Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hyperbolic effects

Last month I went to the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History -- for a photo scroll down to the end of this post -- and that visit provoked me to begin searching for the term "hyperbolic" in poems.   I came close when I found "hyperbola" in a poem by Jonathan Holden and hyperbole in a sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: 

Jonathan Holden's poem "Sex and Mathematics" begins with these lines:

      Making love we assume
      may be defined by the equation
      for the hyperbola y = 1/x . . .

The well-known "Sonnet XLIII" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-61) demonstrates hyperbole throughout; it begins thus:

      How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
      I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
      My soul can reach, . . .

Holden's and Browning's poems both are found in the anthology, Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (A K Peters, 2008).  Extensive online searching did not help me to find others. For example, at the vast Poetry Foundation website I found only two poems containing the word "hyperbolic" -- and neither had a connection to mathematics.

One of my own poems ("Geometry Demonstration," posted 15 October 2010) uses the term; here are the pertinent lines (spoken by a teacher trying to stir reluctant students) from stanza 2.

     Your mind won't get dirty
     on a tangent of hyperbolic thought.

Thousands of women around the world have contributed 
to the HYPERBOLIC CROCHET CORAL REEFS exhibit  -- these encourage all of us
to become aware of our world's fragility, particularly our coral reefs.

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