Monday, April 21, 2014

A Cento from Arcadia

Last week I had the enjoyable privilege of visiting with mathematician-poet Marion Cohen's math-lit class, "Truth and Beauty" at Arcadia University -- and the class members helped me to compose a Cento (given below), a poem to which each of us contributed a line or two of poetry-with-mathematics.  Participants, in addition to Dr. Cohen and me, included these students: 
          Theresa, Deanna, Ian, Collin, Mary, Grace, Zahra, Jen, Jenna, 
          Nataliya, Adeline, Quincy, Van, Alyssa, Samantha, Alexis, Austin.
Big thanks to all!

       Arcadia Math-Cento

       My number is small.
       And I never fail to be surprised
       by the gift of an odd remainder.
       A hen lays eggs one by one,
       the way you count life is life.

       Everything the Power of the World does
       is done in a circle. It goes round and round,
       no end can be found.
       He drew a circle that shut me out.

       It was crazy beyond measure.

       The shape of her soul is a square
       a single mystery, for whose answer
       she has long given up the search.  She had hoped
       that it might be a cube, but the years have worked
       to dispel the illusion of space.  An indecisive factor
       in the rest of what this dimension has to offer.
       Black holes in the universe confirm
       the reality of nothing changes everything.

       Perhaps a straighter line after all is the shorter one actually,
       each proceeding separately in the same direction
       and in the unlimited limits appears.
       What lines that reach beyond the page to infinity?
       I’m trying to fix these lines.

       The genius . . .  lies in the grasping of simplicity,
       a shape with surface but no volume.

Many of these lines are found in Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (A K Peters, 2008, edited by S. Glaz and J. Growney); this poetry collection is one of the texts for Cohen's course.

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