Sunday, November 28, 2010

Poetry with base 10

In his collection, Rational Numbers (Truman State, 2000) Harvey Hix presents "Orders of Magnitude" -- a collection of 100 stanzas in which each stanza has ten lines and each line has ten syllables.  Beyond this numeric structure is frequent use of mathematical imagery; here are samples (stanzas 42 and 100):

     from Orders of Magnitude [decimal 42]       by H. L.  Hix

     So much for angles and fractions and maps.
     It remains now to speak of curvature.
     Ice-bent birch branch.  Spruce soundboard.  Marble hips.
     What walks on Euclid in the morning, Gauss
     at noon, and Marilyn in the evening?
     Never smile at strangers.  Never carry
     someone else's bags on board.  Wait for me.
     A streetlamp's halo in a mist at night.
     Light from one star bent around another,
     masking planets only numbers can see.

     from Orders of Magnitude [decimal 100]      by H. L. Hix

     The god of mathematics must have felt
     this frustration when he fractaled feathers
     enough for the first flight, then watched from earth.
     I have serried here every syllable,
     numbered everything I know and then some,
     but still late snow blackens these bare branches
     as it melts to mud, still skeletal dogs
     stare from roadsides, already my digits
     number my days with painful rigidity.
     I have not said what I wanted to say.

Additional  "decimals" from "Orders of Magnitude" may be found in the anthology, Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics (A K Peters, 2008).

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