Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Poetry in DC -- counting sheep

The Washington, DC area offers a rich diversity of poetry events -- workshops and readings, contests and conferences.  An excellent way to find out what's happening is through the online listing, Beltway Poetry News, maintained by editor and poet Kim Roberts.  One of the very active DC poetry organizations is The Word Works whose board chairperson, Karren Alenier, is also a fine poet. 

Last week I enjoyed one of Karren's readings -- at Café Muse in Friendship Heights Village Center.  On May 7 Karren read from her recent collection, On a Bed of Gardenias:  Jane and Paul Bowles (Kattywompus Press, 2012).  These poems were exciting to hear --  they are part of an opera libretto that Karren is working on -- but not mathematical; thus, I turn back to one of her earlier poems, "Dialectic of the Census Takers," for presentation here. 

   Dialectic of the Census Takers      by Karren LaLonde Alenier

   Last night in the dislabor
   of falling asleep, I dreamed
   my sheep had gone astray
   reproducing Fibonacci sums of lambs
   which escaped my repose into your wakefulness.

   You asked, "The recipe, could I
   have the recipe?"  Even as my body
   made its nightly mends,
   I countered, "Formula,
   "you do want the formula?"

   You sulked,
   "I thought you were hungry too."
   From the wool of every bleating ewe,
   a mathematician sprang
   Archimedes, Newton, Gauss.

   "More," they demanded. "More."
   The sheep couldn't keep pace
   with their ability to count.
   But you insisted,
   "I didn't have enough."

   In this world, not all of us
   can find our own nourishment.
   Hunger keeps us awake.
   But tonight, dear Friend,
   the sheep are somnambulating                                            
   from my pillow to yours.
   There is nothing to do
   and nothing to eat --
   nothing, nothing
   but sleep.

"Dialectic of the Census Takers" has appeared in several publications, most recently in the anthology Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics (A K Peters, 2008).  
Joining Karren in the May 7 reading were poet Yahia Lababidi and a daughter of poet Cicely Angleton (1922-2011) who read in memory of her mother.  Both of these poets used occasional mathematical imagery -- and I will seek to include their work in a future posting.

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