Saturday, July 31, 2010

What nobody else has thought

     Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1893-1986) was a Hungarian Biochemist who discovered Vitamin C and won the 1937 Nobel Prize for Medicine.  Szent-Gyorgi offered this summary of the research process:  discovery is seeing what everyone has seen and thinking what noone else has thought. Mathematicians and poets join research scientists in that quest to see and say something new.     I was reminded of Szent-Gyorgyi's view when I read this little poem, "The Roasted Swan Sings," by Mark Baechtel in the anthology, Cabin Fever (WordWorks, 2003):

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A wedding song -- shaped by mathematics

This posting includes a stanza from of "A Wedding on Earth" by Annie Finch.  In the poet's words: the poem has 11 stanzas with 11 lines for a total of 121 lines, this number symbolizing the two single members of a pair joining into a 2, which is the prevailing theme of the poem; and each stanza combining [averaging] the stanza of Spenser's epithalamion (18 lines)  with Sappho's stanza (4 lines).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Poets who Count

For some poets, counting is part of the language of the poem. For others, counting determines the structure. Here are two poems of the former sort -- "Counting" by British poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985) and "Adding It Up" by New England poet Philip Booth (1925-2007) -- followed by opening stanzas of a poem for which counting is part of both content and structure:  "Millennium" by mathematician Peter Cameron .

Monday, July 26, 2010

Trouble with Math in School

     Sad and lonely experiences seem to produce more poems than joyful ones.  And so it is easier to find a poem about a trouble in a math class than success there.  Jane Kenyon (1947-1995) was a poet and translator whose work I admire.  Here is her math-class poem:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The infinitude of ecstacy -- a la Israel Lewis

Israel Lewis is the pen name of a polymath who earned his living as a scientist and is a writer in his retirement.  His webpage offers a variety of his creations--many of them permeated with mathematics.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mathematics in poetry by Nichita Stanescu

     Though formerly a math professor, my recent teaching has involved poetry--and I have been fortunate to spend several summer months at Scoala Andrei Muresanu in Deva, Romania, teaching poetry and conversational English.       

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In the same family -- a poet and a mathematician

When a poet and a mathematician are members of the same family, understandings result.  Ohio poet Cathryn Essinger is a twin of a mathematician and writes about this relationship.  Here are opening stanzas of two of her poems.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

David Blackwell (1919 - 2010) -- and Game Theory

     David Blackwell, the first black scholar to be admitted to the National Academy of Sciences, a probabilist and statistician, died early this month. His NY Times and Washington Post obituaries tell of his many contributions. Blackwell's career connects to poetry through his interest in the Theory of Games.  He was co-author with Meyer Girshick of Theory of Games and Statistical Decisions, 1954, one of the early treatises on game theory.  

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ray Bobo's mathematical poem

Ray Bobo, a retired Georgetown mathematics professor, has written a love poem with mathematical symbols.  And, for those of us who might be unsure how to interpret the mathematics, Bobo has provided a parallel column with an English-language  interpretation of his mathematics.  Enjoy! 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Poetry-application of The Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic

Destructive effects of human greed and neglect on the earth's natural environment are echoed hauntingly in the repetitions within "We Are the Final Ones" -- a dirge-like poem I've constructed using the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic.  (For those unfamiliar with the theorem, brief explanation is included in paragraphs that follow the poem):

Friday, July 9, 2010

Jordie Albiston -- structure behind the writing

       I love sonnets and the one below by Jordie Albiston is a favorite of mine.
     Albiston is an Australian poet with a sense of orchestration learned from music.  Her collection, The Sonnet According to 'M' recently won the New South Wales literary award.  In her words: 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Poetry-and-Math -- Interdisciplinary Courses

     On July 1 my posting considered math-poetry anthologies and began with a reference to Against Infinity, the discovery of which was a catalyst for my own inclusion of poetry in my mathematics classrooms.  Other mathematicians and writers have gone further and developed interdisciplinary courses--such courses are the topic for this posting. 
     I begin with a small item from Against Infinity, this one a "Found Poem" by Elaine Romaine (found in the math textbook Calclulus on Manifolds by Michael Spivak):

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Digital poetry -- Stephanie Strickland et al

Stephanie Strickland writes with mastery of numbers, as we see in her poem below.  But numbers are only the beginning of her work.  A director of the Electronic Poetry Association and author of "Born Digital," Strickland is one of the leaders in the development of new types of poems that are constructed using animation and rearrangements and other visual and aural communications made possible by computers and the internet.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Poetry with Mathematics -- Anthologies

More than thirty years ago at a mathematics conference book exhibit I stumbled upon Against Infinity:  An Anthology of Contemporary Mathematical Poetry, edited by Ernest Robson and Jet Wimp.  This collection, now out of print, became a resource for my mathematics courses--an opportunity for students to see the links between mathematics and the surrounding world.   One of my early loves was "Arithmetic Lesson:  Infinity" by Linda Pastan.  Found also in Carnival Evening, the poem opens with these these lines: