Monday, August 26, 2013

Celebrating a math-woman

I am continually searching for poems that feature past and current math-women.
When you find one (or create one) I will be glad to have you send it along.

The lunar crater L Herschel is named for astronomer Caroline Lucretia Herschel (1750-1848) -- and I have celebrated this math-woman earlier with two fine poems:  "Letter from Caroline Herschel" by Siv Cedering , and "Planetarium" by Adrienne Rich.  Now Herschel is the focus of a forthcoming book by poet Laura Long, The Eye of Caroline Herschel: A Life in Poems, (Finishing Line Press, 2013).  Here, from that collection, is "The Taste of Mathematics:  Caroline Herschel at 31" -- this poem also appears, along with a note about the full collection, in the July 2013 issue of The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics.  

The Taste of Mathematics: Caroline Herschel at 31     by Laura Long

After dinner, William cuts the pie into pieces
and teaches me to calculate the moon's orbit
when he removes one slice, then another.

Pencil and paper replace my fork and plate.
Which constellation is visible on a certain midnight
from our spot on earth -- the swan, the lynx, the twins?

He teaches me to figure spheres and vectors
already discerned by calculating men.
I am to be a calculating woman. His eyes gleam

as I get more answers right. "One more, Lina,"
he says. "You must get this right or else
you can't have a slice of pie." I get it right,

and I could devour a dozen gooseberry pies
a day without him knowing the di fference.
Still, this pie tickles my tongue like no other:

cinnamon of logarithm,
     clove of conjunction,
          nutmeg of pi.

Issues of  The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics are an ongoing source of poems with mathematical connections.  Also presenting poetry-with-math (including concrete/visual poetry), are Bob Grumman's Scientific American guest-blog and Kaz Maslanka's blog, Mathematical Poetry.

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