Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering Israel Lewis Schneider

     On Monday, October 17, 2011, Israel Lewis Schneider (1924-2011) --  Silver Spring poet and mechanical engineer -- passed away.  I did not learn of this death until yesterday -- when my colleague, Sarah Glaz, let me know that an e-mail to him had bounced back and I went online searching for him.
     It has been my pleasure to get to know "Lew" (who published poetry under the name, Israel Lewis) at local poetry readings where we connected over our common interest in poetry-with-mathematics.  Lew's poem, "I Find My Faith in the Flatness of Space," appeared in the anthology Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (edited by Glaz and me) and his poem for two voices, "Cantor:  Not Eddie,"  appeared here in this blog on 24 July 2010.  Shortly after that July posting, Lew sent another poem for my review.  To celebrate the life of this kind, funny, and very talented man, I offer here that poem -- with its playful examination of mathematical and other identities -- "Who Steals My Trash . . . ":  

     Who Steals My Trash…         by Israel Lewis

     Ergonomic efficiency:
     tucked down inside the knee-hole of my desk
     a wastebasket with a machine
     to slit into ribbons the evidence
     of my Identity.  
     Grinding in whining lamentation
     it cries for me.

     Who am I?  I ich je ani yo. 
     Ego Id Superego
     My computer stashes my stuff
     anoints me “Main Identity.”
     There are no other Identities before me.

     I, instrument of unchangingness:
     as in arithmetic, I = One = 1

     X times 1 = X.

     I the Identity, as in:

     M operation I = M

     I am Alef, the All.  En and Sof--
     before the Beginning, after the End. 

     No thief can steal me.

     When Lew sent me this poem he included this comment to introduce it:  "Attached is my response, sort of, to 'Another Mathematics,' by Nichita Stanescu."  "Another Mathematics" appears in the 22 July 2010 posting, just prior to Lew's poem.  Many of Lew's poems and a great deal of other writing are available here at his website.
     For readers unfamiliar with the mathematical usage of the term "identity" I mention that an identity element for an operation is a combining element that makes no change -- that is, it is similar to the number 0 for addition (adding 0 leaves any number unchanged) and the number 1 for multiplication (multiplying by 1 leaves any number unchanged).


  1. Thank you, JoAnne, for giving us Lew in this indelible way. I believe he read this poem at Cafe Muse!

  2. Thanks, Karren, for this message -- and for your vital leadership and support for poetry throughout the DC area.