Friday, August 31, 2012

Fibs in NZ -- and climate change

     A few days ago, on August 21, it was Poet's Day in New Zealand and the blog featured a math-poetry theme; that posting mentions the anthology, Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (for which Sarah Glaz and I are co-editors) and offers several Fibs, poems whose syllable-counts follow the first six non-zero Fibonacci numbers (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, . . .., with each succeeding number the sum of the two preceding). 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What is mathematics to animals?

In a playfully serious volume of verses by Eugene Ostashevsky we meet his alter ego, the "new philosopher" DJ Spinoza.  With the intelligence and bravery of the other philosopher-Spinoza (Baruch / Benedict, 1632 - 1677), Ostachevsky's Spinoza pokes a bit of fun at things that might be taken too seriously -- such as logic or mathematics or . . .  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mindless chance

From the 2005 Summer issue of from  Prairie Schooner we have this haunting poem by Diane Mehta about the unknown probabilities of life and not-life.

    1 in 300     by Diane Mehta

    To lose at science is the accident of trying,
    for worse or, best, acceptable ways cells divide

    then swell into heart, spleen, spine
    for every satisfaction, and love also aligned 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Math humor

      Phyllis Diller (1917-20120), outspoken and funny, pioneering female comedian, died Monday, August 20.  Her self-deprecating humor was hugely hilarious -- and it helped the rest of us also not to take ourselves too seriously.
     In honor of Phyllis Diller and humor, I first offer a link to a "poem" from a favorite math-cartoonist -- Randall Munroe offers an amusing rhyming critique of the various majors (including math) available to undergraduates --  at   And, below, I share several slightly funny math jokes adapted from ones found at Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks and shaped into 4x4 or 5x5 syllable-square poems.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Worth of a horse

When my friend Kay and I visited the National Museum of the American Indian Museum in Washington last Wednesday, August 15, we particularly enjoyed the exhibit entitled "A Song for the Horse Nation." These displays explore the role of horses in Native American lives through stories and artifacts, through music and art.  Shown below is a photo of a sign that hangs in the exhibit.  I first intended to use the text on the sign -- with its many numbers -- as raw material for a poem.  But, as I have reviewed the sign since my visit -- including reading it aloud -- I have decided it is already a poem.  Here it is, for you:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Free vs Constraints -- Sandburg - Frost

One of the delights of investigation -- in library books or on the internet or walking about in the world -- is that one bit of information opens doors to lots of others.  And so, as I was learning about Eleanor Graham for Monday's posting, I found her essay entitled "The first time I saw Carl Sandburg he didn't see me" and was reminded in a new way of the ongoing debate about the value of formal constraints in poetry. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Thirty and three

One of my poetry collections is a particular treasure because of its history.  My aunt, Ruth Margaret Simpson Robinson, graduated (as I also did) from Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.  At Westminster, a Chi Omega sorority sister of Aunt Ruth was Eleanor Graham Vance (1908-1985) who became a teacher and a writer; one of her biographical sketches mentions that she wrote for both children and adults, seeing many similarities between them.  Aunt Ruth passed on to me her personally-inscribed copy of  Eleanor Graham's 1939  collection, For These Moments, and in it I have found a poem with a tiny bit of arithmetic. I offer it here to you. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Summing thin slices

This poem by recent (2008-2010) poet laureate Kay Ryan at first made me think of calculus, of integration, summing all the thin slices to find the area under a curve.  And then the poem moved me on. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Spanish favorites

One of my favorite DC-area poet-people is Yvette Neisser Moreno -- who, besides giving us her own work, is active in translation of  Spanish-language poetry into English, most recently (with Patricia Bejarano Fisher) a Spanish and English edition of Venezuelan poet Maria Teresa Ogliastri’s South Pole/Polo Sur  (Settlement House, 2011).  Although I have not found any mathematical poems by Moreno, I learned from an interview that the Chilean Nobelist Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) is her favorite poet and I therefore present here the geometrically vivid opening opening stanza of Part XI of Neruda's well-known long poem, The Heights of Macchu Pichu: A Bilingual Edition (The Noonday Press, 1966). 

Friday, August 3, 2012

JHM -- many math poems

     Volume 2, Issue 2 (July 2012) of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics has recently become available online -- and it has lots of poetry.  One valuable resource has been gathered by Charlotte Henderson, a participant in the January 2012 poetry reading at JMM in Boston; Charlotte offers a report on that reading and also has prepared a folder of the poems read there, collected for our ongoing enjoyment.  In this issue also there are poems by Florin Diacu, Ursula Whitcher, and Paige S. Orland and some kind words about this blog by Gregory E. Coxson (JoAnne Growney's Poetry-With-Mathematics Blog -- An Appreciation); many thanks, Greg.
      In the wake of the BRIDGES math-art conference at Towson University last week I also want to mention the lively blog posting about BRIDGES by Justin Lanier at Math Munch