Sunday, January 29, 2012


One of my favorite phrases (loved for the sound of it) first came to my ears during my college studies of  abstract algebra: "multiplication is denoted by juxtaposition"  -- and,  within the phrase, I best like to say "juxtaposition." I enjoy its movement in my mouth, its sibilance in my ears. And so, of course, I set out to find a poem using the word. Having failed over many years to find the word in someone else's poem, I have written my own:

   Multiplication     by JoAnne Growney

   Multiplication is the process
   of taking one number as many times
   as there are ones in another.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Counting the seconds -- and leap seconds

      Keeping time is a simple matter of counting -- counting seconds, summing them into minutes, hours, days. Or is it? Recent news has included mention of the changing length of our solar day and the need for insertion of leap seconds.   (A leap second is a one-second adustment to the time kept by precise atomic clocks -- to keep this latter time close to mean solar time. No leap-seconds were added in 2011 but NPR and The Washington Post recently announced that a leap second will be added June 30, 2012. At 7:59:59 PM, Eastern time, the US Naval Observatory will skip a second to 8:00:00 PM.  Wikipedia offers detailed background on this concept.)     Extra time is a fond wish for many of us -- and Leonard Orr has penned a love poem suggesting how one more second might be delightfully crowded with so much more than could happen in "regular" time. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Counting fingers and blackbirds

Love of numbers is common in childhood -- and traditional nursery rhymes offer chances to know numbers as playmates and friends.  "Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie . . . The king was in his counting house . . ." and so on.  In "The Story of the Ten Blackbirds" poet Millicent Accardi combines a portrait of an amazing story-telling aunt with a collage of childhood memories, counted and remembered.

   The Story of the Ten Blackbirds     by Millicent Borges Accardi

   Blended at times into
   The three little pigs
   Or the Catholic Saints.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Statistics feels like poetry

    Today's title comes from the following poem by statistician and poet Eveline Pye (introduced to this blog on 18 October, 2011).

   Numerical Landscape      by Eveline Pye

   Like a tracker, I smell the earth
   on my fingers, listen for the slightest
   echo as I stare out at a world
   where bell-shaped curves loom

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

More statistics -- from Hiawatha

As the author of this poem owes a debt to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, I too owe Greg Coxson -- who showed the poem to me.

Hiawatha Designs an Experiment   by Maurice Kendall

Hiawatha, mighty hunter
He could shoot ten arrows upwards
Shoot them with such strength and swiftness
That the last had left the bowstring
Ere the first to earth descended.
This was commonly regarded
As a feat of skill and cunning.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Average, more or less . . .

The wit of American poet J. V. Cunningham (1911–1985) is here applied to statistics.

   Meditation on Statistical Method      by J. V. Cunningham 

   Plato, despair!
   We prove by norms
   How numbers bear
   Empiric forms,

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Function Room

For each of us who's studied mathematics, the word "function" triggers important mathematical meanings. And so, when I read Patrice Phillips un-mathematical poem "The Function Room," I automatically add a mathematical layer to the meaning.  Do you?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Is your favorite poet a mathematician?

     The Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston last week gave a fine opportunity for me to connect with both mathematicians and poets, old friends and new ones. And to enjoy a celebration of the connections between poetry and mathematics. In the January 6 poetry reading sponsored by the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, there was much fine poetry. Several of the poems were by Carol Dorf -- whose work was read by Elizabeth Langosy, executive editor of the online literary magazine, TalkingWriting.  Good reads in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of TalkingWriting include both Dorf's introduction to some featured math-connected poems -- entitled "Why Poets Sometimes Think in Numbers" -- and Langosy's  impressions of the math-poetry reading.    

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Poetry heard at JMM

In Boston on Friday evening, January 6, at the 2012 Joint Mathematics Meetings, these folks gathered and read -- for a delighted audience in Room 312 of Hynes Convention Center -- some poems of mathematics.
     Poets who submitted work in advance and were on the "Poetry with Mathematics" program included:
          Jacqueline Lapidus, Judith Johnson, Rosanna Iembo (accompanied by the violin of her daughter Irene Iaccarino), Charlotte Henderson, Carol Dorf (read by Elizabeth Langosy), Sandra Coleman, Marion Cohen, Tatiana Bonch (read by John Hiigli), Harry Baker (via video presented by reading organizer Gizem Karaali -- an editor of the online Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, which sponsored the the reading), and JoAnne Growney (also an organizer of the reading).
     Participants during an "open reading" included: 
          Mary Buchinger, Chris Caragianis, Rip Coleman, Seth Goldberg, Joshua Holden, Ann Perbohner, Pedro Poitevin, and Jason Samuels.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Euclid meets Broadway

Several years ago while visiting my older son in Colorado Springs I also went to nearby Boulder where, driving along Broadway, I came to a street sign that made me gasp with delight.  I was at the intersection of Broadway and Euclid. That fact, that suggestion of a merge of two worlds, needed to be part of a poem. Some time later I wrote:

   Butterfly Proposal     by JoAnne Growney

From 2011 -- dates, titles of posts

List of postings January 1 - December 31, 2011
Scrolling through the 12 months of titles below may lead you to topics and poets/poems of interest. Also helpful may be the SEARCH box at the top of the right-hand column; there you may enter names or terms that you would like to find herein.
Dec 30  Good Numbers
Dec 26  A mathematical woman
Dec 22  Counting on Christmas
Dec 20  Thoughts Suggested by a College Examination
Dec 17  Ruth Stone counts
Dec 14  A puzzle with a partial solution
Dec 11  Poetry captures math student
Dec  8  Monsieur Probabilty
Dec  5  Poetic Pascal Triangle
Dec  2  Mathematics works with witchcraft