I first came across your poetry (in particular, the poem ["Like Poetry, Mathematics is Beautiful"]) in a small publication produced for maths enthusiasts and olympiad entrants while at school in South Africa in the late 1990's. For my undergraduate degree I was lucky enough to be enrolled in a university where I was able to major in both mathematics and drama and I selected your poem as the poetry choice for my final performance examination. I believe I owe the distinction received in that course to the strong affinity I held with the subject matter. To this day it remains one of the few poems I can still recite by heart and I'm only sorry for not contacting you about it at the time. Now, I am in the process of finalizing the thesis for my PhD in graph theory and I would very much like to include your poem in the introduction.

Thank you, Justin, for the honor of inspiring your work. (Interested readers make look back to postings on 10 January 2011 and 14 June 2010 for tributes to several who inspired me.)

The poem, "Like Poetry, Mathematics is Beautiful" (first published in the May 1994 issue of the American Mathematical

*Monthly*), was written early in my poetry career -- and I look back on it with nostalgia. It is not a good poem but it says something that needs to be said -- mathematics, like poetry, is full of beauty (a matter indisputable among those who know the language) and is too-often misunderstood as mere calculation.

**Like Poetry, Mathematics is Beautiful**

Timidly I ask

each one I meet if they

find mathematics beautiful

or useful, and each one dares to say,

"Useful, of course. I use it every day."

And if I seem to want a proof,

they all go on to tell

that daily they subtract and add

to keep a checkbook; sometimes also

they multiply to find how many squares

they need to tile the kitchen floor.

Mathematics is not only plus

and minus, not just counting one,

two, three. There are rules to bend

defiantly, so parallels

will meet before infinity. Look

at the magic of unending terms

that converge to a finite sum:

start with one-half plus half of one-half

plus half of the last again and again.

Though we go on forever, we never

pass one. Do you find me di fficult? Oh, dear!

Suppose, instead, I ask

if poetry is beautiful

or useful. Will each person say,

"Useful, of course. I use it every day."

And if I seem to want a proof,

will they go on to say that they

use rhymes to call to mind the days

of a month -- like "Thirty hath

September" -- and to remember

how to spell words with 'i' and 'e'.

I have a faint, enduring hope

that someday folks will see

mathematics to be

as lovely

as poetry.

by JoAnne Growney

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