Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rhyme, beauty, and usefulness

     For many years poetry was transmitted orally and rhymes were vital because they are easily remembered.  In recent years, however, free verse and concrete/visual poems have become vital parts of what we think of as poetry.  Rhyme lost importance when printed poetry became readily available and memory was no longer needed to keep a poem available.  Now, in the 21st century, electronic devices make visual poetry also readily accessible (see, for example, UbuWeb) and poems may also be animated and interactive.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Poetry at JMM -- groups, etc.

     A math-poetry reading on January 11 at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego -- organized by Gizem Karaali (an editor of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics) and Sue VanHattum (blogger at Math Mama Writes) -- has been featured in Evelyn Lamb's Scientific American blog.  

Next year's JMM will be in Baltimore, MD during January 15-18, 2014.  
There will be a poetry reading -- details will be posted here when they're available.

     Sandra DeLozier Coleman is a retired mathematics professor who has for many years written poems that relate to math.  Her poem (presented below) about the definition of a mathematical group was featured in the Scientific American blog.  When DeLozier read the poem in San Diego, her introduction to it included these words: "I’m poking a bit of fun at the futility of expecting a mathematician to explain a math concept, as familiar to him as his name, in language even a first week student will understand. Here the voice is of an Abstract Algebra professor who is attempting to explain what makes a set a group in rigorous rhyme!" 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Latitude, longitude, and inauguration

Elizabeth Bodien now lives in a rural area in eastern Pennsylvania -- settling there after other lives in California, in Japan, in West Africa.  Here is a narrative poem using the geographic numbers of latitude and longitude drawn from the years that she was a childbirth instructor in West Africa.

Zero-Zero     by Elizabeth Bodien

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Baker's Dozen -- in Takoma Park

This evening I had the privilege of being part of a poetry reading at the Takoma Park Community Center  -- one of four featured poets, I was the "mathematical" one and read several poems that involved counting -- counting in their subject matter or in their structural design.  Here is a villanelle that I composed for the occasion.

A Baker’s Dozen     by JoAnne Growney

Counting likes to start with number one.
A luscious mate to pair with one makes two –-
and three can be a triangle of fun.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Counting grains of sand

Recently I have found online translations of several poems by Norwegian poet Rolf Jacobsen (1907-1994).  His poem "Sand" reminded me of a recent conversation with a friend about the word "infinite."  This friend said that he would use "all the grains of sand on the earth" as an example of an infinite collection.  Though I disagreed, I also have found it is not at all uncommon for people to use "infinite" -- as my friend did -- as if it means "larger than I could possibly count."  In Jacobsen's poem, the number of grains of sand is finite but also unbounded.   Do you agree?  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Because the mind circles an idea

Besides eight books of poetry and a memoir, California poet Lucille Lang Day has co-authored a textbook, How to Encourage Girls in Math and Science -- a book of activities for teachers and parents to encourage students from kindergarten through eighth grade.  Her close connection to mathematics and science is evident in the following poem.

Because     by Lucille Lang Day

My heart will beat two billion times
because Krishna plays his flute in the forest
because the planets trace elliptical orbits
because Krishna's skin is blue
because a moon will fly in a straight line forever
unless a planet snares it
the way a woman attracts a man with her gaze 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tomorrow in San Diego -- Math Poetry Event

If you are in San Diego tomorrow, I hope you will attend:

A Reading of Poetry with Mathematics
5 – 7 PM    Friday, January 11, 2013
Room 3, Upper Level, San Diego Convention Center  San Diego, CA
sponsored by the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics
at the Joint Mathematics Meetings
Poetry reading organizers are Mark Huber, Gizem Karaali, and Sue VanHattum

An article by Charlotte Henderson about last year's reading in Boston
may be found here
with selected poems from that reading at this link.

If I were able to attend, I would beg the other poets there to write and publish poems about women mathematicians.  And I would read this example (a revision of a poem first posted in June 2012).

With Reason:  A Portrait      by JoAnne Growney

          Sophia Kovalevsky *    (1850-1891)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New poems from old by substitution

     Just as we get new numbers by substitution of new inputs into old formulas -- such as x² or sinx -- we may get new poems from old ones into which we substitute new words. For example, take a poem and, for each of the nouns in the poem, substitute for it the noun that occurs 7 positions later in a given dictionary. This N+7 rule is one of the inventions of the French group of writers and mathematicians known as the Oulipo.  (For more information, see postings from 25 March 201023 August 201015 November 2010 and 3 January 2011.) 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cities of Mathematics

Judith Johnson's multi-part poem, "Cities of Mathematics and Desire" is geometric in its descriptive power; scenes are constructed and mapped with the careful attention of a mathematical proof.  At a math-poetry reading a year ago today (January 6, 2012) at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston, Johnson read part 4 of this poem -- and it is included here in the July 2012 issue of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics.   Read on for part 2 of this 9-part poem:

2.  Of the Power of Chess to Feed the Starved     by Judith Johnson

Friday, January 4, 2013

Geometry of a Gun

Despite the recent news media chatter about a "fiscal cliff," the event that we can't (and mustn't) stop thinking about is the December 14 massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. This draws me to a poem by Joan Mazza (whose poem "Digits" was featured earlier this week on New Year's Day); this new poem deals with the geometry of eggs and of bullets. Please think of gun control.

     Geometry Lesson       by Joan Mazza 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year 2013

One of the questions that may be asked about our new year is whether 2013 is composite or prime -- that is, whether it does or does not have factors other than 1 and the number itself.  A shortcut useful here is this test for divisibility by 3 (offered as a 5x5 square):

        An integer is
        divisible by
        3 if and only
        if the sum of its 
        digits is also.

And so, since 2 + 0 + 1 + 3 = 6 (which is divisible by 3), then 2013 is divisible by 3.  Indeed, the prime factorization is 2013 = 3 x 11 x 61.

My email on this New Year's morning contained a gift -- "Digits" -- a poem that compares numbers with nature, from Virginia poet and dream specialist Joan Mazza;  she has given me permission to post it here. 

     Digits     by Joan Mazza 

2012 posts -- titles and links

Scroll down to find titles and dates of posts in 2012 -- and, at the bottom, links to posts all the way back through 2011 to March 2010 when this blog was begun.   This link leads to a PDF file that lists searchable topics and names of poets and mathematicians presented herein.

Dec 30  A chance encounter
Dec 28  Explorers
Dec 25  Support STREET SENSE
Dec 24  Star, shine bright!
Dec 21  Skating (with math) on Christmas