Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Right Triangle

The shape of a poem influences our reading of it -- short lines cause reading with lots of pauses whereas we read long lines quickly to get the entire line completed in a single breath. Moreover, some poetry is intended to be primarily visual -- to be taken in as a seen-image rather than read.  UBU Web offers several example of early visual poetry and one may also explore the  UBU Web site for modern examples.  Visual poetry may also be termed "concrete" poetry; consider, for example, "Concrete Block" by Michael J. Garofalo:

The Mathematical Intelligencer (edited by Chandler Davis and Marjorie Senechal)  has a long tradition of including various sorts of poems with mathematical connections --  and in April 2009 they included the following visual poem, "Right Triangle," by Li C. Tien, a retired chemical engineer who earned his PhD from the University of Michigan.

Right Triangle  by Li C. Tien
(click on image to enlarge)

I very much like the way that the mathematician-poet has shaped the story of the Pythagorean Theorem into squares on the sides of the right triangle -- but have been disappointed not to discover a Pythagorean relationship among the numbers of letters, syllables, or words of the three squares.

In addition to writing poetry, Li C. Tien has collaborated on translation of Chinese poets into English, for example, Drizzle and Plum Blossoms.

1 comment:

  1. This comment came into my e-mail box from Li C Tien (whose poem I've posted above). He first tried to post it here but the blogging software wasn't user-friendly. And so, here it is, by another route:

    I thank you JoAnne, for posting my poem "Right Triangle." Writing it, I was thinking what drawing of high intelligence from another planet we earthlings can understand? So I came up with a right triangle with a square on each side. This expression of the Pythagorean theorem is the easiest to show by blocks of words, among many drawings that lead to proof of the theorem. Li C. Tien