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. 

For Mary, Turning Sixty     by Alice Major

In The dictionary
of curious and interesting
numbers, sixty
gets a whole page.

      "Sixty is the eighth 'highly composite' number -- the first
      number with 12 divisors." 
Highly composite, certainly.
All those divisors snipping up her time.
Children. The fractious freelance clients.
The publishing of other people's books.
The churches. The students. The friends, and
her books –- their pages adding up
slower than she'd like. Dividing her experience
among characters, and multiplying
herself by her imagination.

     "Sixty is the base of a sexadecimal system of counting."
Mary will be glad
to know it still includes
          "In astronomy, the very ancient division of the zodiac
          into twelve parts fits a sexadecimal system very well,
          and a decimal system not at all." 
Mary always did fit better with her stars
than with decimated dimes and dollars.
Gemini –- the star twins near the boat moon,
clair de lune. In antiquity,
their rising was a favoured talisman
for sailors. This morning's horoscope advises her:
"Ignore those who tell you to stand pat. Emphasize
universal appeal, welcome chance
to travel."  As if we needed
to tell her.

          "We still divide an hour of time or an angle of one degree
          into sixty minutes, and each minute into sixty seconds. These
          are the only common measurements that have not been metricated." 
No, it would be difficult to metricate
Mary. You need uncommon
measurements -– a system for numbering
laughter, for counting friends,
an arithmetic of love.

The minutes tick away. She's
only too aware how they divide
the whole page of our days
into a pile of confetti, something
to run your fingers through, amazed
how it can hold so much
in so small a space. 

But confetti also has its role in jubilation.
We conclude that Mary is indeed
both curious and interesting
and is about to turn sixty

Please go to the green text in the right-hand column of this blog to open a search box to find poetry on a  given topic or by a particular poet.


  1. What a great tribute to Mary!

  2. A true word-picture of Mary!
    Thanks, Alice.

  3. Thank you, Alice for this poem. It will help us remember what Mary was like!