Mathematical language can heighten the imagery of a poem; mathematical structure can deepen its effect. Feast here on an international menu of poems made rich by mathematical ingredients . . . . . . . gathered by JoAnne Growney.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Zero-sum game -- in a poem by Okigbo

Game theory (with origins in the 1930s) was initially developed to analyze competitive decisions in which one individual does better at another's expense--"zero sum" games--and this term has become a part of everyday vocabulary; here we find it in a poem by Christopher Okigbo (1932-1967), a Nigerian poet. III

Where then are the roots, where the solution To life’s equation? The roots are nowhere There are no roots here Probe if you may From now until doomsday We have to think of ourselves as forever Soaring and sinking like dead leaves blown by a gust Floating choicelessly to the place where Old desires and new born hopes like bubbles burst Into nothing – blown to the place of fear To the cross in the void; Or else forever playing a zero-sum game With fate as mate, and forever Slaying and mating as one by one Our tombstones rise in the void.

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