration AND to encourage increased recognition of math-women while they are alive.

A wonderful way to celebrate math-women is the annual essay contest sponsored by the Association for Women in Mathematics -- open to students from middle school to college; contest information is available here.  Interviews may be conducted now; essay submission begins December 1.

A repeat from this posting back in 2010
Here is a link to a list of previous posts involving "women" and "mathematics".

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Mathy Rhymes

     Yesterday's note on "A Mathematical Morsel Every Day" -- an American Mathematical Society page-a-day calendar for 2020 assembled by mathematician and writer Evelyn Lamb -- is a fact that involves the first six digits in the decimal expansion of  π :    314159 is a prime number.

And, because this is a math-poetry blog, I have turned this information into a syllable-square rhyme:

           3     1     4

           1     5     9

           is a prime!

Perhaps you'd like to explore more:    Here's a link to previous blog postings with ideas by Evelyn Lamb.    Rhymes often help us to remember; here is a link to postings of rhymes used to remember the digits of π.    AND here is a link to some postings that feature square stanzas.

Monday, October 5, 2020

The Domain of the Function . . .

     Recently I found, in The Literary Nest, the mathy poem, "Functional" by retired math teacher and active poet Carol Dorf.  Dorf's poem is a pantoum -- and the interplay of math terminology with repeated lines, gives us some new thoughts to think.  Enjoy!

     Functional     by Carol Dorf

     Fanatic is the word of the day.
     The domain of the function is the set of inputs.
     How did the programmer know in advance?
     The range is the set of outputs.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Poetry Enriches Science -- a growing point of view!

     Recently I found and enjoyed the article "Scientists Take On Poetry," an article by Katherine Wright in Physics  --  a free, online magazine from the American Physical Society.  After the following lead-in:

Stuck with how to present your latest scientific project? Try a poem.

Wright's article tells of numerous scientists who have been poets and offers visual poetry by Stephany Mazon and Manjula Silva.  The article quotes Sam Illingworth, a poet and geoscientist at the University of Australia, "Poetry is a great tool for interrogating and questioning the world."  Illingworth heads the Editorial Team of an online journal, Consilience -- a newish journal that describes itself as "the online poetry journal exploring the spaces where the sciences and the arts meet."  The current issue has the theme "uncertainty" and offers 19 poems; one of these is "Heisenberg's uncertainty principle" by Alicia Sometimes -- and it begins with these words:

       The reality we can put into words is never reality itself

       we cannot measure
       the position (x) and the momentum (p)
       of a particle with absolute precision

         . . .

This link leads to the rest of Sometimes' poem and to others offered in Consilience.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

TalkingWriting with Mathematics

     TalkingWriting is an online journal that's celebrating its 10th birthday -- TEN YEARS of including mathematics in its mix of poetry.  This mathy connection has grown strong through the poetry editorship of Carol Dorf, poet and retired math teacher.  In this anniversary issue, poems are paired with works of visual art and the effect is stunning; from it,  I offer below samples of poems by Amy Uyematsu and by me.      
      Amy Uyematsu's poem "Lunes During This Pandemic"  thoughtfully applies the counting structure of the "lune" (aka "American Haiku") with three-line stanzas of 3/5/3 words per line.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Poetry-math resources -- for classrooms and for fun

"Enrich Discussions about Mathematics with Poems" -- 
an article that offers links to poems that introduce mathematicians and air math-attitudes -- 
items that can benefit from a bit of attention in many math classes. 
Lots of ideas/suggestions are available at this link!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

If a Garden of Numbers . . .

      In a summer email from math-poet-editor Carol Dorf,  I first enjoyed "If a Garden of Numbers" -- a mingling of numbers with the natural world -- by California poet Cole Swensen.  I offer its opening lines below followed by a link to the complete poem.

If a Garden of Numbers      by Cole Swenson 

If a garden is the world counted
                                                      and found analogue in nature
One does not become two by ever ending
                                                                    so the stairs must be uneven in number

Monday, September 21, 2020

Misunderstanding mathematicians . . .

      One of the comments that non-maths often make when they meet a math-person is "Oh, I never was good at math."  An awkward start to possible friendship.  Another awkward beginning rests on the assumption that mathematics is primarily calculation, that the main task of mathematicians is to organize numbers.  This error is the focus of the following poem -- written in the early 90s before our banking was done electronically.

"Misunderstanding" is found in my poetry collection, My Dance is Mathematics -- its poems are online here For non-maths (and the rest of us, too) one of the wonderful up-to-date online sources for "living mathematics" is +plus magazine -- and of course +plus includes poetry

Friday, September 18, 2020

What is x?

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

       Variable     by Mary Peelen 

       The x could have been
       anything at all,

       the sound of wind chimes,
       a gong, a choir, a cantor,

       a mermaid, a schoolmarm,
       cathedral bells.

       Instead—what a lark—
       it’s laughter. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Venn Diagram Poem

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

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

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

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

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

          Outwitted     by Edwin Markham (1852-1940)

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

Monday, September 7, 2020


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

From:  "Bring Back the Leaf"      by Simon Armitage

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

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

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Another Fibonacci poem . . .

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

"Crochet" -- a FIB by Marian Christie

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

Monday, August 31, 2020

Poetry on Twitter

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

from "Brian Bilston's  POETRY LABOETRY"

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Ten thousand parts of cat . . .

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

       Live Round     by David T. Manning

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

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

Monday, August 24, 2020

What can we count on?

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

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

Thursday, August 20, 2020

From an engineer who loves poetry . . .

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Voting and being counted . . .

      A story in the KIDSPOST section of today's Washington Post offers a reminder that 100 years ago today -- on August 18, 1920 --  the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was officially ratified -- extending the right to vote to women.
      Here is a link to a poem by Evie Shockley women’s voting rights at one hundred (but who’s counting?) -- and, below, a few lines from that important poem:

           * * *

          * * *
     one vote was all fannie lou
     hamer wanted. in 1962, when
     her constitutional right was
     over forty years old, she tried
     to register. all she got for her
     trouble was literacy tested, poll
     taxed, fired, evicted, & shot
     at. a year of grassroots activism
     nearly planted her mississippi
     freedom democratic party
     in the national convention.

          * * *
For additional postings related to math and women and voting, here is a link to the results of a blog Search using the terms women and vote.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Heart Arithmetic

      During these days of protest and politics and pandemic, a diversion -- some playful thoughts about LOVE from poet Carl Sandburg (1878-1967).

        How Much?     by Carl Sandburg

       How much do you love me, a million bushels? 
       Oh, a lot more than that, Oh, a lot more. 
        And to-morrow maybe only half a bushel? 
        To-morrow maybe not even a half a bushel. 
        And is this your heart arithmetic?
        This is the way the wind measures the weather.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Poems can help us teach/learn mathematics . . .

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Celebrate the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics

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

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

And here are a couple of samples: 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Point of Inflection -- and the coronavirus

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

     The Point of Inflection       by Lawrence M. Lesser

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

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

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

     Census     by Carol Muske-Dukes

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

Monday, July 27, 2020

Prove it . . .

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

DREAMers Mark Themselves     by Maricielo Ampudia Gutiérrez,

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

Freedom        by Stuthi Iyer

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

Friday, July 24, 2020

A favorite recursion . . .

      memories bring back

            memories bring back

                   memories bring back  

                          memories bring back

                                 memories . . .

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Finishing halfway . . .

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 20, 2020

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

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

Friday, July 17, 2020

Poetry contest winners --- π-ku

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

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

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

                  Today in July
                  pushes the temperature skyward.

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A thoughtful Fibonacci poem

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

the irrational   by Roberto Christiano

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

Monday, July 13, 2020

Math-Poetry for a virtual BRIDGES Conference

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

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