Friday, December 30, 2011

Good numbers . . .

     My wish for the New Year 2012 is that you will have good numbers -- that your happiness will have high peaks, that your sadness and grief will weigh no more than you can bear.
     In the spirit of assessment and introspection that captures many of us at year-end, I offer a small poem, "Good Fortune" -- one that I wrote in late December ten years ago when I was, as I am now, taking stock. "Good Fortune" appeared in my 2006 chapbook, My Dance Is Mathematics (Paper Kite Press -- available online here). Another tiny poem, a more recent one, "14 Syllables" -- from Red Has No Reason (Plain View Press, 2010) -- continues the focus on assessment using numbers. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

A mathematical woman

As in an earlier posting (20 December 2011), today's feature includes verse by Lord Byron (1788-1824). This time the source is Byron's satiric poem Don Juan. In Canto I, the poet describes Don Juan's mother, Donna Inez, as learned and "mathematical." Here are several stanzas about her -- sagely seasoned with words like "theorem," "proof," and "calculation."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Counting on Christmas

 2 two 21
 3 three 3 31
 4 4  four  4 41
 5 five 5 5 5 five 51
 6 six 6 6 six 6 6 six 61
 7 7 7 seven 7 seven 7 7 71
 8 eight 8 8 8 eight 8 8 8 eight 81
 9 nine 9 9 nine 9 9 9 nine 9 9 nine 91
 10 ten 10 10 10 10 ten 10 10 10 10 ten 101
 11 eleven 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 eleven 111
 12 twelve 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 twelve 121
  HOLI  -1
 DAYS !!1

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thoughts Suggested by a College Examination

Just when I was convinced that mathematical subject matter appears proportionately more in modern than in classical poetry, I turned again to work by Lord George Gordon Byron (1788-1824) and began to contradict myself. Here (from Byron's Complete Poetical Works) is "Thoughts Suggested by a College Examination."  As is common today in literature and verse, the mathematicians (and scientists) are found wanting (though we are not the only deficient ones).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ruth Stone counts

It seemed as if she might write -- and write well -- forever.  But she did not.  Moreover, poems by award-winning poet Ruth Stone (1915-2011) are not celebrated for their use of mathematical imagery.  Still, she noticed numbers.  She counted.  As in "All in Time."  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A puzzle with a partial solution

     When we have experiences near to each other, we may try to connect them. We form superstitions. "Bad things come in threes" -- and something similar for good things. And we make poetry -- offering new associations that delight and surprise.
     Gertrude Stein is one of my favorite poets. She was, like me, born in Pennsylvania (though she, unlike me, left and became Parisian).   She creates almost-meaning from unlikely juxtapositions.  I find in her work the delight of a puzzle to which I can find a partial solution. And come back for more. Here are two stanzas from Stein's "Stanzas in Meditation" that play with some mathematical meanings.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Poetry captures math student

This sonnet retells a familiar story -- a teacher influences a student's choice of studies. Prior to reading, many in mathematics may wonder:  how can a student leave mathematics for poetry when mathematics is poetry?  Whatever your view, I think you will enjoy this poem.

Prof of Profs       by Geoffrey Brock

     For Allison Hogge, in memory of Brian Wilkie

I was a math major—fond of all things rational.
It was the first day of my first poetry class.
The prof, with the air of a priest at Latin mass,
told us that we could “make great poetry personal,”

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Monsieur Probabilty

In recent months, I have encountered a variety of poems about mathematicians (Links to several of these are provided at the end of this post.) and one of the sources is Scottish poet Brian McCabe's  collection Zero (Polygon, 2009).    It is said that life imitates art -- and this is vividly demonstrated by the art of mathematics as lived by Abraham de Moivre (1667-1754).  Here is McCabe's poem. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Poetic Pascal Triangle

First published in 2007 in Mathematics Magazine, Caleb Emmons' poem "Dearest Blaise" has the form of (Blaise) Pascal's Triangle.  That original publication offered also a challenge:  what is the next line of Emmons' poem?   What is your guess?  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mathematics works with witchcraft

T. A. Noonan sometimes uses the languages of mathematics and computer science as tools in her experimental poetry, gathered in her collection The Bone Folders (Sundress Publications, 2011).  These poems examine -- at times with mathematical vocabularies and notations -- the complexities of love and loss in the regime change in a coven of Louisiana witches.  Here, for example, is Noonan's opening poem, "Difference Engine."