## Monday, June 13, 2011

### Stanescu - poetic mathematics

Today I found a link to a recent article, "Matematica şi poezia," that considers commonalities among the arts and mathematics and, therein, mentions a poem by Nichita Stanescu (1933-1984) which Gabriel Prajitura and I have translated.  The poem, "Poetic Mathematics," is dedicated to Romanian mathematician Solomon Marcus.  Here is Gabi's and my translation:

Poetic Mathematics       by Nichita Stanescu

To Solomon Marcus

One plus one’s not two,
One plus one is three
or four, or five ...
A tough one plus a soft one
is a tough one plus a soft one
or a camel.
Seventeen minus one
is twenty-one,
five plus four
is a horse.
Eight less three
is as much as you see,
nineteen hundred
was,
two thousand
will be one day.

One can be in the past tense.

One can be in the future.

I’m asleep and dreaming in Farsi
which has a tense halfway
between the present and the first future,
which has a tense halfway
between the present and the near past,
and has a verb with no tense.
Numbers have their grammar.
1 may be subject
but also predicate.
I can go up to the sun
and also up
to the lemon.

1, 2, 3
a goat, a bull, a tower
goats (how many?)
towers (how many?)
bulls (one).

I spit on 1.

I weep on 1.
I kick 1.

You are crazy, Pythagoras told me.

I’m not, I shout. The earth
is flat like an omelet.

The human is the oldest animal
and alone in the cosmic emptiness.
He has two hands
and two legs. This counting
is a fantasy, a slogan:
tough 2 is not the same as soft 2,
long 2 is not the same as short 2
and this, in fact, because
it’s all the same
so twice equals once
(once is 1’s wife)
Vocative 1
isn’t the same as
imperative 1!

We may write mathematics with numbers
but we don’t write poetry with words.
Cock-a-doodle-doo!

"Poetic Mathematics" is found in Stanescu's Opera Poetica II (Ed Alexandru Condeescu, Bucureşti: Humanitas, 1999).  Readers seeking the original Romanian version of the poem may email me to request a bilingual WORD file.

#### 1 comment:

1. This morning I received an e-mail from Solomon Marcus, to whom Stanescu dedicates his poem. Marcus offered this:

Nichita Stanescu published his "Poetic Mathematics" in January 1971,in the magazine ARGES, as a reply to my book "Mathematical Poetics" (in Romanian, 1970; in German in 1973, at Athenaeum Verlag, Frankfurt/Main).