Sunday, July 6, 2014

Poetry as Pure Mathematics

A recent email from Portuguese mathematician-poet F J "Francisco" Craveiro de Carvalho brought a 40-year-old stanza to my attention. First published in the May, 1974 issue of POETRY Magazine, we have these enigmatic lines by William Virgil Davis.  Enjoy!

       The Science of Numbers:  Or Poetry as Pure Mathematics

       Whatever you add you add at your peril.
       It is far better to subtract.  In poetry,
       Multiplication borders on madness.
       Division is the mistress we agree to sleep with. 

While looking for other poems by Davis, I found this collection, Painted Bride Poetry:  A Poetry Retrospective 1973-1993, which contains (on page 85) his non-math poem "Plum" and where also we find (on page 9) this number poem by Thomas McGrath (1916-1990):


            One and one are two.
            Two and two are four.
            Pipsissiwas and sassafras
            Bloom at my front door.

Another title in the Painted Bride collection that particularly caught my eye -- as a most-of-my-life Pennsylvanian now transplanted in Maryland -- was "To Spot the Centralia Mine Fire" by Leonard Kress.  I invite you to visit this online collection and discover a variety of  special poems.

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