Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Poetry inspired by Chaos

Poet Robin Chapman studies the language learning of children -- and has collaborated with physics professor Julien Sprott on a lovely and fascinating collection The Art and Poetry of Chaos:  Images from a Complex World (World Scientific, 2005).  In the following poem Chapman offers (as she does throughout the poetry of the collection) a human interpretation of technical terminology.  

     The Nearest Neighbor Rules     by Robin Chapman

     To your four nearest neighbors
     offer keys, pet-sitting, lawn mowing,
     snow-shoveling, house-watching
     on vacation days, extra bloodroot.

     To your eight nearest neighbors,
     a hand raised in greeting,
     praise for their flower beds,
     inquiries about grown children.

     To your sixteen nearest neighbors,
     a wave on walks, comments
     on their child's new bike,
     visits in the spring and fall.

     To your thirty-two nearest neighbors,
     common cause in traffic signals,
     nods in passing, park clean-up,
     firewood scavenging.

     To your sixty-four nearest neighbors,
     a look in lit windows
     on winter night walks, a knock
     to offer voter registration.

"Nonlinear Function," another Chapman poem from The Art and Poetry of Chaos may also be found in the anthology Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (Eds Glaz, Growney, A K Peters, 2008).

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