###
Two cultures

The opening poem of *Uneasy Relations* by mathematician-poet Michael Bartholomew-Biggs is concerned with similarities and differences between mathematical and poetic cultures -- a topic of immense interest also to me and one that I too try to address in my verse. I wonder -- HOW can I show non-mathematicians that good mathematics is poetry??!! And, moreover, how can I (mostly a mathematician) write (as advocated by Wallace Stevens and agreed with by other poets) of things rather than (as mathematics wants) of ideas. OR, may one make poetry of ideas?
** Two Cultures** by Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

Graves claimed there isn't
much money in poetry:
and none vice-versa.

The first part stays true
if we replace poetry
by mathematics.
Algebra of verse
lays down rules for pantoums and
tests for sestinas:

but where are the books
explaining the poetry
of computation?

Poets show, don't tell:
build metaphors from concrete
and specific bricks.

In mathematics,
abstract and general is
our bread and butter.
From *Uneasy Relations *(Hearing Eye, Torriano Poetry Pamphlet Series, No. 53, 2007). (On 19 October 2012 Bartholomew-Biggs' poem "Teaching practice" (also from *Uneasy Relations*) was posted.) The musings of this collection* *stretch mathematical topics to ideas more personal. After fourteen pages of verse, the poet offers six pages of mathematical notes -- and I think that even non-mathematical reader will appreciate this juxtaposition of the precise notions with their poetic suggestions. (Alas, I have not found a good way to reproduce the graphics here -- I need you to buy the book!) Here is a another verse sample:
from ** Extrapolations ** by Michael Bartholomew-Biggs
* Taylor's Theorem*
If we knew it all
for just a single moment
we'd hold the future.
* Mean Value Theorem*
If we know in part
then, like stopped clocks, our forecasts
will be right -- just once
. . .
British mathematician Godfrey Harold "G. H." Hardy (1877-1947) wrote in 1940 an essay -- *A Mathematician's Apology* -- on the aesthetics of mathematics; as Hardy before him, Bartholemew-Biggs endeavors to offer insights -- for those outside the field -- into mathematics.

## No comments:

## Post a Comment