Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Number personalities

In his collection, Zero, Scottish poet Brian McCabe raises questions about numerical classifications.  He begins "The Fifth Season" with "Everyone talks of the four / -- none speak of the fifth." Another poem, "The Seventh Sense, " moves from a similar beginning " . . . none speak of the seventh" into a dreamy apprehension of the magical possibilities of items not yet classified. The following selection from Zero, "Triskaidekaphobia," offers remedies for the fear of bad luck brought by 13. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Another 17-word Haiku

If a poet uses only one-syllable words, the resulting Haiku is a bit longer than usual -- as in this Haiku in which the word lengths also follow an increase/decrease pattern, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1: 

I am the girl voice.
Drafts scribed -- thoughts stretched, smoothed, squared, sighed --
catch here now my I.

I have offered other 17-word Haiku in these postings -- 27 June 2013 and 16 July 2013 -- and the latter of these is my entry into the Haiku-to Mars contest.  To vote for that Haiku to be one of three sent to Mars by NASA on the Maven spacecraft next November, click here.  (Voting ends July 29.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A poem with two numbers

My friend Carol Ann Heckman has studied with Denise Levertov and feeds voraciously on her work.  For many years I have loved Levertov's "The Secret" and today, rereading an email from Carol Ann, I went looking for a mathy poem by this beloved poet.  I found the following -- with two numbers (and a hint of recursion):

     The Mockingbird of Mockingbirds     by Denise Levertov

     A greyish bird
     the size perhaps of two plump sparrows,
     fallen in some field,
     soon flattened, a dry
     mess of feathers--
     and no one knows
     this was a prince among his kind,
     virtuoso of virtuosos,
     lord of a thousand songs,
     debonair, elaborate in invention, fantasist,
     rival of nightingales.

This poem rests on my bookshelf in Levertov's collection, Breathing the Water (New Directions, 1987).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Poets at BRIDGES

These seven poets will be reading math-related poems at the upcoming (July 27-31) BRIDGES Conference in Enschede, the Netherlands; biographical information about the coordinator, Sarah Glaz, and each of the poets is available here. With each poet's name I have offer a date that is linked to one of my postings of his/her work:         
          Michael Bartholomew-Biggs    19 October 2012
          Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya   10 March 2013
          Carol Dorf   31 May 2011
          Sarah Glaz   7 November 2011
          Emily Grosholz  24 September 2010
          Alice Major   30 December 2012
          Eveline Pye 12 April 2012
Here (and also to be offered at BRIDGES) is an elegant and thoughtful poem by Alice Major  -- "For Mary, Turning Sixty" -- that compares mathematical meanings of terms with personal ones. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

BRIDGES 2013 -- Math-Art in the Netherlands

Since 1998, Summer BRIDGES Conferences have been held -- enthusiastic gatherings where theater and visual art and music and poetry and mathematics engage participants in lively exchange.  This year's conference is July 27-31 in Enschede, the Netherlands, and mathematician-poet Sarah Glaz has organized an outstanding group of talented readers to share their poetry on Sunday, July 28.  Following the featured readers will be an open reading -- and interested readers are invited to email Glaz using the address found here
      One of  the scheduled readers on July 28 in Enschede is Scottish poet and statistician Eveline Pye; shown below is one of the poems she will read --  "Love of Algebra" : 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Haiku to Mars -- select and vote

     Each of us may now (July 15 - 29) vote for one of the thousands of Haiku submitted to NASA's "Haiku for Mars" contest. Three top vote-getters will be selected for transmission to our red planet. I invite you to vote (at this link) for my entry. My contest Haiku also is shown below; it follows a particular number scheme -- formed from one-syllable words with word-lengths following this pattern: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

I go for Mars, start
dreams -- flights straight, stretched, streamed, whirled bright.
Round bold red am I.

THANKS for your vote

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Counting on numbers

Alan Michael Parker's anthologized and highly regarded poem "Family Math" begins in the style of a typical word-problem from Algebra -- and continues with a weaving of the ways that numbers describe our lives.

Family Math     by Alan Michael Parker

I am more than half the age of my father,
who has lived more than twice as long
as his father, who died at thirty-six.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pool -- a game of geometry?

     Years ago I taught  a "liberal arts mathematics" course -- and for a time we used the text  Mathematics, a Human Endeavor: A Textbook for Those Who Think They Don't Like the Subject by Harold R. Jacobs (W H Freeman, 1971);  the text's topics included one new to me, the geometry of the paths of billiard balls.  The ease I found with this mathematics ill-prepared me for the skill I needed to avoid embarrassment at a neighbor's new pool table -- and the memories of it all drew me immediately into Dan Brown's poem, "Why I Never Applied Myself to Pool," found in the March 2013 issue of Poetry.

       Why I Never Applied Myself to Pool      by Dan Brown

Friday, July 5, 2013

Grandma got STEM

     There are so many fine websites to visit and blogs to read that it is hard to get to them all. One of my recent pleasures has been Grandma Got STEM (STEM  = Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), orchestrated by Rachel Levy, Harvey Mudd College, Mathematics.  Recent entries there that I've enjoyed are Martha Siegel (Towson University, Mathematics) and Carol Jo Crannell (mother of Annalisa Crannell, Franklin and Marshall College, Mathematics and Art).
     For a while I wondered how I might link these STEM pioneers to poetry and this morning was delighted to discover in a bio of poet Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge that her Chinese mother was a mathematician.  And these initial stanzas of Berssenbrugge's poem "Tan Tien" illustrate her familiarity with mathematical vocabulary.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Calculus (and calyculus)

For lots of years I have subscribed to A.Word.A.Day, founded by Anu Garg, and on 3 June 2013  -- offered in the category of "words that appear to be misspellings" -- the word that appeared in my email was calyculus (kuh-LIK-yuh-luhs), a noun designating a cup-shaped structure.  From this, of course, my thoughts turned to calculus and to poems on that subject.  Below I offer "UR-CALCULUS" by Jonathan HoldenThis Kansan poet has said that that his physicist father would write equations while sitting at the dining room table -- and "UR-CALCULUS" considers mathematics from a boy-riding-in-the-back-seat-of-a-car point of view.  

     UR-CALCULUS     by Jonathan Holden

               The child is the father of the man. 
                        -- W. W. Wordsworth

     Back then, "Calculus"
     was a scary college word,
     and yet we studied it
     from the back seat, we studied  
     the rates at which
     the roadside trees went striding