Wednesday, August 18, 2010

From "Red Has No Reason" -- a poem about the nature of mathematics

My new poetry book, Red Has No Reason, is now available (from Plain View Press or  Several of the poems mention math--and one of them comments on the nature of mathematics.  Ideas for "A Taste of Mathematics" (below) came from a mathematics conference in San Antonio, TX (January 1993) where it was announced that the billionth digit in the decimal expansion of  π  is 9.  Recently an amazing  new calculation record of 5 trillion digits (claimed by Alexander J. Yee and Shigeru Kondo) has been announced.

     A Taste of Mathematics

     A mathematician left the convention
     focused on 9, the digit that sits
     in the billionth decimal place of pi,
     ratio of circumference to width
     of the yellow circle that parted the clouds
     as she strolled down Commerce Street
     to the Rio Rio Café for lunch and a beer.

     On fire with jalapeños
     she went shopping
     for a souvenir.
     She bought earrings —
     red-red plastic peppers
     with green stems.

     She said, "Hot peppers
     are like mathematics —
     with strong flavor
     that takes over
     what they enter."

One of the poem-forms I use frequently is the square, a form going back at least to 1597, the date for a square poem by Henry Lok, honoring Elizabeth 1.  The square form (a single-stanza in which the number of lines is the same as the number of syllables per line) seems to help to shape a pithy statement; see, for example, the 5x5 square in my June 9 posting, Square comment on shoe styles.  Here, also from Red Has No Reason, is a 6 x 6 square:

     More than the rapist, fear
     the district attorney,
     smiling for the camera,
     saying that thirty-six
     sex crimes per year is a
     manageable number.

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