Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Things the fingers know

Blogger Peter Cameron sent me a link to an lively article, "Eveline Pye: Poetry in Numbers"  in the September 2011 issue of the statistics magazine, Significance.  Written by Julian Champkin, the article tells of Eveline Pye -- lively and interesting Glasgow statistician, teacher, and poet -- and includes a selection of her work. One of the poems offered therein is "Solving Problems."

   Solving Problems      by Eveline Pye

   How do you know the right thing to try? he says,
   jabbing paper with his finger. Good question,
   I say, playing for time as I have no answer he wants
   to hear. Solving these equations is part intuition,
   but first, you learn to manipulate x's and y's until
   decisions are made in your fingers, not your head --
   like typing an access code at the ATM, changing gear
   in the car or signing a cheque -- until it all becomes
   muscle memory -- the same way Reubens painted
   hands, again and again or Keats scribbled rhyme
   after rhyme -- and then you go with the flow
   and, if you are lucky, there is a sweet, sweet moment
   as the plum falls into your eager hands, and if not,
   you try, and try -- on and on until your head bursts.

At Glasgow Caledonian University, Pye teaches statistics -- where she helps to educate Renaissance men and women who will be at home in both quantitative and literary cultures.  Bravo, Eveline Pye! 


  1. I veery much like the line
    "decisions are made in your fingers, not your head"
    which is how it is for musicians (especially improvising musicians who have to make many decisions!)

  2. Thanks for posting this. I like the reference to William Carlos Williams