Monday, April 30, 2012

What do we do with these numbers?

During March 22-25, 2012 I participated in the Split This Rock Poetry Festival.  One of the fine poets I met there was Oregon poet and teacher, Ingrid Wendt.  Her poem, "Numbers" shows the dramatic impacts that numerical information may have.  It is time to count.  Time to help.  Time to do right.

   Numbers     by Ingrid Wendt

                    Poem ending with words by William Stafford

   Iris says there's safety in numbers, when

   someone else arrives to share the house she won't
   need to lock the door

   When did Iris last read the news? 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Poetry with Math -- BRIDGES 2012, Limericks

During July 25-29, 2012, Towson University will be hosting BRIDGES 2012, a mathematics-and-the-arts interdisciplinary conference. This year's conference will feature a poetry day on Saturday, July 28. -- an event that is free and open to the public as are all "Family Day" conference activities after 2 PM.  Mark your calendar.  More information is available at the end of this post (scroll down) and at the BRIDGES website.

  This weekend in Washington, DC (April 28 - 29, 2012)
enjoy "the largest celebration of science in the USA" --
featuring more than 3000 exhibits. 

We note here once again the coincidence that comes with April -- when we celebrate both National Poetry Month and Mathematics Awareness Month.  Here are three limericks (bawdy, of course) by John Ciardi (1916-1986) that celebrate data collection and numerical information. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Macbeth and Probability

     Kansas City educator Michael Round of the Center for autoSocratic Excellence has developed a host of math teaching tools -- and within them he often uses rhyming verses amid his diagrams and his prose.  Here are the opening lines of an activity in which he links Macbeth with probabilities:

The Royal Route He Took:  A Shakespeare Poem 
                                                                       by Michael Round

This Shakespeare tragedy,
Macbeth, you know the name.
His eventual downfall thinking
Probability is a game.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Statistics -- math to improve man's lot

Today's poem honors nurse and statistician Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) and is found in a fine poetry collection by Mary Alexandra Agner, The Scientific Method.

   After Math     by Mary Alexandra Agner

               Florence Nightingale, 1820-1910

   Worth one thousand words, usually,
   but thousands dead
   were inked as a colored nautilus
   with chambers counting corpses
   by disease or sword or bullet.
   Hold this shell to your ear;
   hear only your heartbeat's echo.
   Numbers never had such voice
   until Florence drew
   coxcomb wedges for the dead.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Following Euler in Koenigsberg

     The Köenigsberg Bridges have an important link to mathematics -- for mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) took a legendary Köenigsberg puzzle-pastime as the seed for development of a new branch of mathematics, graph theory (which is now generally included under the umbrella of combinatorics).  As the story goes, Köenigsberg residents made a Sunday recreation of trying to tour their city, crossing each of its seven bridges exactly once.  This problem is perhaps particularly fascinating because of its impossibility -- a dilemma cause by the existence of odd (rather than even) numbers of bridges between the parts of this water-separated city.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Statistics -- a lament

     Helping me to continue to connect National Poetry Month with Mathematics Awareness Month (with its theme of "Mathematics, Statistics, and the Data Deluge") is the following poem by Halifax mathematician Robert J. MacG. Dawson, and found in the September 2011 issue of The Mathematical Intelligencer
     Dawson's poem "Statistical Lament" will be recognizable to many as a parody of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now."  (Still more math songs and parodies may be found in earlier blog postings -- on 5 June 2011, 14 February 2011, 4 January 2011, and 23 April 2010.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Math or poetry -- must one choose?

April celebrates poetry and mathematics -- it being both National Poetry Month and Mathematics Awareness Month -- and this year's math-theme is "Mathematics, Statistics, and the Data Deluge."  What better way to mark these joint occasions than with a poem of statistics.  I first learned of Eveline Pye -- a lively and interesting Glasgow statistician, teacher, and poet -- through "Eveline Pye: Poetry in Numbers"  in the September 2011 issue of the statistics magazine, Significance.  Here is one of the poems found therein, aptly titled "Statistics."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Navigating this blog . . .

     A query from a helpful reader has reminded me that it can be difficult to navigate a blog because new entries hide old ones.  If you scroll down this column, you will be able to see the introductory paragraph for each of the postings so far in 2012.  And then, here are two helpful links to go back farther. First, posted on January 3, 2011, a listing of the titles of the 119 posts during 2010;  and, posted on January 3, 2012, a listing of the titles of the 152 posts during 2011.  
     Please enjoy!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A septina ("Safety in Numbers") -- and variations

Recall that a sestina is a 39 line poem of six 6-line stanzas followed by a 3-line stanza.  The 6-line stanzas have lines that end in the same six words, following this permutation pattern:

   123456   615243   364125
   532614   451362   246531

The final stanza uses two of the six end-words in each of its three lines.  An original pattern for these was 2-5, 4-3, 6-1 but this is no longer strictly followed.

Can sestina-like patterns be extended to other numbers?  Poet and mathematician Jacques Roubaud of the OULIPO investigated this question and he considered, in particular, the problem of how to deal with the number 7 of end-words -- for 7 does not lead to a sestina-like permutation.  Rombaud circumvented the difficulty (see Oulipo Compendium -- Atlas Press, 2005) by using seven 6-line stanzas, with end-words following these arrangements:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Start with a number . . .

     April celebrates both poetry and mathematics -- this month that is the gateway to spring is also National Poetry Month and Mathematics Awareness Month (with theme "Mathematics, Statistics, and the Data Deluge").
     Last month (March 22-25), mathematics and poetry met at the DC Poetry Festival, Split this Rock where several of us gathered for a workshop, "Counting On" -- where writers were encouraged to use a number (or numbers) as a focal point for a poem. During the workshop hour, several of us picked numbers that mattered to us and started the process of forming a poem; here are lines from Sonja deVries, Yael Flusberg, Janine Harrison, Jaime Lee Jarvis, Margaret Rozga, and me.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Valley Voices

With Richard Aston I share a love for science and logic, a love for poetry, and a love for the Susquehanna Valley.  His home is Wilkes-Barre and mine was (for 25 years) Bloomsburg -- both Northeastern Pennsylvania Susquehanna River towns.  We met long ago at a gathering of the Mulberry Poets (a group in which Richard remains active) in Scranton.  His recent collection of poetry Valley Voices (Foothills Publishing, 2012) has recently arrived in my mailbox and I'd like to share one of the voices in his collection -- a gathering of poems from a writer who has listened to the members of the communities in which he lives and has created memory portraits so that they will not be forgotten.  Here is one of his Susquehanna valley voices