Thursday, May 30, 2013

Haiku with a number or two

     Recently Irish poet and New Yorker poetry editor Paul Muldoon read at the Folger Shakespeare Library -- and, sadly, I missed the event.  To note the occasion, however, I turned to a Muldoon collection on my shelf, purchased a dozen years ago when I heard him read -- a lively and enjoyable performance, with wit and gusto -- at Bucknell University's Stadler Poetry Center.  
     I have not found significant mathematical imagery in Muldoon's work -- but here are several stanzas from his "Hopewell Haiku" that include numbers.

     XLI        by Paul Muldoon

          Jean paints one toenail.
          In a fork of the white ash,
          quick, a cardinal.    

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Related rates -- in fiction and poetry

     During the Memorial Day weekend I had the opportunity to read Black Rice (WSI, 2013), a novella by Burmese-American poet, artist, activist -- and friend -- Kyi May Kaung; I strongly recommend this book to you.  (My 5-star review of Kaung's book is available here at -- follow the link and scroll down.)
     Here, in this blog, we mention topics if and only if they relate to both mathematics and poetry.  Read on and you will see!
     Midway through Black Rice, the narrator (speaking of an overflowing stream) reveals a negative attitude toward mathematics -- a strategy often used to provoke readers to experience empathy:  "Ahhh, just like me."  Here are the Burmese soldier's words:

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Haiku to Mars

 Send a Haiku to Mars on the MAVEN!
to select three Haiku to send to Mars:  

NASA is offering all of us a way to  ‘Go to Mars’ aboard a DVD flying on the solar winged MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) orbiter via a contest managed by the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (CU/LASP).  Haiku messages will be voted on by the public; the top three most popular entries will be sent to Mars on the MAVEN spacecraft and will be displayed on the MAVEN website.  More information here.

7-prime Haiku

Start with 2 - 3 - 5  
and then 7 - 11 - 
13 - 17

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Shifting patterns

This poem by California poet and scientist Lucille Lang Day weaves a shifting display of images -- the flight patterns of birds made vivid with mathematical terminology. As the poet's observations meander, they build to a question: is a galaxy something like a sparrow?

     Form/Formless      by Lucille Lang Day

     A flock of red-winged blackbirds 
     swooping and swirling 
     in cyclonic and anticyclonic patterns 

     always in motion like Jovian clouds 
     that appear, then disappear 
     according to the mathematics of chaos 
     in yellow, brown and salmon-colored layers 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mathematics and Mexican Food

Recently Rattle posted a wonderful mathy poem by Diana Rosen entitled "Mathematics and Molé." Here's the first stanza:

     Mathematics and Molé     by Diana Rosen

     Numbers flicker in front of my eyes as
     I give him my full attention.
     Differential geometry explains the black hole, he says.
     It’s very obvious.
     I lean forward to catch his words,
     my chin in cupped hand,
     eyes intent on his, yet
     thinking of Mexican food.

     Mathematics is the language of science, he says.
        . . .

Rozen's complete poem is here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Icosasphere

Marianne Moore (1887-1972) has fun with the sounds of words -- including a number of math terms -- in her playful poem that celebrates inventive constructions from bird nests to a steel sphere-like icosahedron to the Pyramids of Egypt. 

The Icosasphere       by Marianne Moore

“In Buckinghamshire hedgerows  
     the birds nesting in the merged green density,  
          weave little bits of string and moths and feathers and
              in parabolic concentric curves" and,  
     working for concavity, leave spherical feats of rare efficiency; 
          whereas through lack of integration,  

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sustainability and Collapse

     Last Tuesday evening mathematician Charles Hadlock offered an excellent lecture -- "Sustainability and Collapse" --  at the MAA Carriage House.  Hadlock's presentation offered examples and arguments from his recently published book, Six Sources of Collapse (MAA, 2012).  This must-read book describes investigation into common dynamics of disaster processes from the extinction of the passenger pigeon to the Chernobyl accident to extreme weather and . . .
     My lingering thoughts about Hadlock's engaging lecture led me to look for poems related to sustainability and collapse.  From my bookshelf I pulled Making Certain It Goes On:  The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo (Norton, 1984) and found this poem of collapse and counting:

Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg      by Richard Hugo (1923 - 1982) 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Four -- square, colors, theorem, poem

During my doctoral study days at the University of Oklahoma I knew several mathematicians who were working on graph theory problems -- and a couple of them worked on problems related to the Four Color Conjecture -- a conjecture (dating back to around 1850) that became a theorem in 1976 with a proof by Kenneth Appel and Wolfgang Haken verifying (using many hours of computer time).  It asserts that four colors are sufficient to color any plane map so that no pair of adjacent regions have the same color.  This theorem has been again on my mind since reading the obituary of Kenneth Appel, who died on April 19.
Here is a link to an earlier posting (5 November 2011) on the Four Color Problem with a poem by Frank Bernhart.  And here, repeated from that post, is my poetic version of the Four Color Theorem:

        F O U R
        F O U R
        F O U R
        F O U R

Friday, May 3, 2013

Enough for everyone -- Russell Libby

Are you looking for a poem on a particular math topic?  One search strategy is to go to the Poetry Foundation website (another is to click on the green SEARCH BOX in the right column of this blog) and enter your math term into the search box; if, for example, you enter "geometry" one of the poems you find will be this one by Russell Libby (1956  -2012).  Both poet and organic farmer, Libby believed in sustainability:  all it takes is one well-cared-for seed to grow and spread.  Here is his "Applied Geometry." 

     Applied Geometry     by Russell Libby

     Applied geometry,   
     measuring the height   
     of a pine from   
     like triangles,