Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mathy Poetry from Bridges 2014

     This year's math-arts conference, Bridges 2014, was in Korea.  And a dozen of us who write poetry-with-mathematics -- unable to attend in person -- worked with coordinator Sarah Glaz to offer (on August 16, hosted by Mike Naylor) a virtual reading of work videotaped in advance by the poets and edited into a coherent whole by Steve Stamps. 

     The virtual reading is here on YouTube. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Grandma Got STEM

     It was my good fortune last weekend to meet the sister-in-law of one of my neighbors, mathematician and Harvey Mudd professor, Rachel Levy.  Levy is also a blogger and her postings in Grandma Got STEM tell of achievements of women in science.
     I have looked for a poem to pair with my mention here of  Grandma Got STEMAlthough the following poem by Tami Haaland (found at the Poetry Foundation website) is not mathematical, it nicely brings to life a relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter -- and we wish for both of them "places to explore beyond the frame."

       Little Girl     by Tami Haaland

       She’s with Grandma in front
       of Grandma’s house, backed
       by a willow tree, gladiola and roses.

       Who did she ever want
       to please? But Grandma
       seems half-pleased and annoyed.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Changing colors, counting syllables

Changing Colors
by JoAnne Growney

yoyo --
seeking self-control. Please,
mother-friend-lover-child, don't
pull string.  Let me collect myself.

I  lift  myself  to  the  treetops,
soar with the golden eagle,
find rest on fleecy clouds.
My orb embraces
everybody --

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Poetry in Math Journals

         The Mathematical Intelligencer (publisher of the poem by Gizem Karaali given below) and the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics (an online, open-access journal edited by Mark Huber and Gizem Karaali) are periodicals that include math-related poetry in each issue.  For example, in the most recent issue of JHM, we have these titles:

     Joining the mathematician's delirium to the poet's logic'': Mathematical Literature and Literary Mathematics     by Rita Capezzi and Christine Kinsey
     How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways for Syllabic Variation in Certain Poetic Forms     by Mike Pinter

     Computational Compulsions     by Martin Cohen
     Jeffery's Equation     by Sandra J. Stein
     The Math of Achilles     by Geoffrey A. Landis

And here, from Gizem Karaali, is a poetic view of the process of mathematical discovery:  the blank white page, the muddy flow of thoughts, the clarity that eventually (sometimes) blooms:

Friday, August 15, 2014

My best dream is floating . . .

     Today I want to urge you to visit several sites in addition to my blog.  For example, there is the recent announcement of 2014 Fields Medal (equivalent to a Nobel prize) winners -- the four winners include the first female mathematician (Maryam Mirzakhani) ever to be selected as a Fields Medalist (equivalent to a Nobel Prize) and a mathematician who loves poetry (Manjul Bhargava).    
     With the help of a "Google Alert" I found a YouTube video of Alexandria Marie reading "The Mathematics of Heartbreak" at a Dallas Poetry Slam.  A link in an email from Texas computer scientist,  Dylan Shell, alerted me to these mathematical lyrics (new words for old tunes) in a mathbabe posting by Cathy O'Neil.
     As we have been floating from topic to topic, it may be apt to end with the final stanza of my relevantly titled poem: 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Narrated by a mathematician

Recently translated by Adam Morris, the novel With My Dog-Eyes (Melville House, 2014) by Brazilian writer Hilda Hilst (1930-2004) is narrated by a mathematician-poet. That fact of narration is what first drew me to the book. (See also this July 3 posting.)  And then there is (related in Morris's introduction to the translation) Hilst's sad life, perhaps mirrored in her characters.  These are the opening lines from the novel's narrator:

       The cross on my brow
       The facts of what I was
       Of what I will be:
       I was born a mathematician, a magician
       I was born a poet. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Squaring the Circle

Reminding us of the ancient unsolvable problem that so many attempted, the July/August 2014 issue of Poetry Magazine contains "Squaring the Circle," a poem by Philip Fried.  Here are the opening lines; please follow the Poetry Magazine link above to enjoy the full poem.

from  Squaring the Circle     by Philip Fried

       It's a little-known fact that God's headgear --
       A magician's collapsible silk top hat,
       When viewed from Earth, from the bottom up
       Is, sub specie aeternitatis,

       A pluperfect halo, both circle and square,
         . . .
Two previous posts that also consider the circle-squaring problem include 10 May 2010 and 21 April 2010.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Divided selves, some of them savvy

     For social connections, it is desirable not to be pegged as a member of an outcast group.  And thus a mathematician is likely to have at least two selves -- one who lives in the world of mathematics and another separate social self that negotiates that rest-of-the-world where many fear and shun mathematics. I found a situation somewhat similar when I studied at Hunter College in Manhattan:  I needed a separate self who negotiated the city. The problem-solving farm girl who knew small towns well and big cities slightly seemed better equipped to adapt to city conversations than her fellow students could chat about anything west of the Hudson.  How many hundred miles must you drive to get to Pennsylvania? they wondered.  (The Delaware River boundary of PA is about 75 miles west of the George Washington Bridge.)
     In this vein, I present a poem that focuses on the country vs city divide -- and it involves a square look and a number.

     Green Market, New York   by Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A math prof's lament

The mathematical connection for this poem is the fact that it was inspired by regrets for a missed opportunity in a mathematics class -- an opportunity missed by me and thus by one of my students.  There are so many ways to be wrong!

Lament of a Professor
        at the End of the Spring Semester     by JoAnne Growney

I took an extra step to bridge the gap
between us, blind to your matching backward step.
We've moved in tandem until I'm angry
at you, and at me — I thought you needed
lenience, but reprimands instead
would have changed the direction of our cadence
and given you a chance to lead the dance.

A poem about another of my students, "The Prince of Algebra" is available here.  And this link will take you to the poems in my collection, My Dance is Mathematics (Paper Kite Press, 2006).