Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Long division is difficult . . .

Last Monday included a visit with old friends of whom I see too little, Silver Spring artist Mark Behme -- with whom I did some art-poetry collaboration a few years  back -- and Chevy Chase artist-writer-economist-activist, Kyi May Kaung.  After lunch at nearby Mandalay we three walked to Mark's studio and hung out for a while, admiring and talking about his new work.  When I arrived home, I dug out several poems developed from Mark's sculpture -- finding some pieces I'd not thought about for a while.  Here is one of these, a mathy poem that partners with Mark's "Split Tales."

          Which Girl Am I?      by JoAnne Growney

          The girl who’s not forced to divide
          into the good girl and the real one
          is a lucky one.  I was eleven
          when I felt a crack begin.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Angles in Alaska

Last Thursday evening I was honored to read in Takoma Park's Third Thursday poetry series -- along with poets Judy Neri and Kathleen O'Toole -- and my reading focused on poems of my times in Alaska.  The brilliant geometry of  our 49th state affected me strongly and "Angles of Light" became the title poem for a chapbook I published with Finishing Line Press in 2009.  Here is section 3 (of 7) from that poem.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Excitement of Proving a Theorem

Wow!  From first sighting, I have loved this description:

       I prove a theorem and the house expands:
       the windows jerk free to hover near the ceiling,
       the ceiling floats away with a sigh.

These lines from "Geometry" by Rita Dove express -- as well as any string of twenty-four words I can think of -- the excitement experienced from proving a theorem.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Wartime recurrence

In mathematics, it is not unusual to define an entity using a recurrence relation. 
For example, in defining powers of a positive integer:
       The 2nd power of  7  may be defined as  7  x  71 ;
               the 3rd power of  7  may be defined as  7  times  72
              and the 4th power is  7  times  73,
              and, in general, for any positive integer n,  7n+1  =  7  x  7n

Several weeks ago I attended a reading of fine poetry here in Silver Spring at the Nora School  -- a reading that featured DC-area poets Judith Bowles, Luther Jett, and David McAleavey.  I was delighted to hear in "Recessional" -- one of the poems presented that evening by Jett -- the mathematical pattern of recurrence, building stepwise  with a potentially infinite number of steps (as with the powers of 7, above) into a powerful poem.  I include it below:  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mother Courage -- and speaking of opposites

     Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) was a poet, but I have not found mathematics in his poems.  Still, I want to note here a fantastic performance of his play, Mother Courage and her Children, starring Kathleen Turner and a talented ensemble at Washington,DC's Arena Stage.  Invited by my neighbors, Mitzi and Pati, I joined them yesterday for a riveting performance.   Here is a link to "How Fortunate the Man with None," a Brecht poem  heartily sung as "Solomon's Song" in the current musical production.
     And here, with a nod to the mathematical bent of this blog, is a quote from Brecht's Mother Courage that involves counting; also, it is one of many examples of a strategy that Brecht uses often and well -- encouraging an idea by speaking of its opposite. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

To love, in perfect syllables

     While looking for Valentine verse with a math connection, I opened my copy of The Complete Illustrated Works of Lewis Carroll (Chancellor Press, 1982).  And found this one in which Carroll (a pen name for English mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodson (1832-1898)) uses the word one twice and the word half twice and has counted sounds so that in each line the number of syllables is either a cube of an integer or is perfect.

        Lesson in Latin     by Lewis Carroll    (May 1888)   

Friday, February 7, 2014

Love and Mathematics -- Please be my Valentine!

Poet extraordinaire Maxine Kumin (1925-2014) died yesterday.  
Here is a link to a wonderful eleven of her poems from Persimmon Tree

Late in 2007, AKPeters released Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics, edited by Sarah Glaz and me.  Recently at a Howard County Math Festival I met a young man who browsed my copy of this anthology and found it the perfect Valentine.  And so might you.  Below I include a sample from the collection -- a love sonnet by Jean de Sponde (1557-1595), translated from the French by David Slavitt.

 Several previous postings have offered love poems of mathematics and mathematicians; 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Six Million

       Sometimes numbers become labels for particular events.  When I was growing up, all of us knew 1492 as a label for the discovery of America.  And 1941 recognized Pearl Harbor.  The following selection from a poem by Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000) reminds us of the awful importance of 6 million
       While mentioning this poem of witness and remembering, I want also to remind you of the very special Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, to held in Washington, DC, March 27-30, 2014. (Early-bird registration ends on Valentine's Day, February 14th at midnight.)  Hope to see you there. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Forecasting snow and poetry


is that other world
in which no schedules sit
and no ambitions flare
to interrupt the bluest sky
and whitest field
and coldest air