*The Scottish Café*(Slapering Hol Press, 2002), Susan Case offers this note:

This series of poems is loosely based upon the experiences of the mathematicians of the Scottish Café, who lived and worked in Lvov, Poland (now L'viv, Ukraine), a center of Eastern European intellectual life before World War II, close to the area from which my own ancestors emigrated to the United States. A book, known as the

*Scottish Book*, was kept in the Café and used to write down some of their problems and solutions. Whoever offered a proof might be awarded a prize.

Here is "Fixed Points," the opening poem from Case's collection:

**Fixed Points**by Susan H. Case

At first they meet at the Café Roma in Lvov

on Saturday nights to discuss mathematics

and drink cognac

but Banach lives beyond his means

and is annnoyed that he can't work out something

with the proprietor about his debt

so he persuades the others to move

across the street

to Zielinski's place--the Scottish Café

where the food is not as good

the cognac is not is good

but the music is good

and the credit is better

and they begin to meet each day around five

Banach -- Mazur -- always the center

at a little table with a marble top

where they talk and write

and stare silently at the spaces in their minds

filled with even more formulas

than those written down on the marble table top

some of which later get written down

ino a school notebook with a marble-pattern

cardboard cover

that Banach's adored wife Łucja

buys for two-and-a-half zlotys

at a drugstore in Lvov and into which Banach

who does not like to write things down

enters the first problem in nineteen-thirty-five

problems go on odd pages

solutions on the opposite pages

filling up the

*Scottish Book*-- it is chaos sometimes --

arguing and writing and thinking

but chaos is better than order -- says Auerbach --

you can't lose anything in chaos

(or find anything either)

but a lot of mathematics

is found

at the Scottish Café

and lost too -- one session lasts seventeen hours

and results in a proof of a theorm

about Banach spaces

but no one writes it on paper

only on the table top

which is wiped off later by the janitor

after the Café shuts for the night

which still today no one can reproduce

Case's poem "Raisins," from the same collection, is available here (and a .wav file of the Case reading it is available here. A Polish-English version

*of The Scottish Café, Kawiarnia Szkocka,*was published by Opole University Press in 2010. Thanks to poet Stephanie Strickland, a former editor for Slapering Hol Press, for alerting me to Case's work.

## No comments:

## Post a Comment