My post on January 26 ruminated about the difficulty of including precise mathematics in a poem. Here is another illustration of a poem that explicates a mathematical idea, this one a limerick (sent to me by Portuguese mathematician, poet, and translator, F J Craveiro de Carvalho (Departamento de Matemática - Universidade de Coimbra).

If M's a complete metric space,

If M's a complete metric space,

And non-empty, it's always the case,

If f's a contraction,

Then under its action,

Exactly one point stays in place!

Those of us who are poets or mathematicians are sometimes disappointed by views held by those outside our profession concerning what constitutes "poetry" or "mathematics." It can seem as though even appreciative outsiders focus on "rhyme" and "number" -- missing much of what else lies therein. This topic draws me back to a poem I wrote more than twenty years ago -- a poem that laments the prevailing views.

**Mathematics and Poetry Are Beautiful**by JoAnne Growney

Each one I meet I ask, "Do you

find mathematics beautiful

or useful?" All answer, "Useful,

I use math every day." My eyes

reveal that I want proof and each

goes on to tell that she subtracts

to keep her checkbook, and sometimes

multiplies to find the size of carpet

for the dining room.

If I, instead, would say, "Do you

find beauty or utility

in poetry?" would each person say,

"It's useful, I use it every day."

For proof would she go on to tell

that rhymes help her remember

the number of days each month --

like "Thirty hath September" --

and spellings of words with "i" and "e."

Someday utilitarians

will join with me to see

beauty in mathematics --

and in poetry.

"Mathematics and Poetry are Beautiful" is found in

*Intersections: Poems by JoAnne Growney*(Kadet Press, 1993).
I do not know who is the author of the limerick. I just found it while surfing the net. Thanks JoAnne for having post it.

ReplyDeleteFrancisco -- I am delighted to have your ongoing participation in my blog! All best!

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