Saturday, November 30, 2013

Last year's prediction

This poem by Halifax mathematician and poet, Robert Dawson, appeared in LabLit  in December 2012 (just in time to offer gentle mocking of predicted disaster)!  Enjoy!

Survivor's Guide to the Baktun-13 Bug    by Robert Dawson

As you may know, at this years’ Winter Solstice
the 12-baktun Long Count will overflow.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Solving equations . . .

Although poets as long ago as Henry Lok (1553?-1608?), Elizabeth Tollett (1694-1854), and William Blake  (1757-1827) used mathematical imagery in their poems, the first collection of poetry-with-mathematics that I came to was Against Infinity:  An Anthology of Contemporary Mathematical Poetry (Primary Press, 1979), collected and edited by Ernest Robson and Jet Wimp.  This volume introduced me to poems I could use with my math students and one of my long-term favorites is "Algebra" by Linda Pastan who has, in turn, become one of my favorite poets. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Algebra cadabra

It was my good fortune to meet Colette Inez back in the early 1990s when she was poet-in-residence at Bucknell University. Then, as now, I was collecting poems-with-mathematics, and I have long loved this poem that weaves figuring into forests.

Forest Children     by Colette Inez

We heard swifts feeding in air,
sparrows ruffling dusty feathers,
a tapping on stones, mud, snow, pulp
when rain came down, the hiss of fire.
Counting bird eggs in a dome of twigs,
we heard trees fall and learned
to name them on a page for school. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A poet (math-daughter) speaks of math's beauty

I met Minnesota poet Roseann Lloyd when we served together on an AWP (Associated Writing Programs) conference panel on translation several years ago.  There I was considering, as I so often am, the translation of mathematics into representations that poets understand.  Roseann 's father was a mathematics professor and she learned early that "mathematics is its own beauty."  And she has permitted me to offer you this poem.


Once Daddy enthralled his students at SMS --
handsome in his navy blue suit and dusty hands,
chalk clicking out equations lickety-split.
A third-grader, I waited for him every day
in the cool marble hall.  Listened to the rhythm
of the chalk on the board.   Even then I knew
that pure math is an art equal to music, second
only to poetry in the realm of beauty.    

Monday, November 18, 2013

Counting responses

At the Poetry Foundation website, poet Audre Lorde (1934-1992) is described thus:

               A self-styled "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet," 
               writer Audre Lorde dedicated both her life 
               and her creative talent to confronting and addressing 
               the injustices of racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Here is a counting poem by this fine, bold poet:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Inequality of Compromise

This past week I attended a wonderfully stimulating BIRS (Banff International Research Station) Conference  -- a gathering of creative writers in mathematics and the sciences -- and, as I told colleagues at Banff of early days in my long-term interest in the poetry of mathematics, I recalled the fine collection Against Infinity:  An Anthology of Contemporary Mathematical Poetry (Primary Press, 1979), collected and edited by Ernest Robson and Jet Wimp.  Today I pulled it from my shelves and again turned its pages.  "Compromise" by Missouri mathematician Charles S. Allen caught my eye.  Here it is: 

Monday, November 11, 2013

The minute in infinity

From  Treatise on Infinite Series     by Jacob Bernoulli

Even as the finite encloses an infinite series
      And in the unlimited limits appear,
So the soul of immensity dwells in minutia
      And in narrowest limits no limits inhere.
What joy to discern the minute in infinity!
      The vast to perceive in the small, what divinity! 

                    Translated from the Latin by Helen M. Walker

Found in the anthology, Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics (A K Peters, 2008), edited by Sarah Glaz and me.  A complete table of Contents for this collection may be found here.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Like advanced math?

One thing leads to another . .. . poet Amy Eisner connected me to mathematician Jordan Ellenberg who knew of Easy Math (Sarabande Books, 2013) by Lauren Shapiro -- and Lauren gave me permission to post her "Bent Syllogism."

 Bent Syllogism     by Lauren Shapiro

There was a pattern to the way the mythical beasts
flew over the dreary town, but we were too dreary
to understand it.  The psychologist, too, was in touch
with extraterrestrials, but she had to stand on the spire
of a church and wear 3-D glasses to see them. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Love mathematics!

In the stanzas below, I have some fun with math terminology.  Hope you'll enjoy it too.

       Love!        by JoAnne Growney

       Love algebra!  Through variable numbers
       of factored afternoons and prime evenings,
       party in and out of your circle of associates,
       identify your identity,  meet your inverse.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Neruda speaks of numeration

The collection, Late and Posthumous Poems, 1968-1974 (Grove Press, 1988) by Chilean Nobelist Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) offers to readers a collection of Neruda's later work, ably translated by Ben Belitt.  Here is a poem that explores the vast world opened by the invention of numeration.

     28325674549     by Pablo Neruda

     A hand made the number.
     It joined one little stone
     to another, one thunderclap
     to another,
     one fallen eagle
     to another, one
     arrowhead to another,
     and then with the patience of granite
     the hand 
     made a double incision, two wounds,
     and two grooves:  and a
     number was born.