Sunday, September 28, 2014

Journal of Math in the Arts features Poetry

A special issue of the Journal of Mathematics and the Arts entitled "Poetry and Mathematics" is now available online at this link.  An introduction by guest editor Sarah Glaz is available (for free download) here.   In this opening piece, one of the items that Glaz includes is her own translation of a math-puzzle poem from Bhaskara's (1114-1185) Lilavati that is charming.  I offer it here:
       Ten times the square root of a flock
       of geese, seeing the clouds collect,
       flew towards lake Manasa, one-eighth
       took off for the Sthalapadmini forest.
       But unconcerned, three couples frolicked
       in the water amongst a multitude of
       lotus flowers. Please tell, sweet girl,
       how many geese were in the flock.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Clearing the Air with a Poem

     Every poem has a climate -- a collection of emotional tones that overlay and underlay its words. Today -- as the U.N. meets in NY to discuss the future climate of our planet -- I have been looking for mathy poems with a climate of advocacy, verses that let the world know that we must, soon and vigorously, take action to keep our earth habitable.
      One of the things I found is a poem (involving a couple of numbers and mathy words) by Simon Armitage that is printed on material that cleanses the air around it by absorbing pollutants.  A small photo from the website of Sheffield University is shown below -- and I urge you to follow the Sheffield link for the story of the poem and this link to see the full poem more clearly and the story behind it.  Here is Armitage's opening stanza. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Marching for Climate

     Today I want to call attention to the growing global concern about climate change accentuated by the United Nations Climate Summit that opens September 23. Tomorrow (September 21) I will travel on a 6 AM bus  from Silver Spring to NYC to be part of the People's Climate March.  It is said that more than 500 buses of protesters are heading to New York. 29 marching bands will provide the soundtrack. 26 city blocks are being cordoned off for the march's line-up.   At the same time, more than 2,000 People's Climate events are taking place in over 160 countries around the world—from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires and from New York to San Francisco.

     To have a small carbon footprint I will march tomorrow with only a small sign -- one that wears a 3x3-square reminder that dates back to a 1968 essay, "Tragedy of the Commons,"  by ecologist Garrett Hardin (1915-2003). 

       There  is  no
       place to throw
       that's  away.

WHY is it taking us so long to act to preserve a habitable planet?  Do we not care about the world we are leaving for our grandchildren?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Remembering Lee Lorch

      Lee Lorch was a mathematician known for his social activism on behalf of black Americans as well as for his mathematics. He died in February of this year in Toronto, at age 98.  A life-long communist and a life-long crusader.  Last Thursday I attended a memorial service  (organized by Joe Auslander, a poetry-lover who one day had introduced me to the work of Frank Dux) for Lorch -- sponsored by the Mathematical Association for America and held at the MAA Carriage House in Washington, DC.  Friends and colleagues of Lorch spoke of his positive energy and the ways that he had enriched the lives of students and colleagues, of friends and strangers.  One of the speakers, Linda Braddy, a staff member of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), did not talk about Lorch but about strategies for opening mathematical doors (as he had done) to new students. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hailstone numbers shape a poem

     One of my favorite mathy poets is Halifax mathematician Robert Dawson -- his work is complex and inventive, and fun to puzzle over.  Dawson's webpage at St Mary's University lists his mathematical activity; his poetry and fiction are available in several issues of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics and in several postings for this blog (15 April 201230 November 2013, 2 March 2014) and in various other locations findable by Google.
      Can a poem be written by following a formula?  Despite the tendency of most of us to say NO to this question we also may admit to the fact that a formula applied to words can lead to arrangements and thoughts not possible for us who write from our own learning and experiences.  How else to be REALLY NEW but to try a new method? Set a chimpanzee at a typewriter or apply a mathematical formula.
     Below we offer Dawson's "Hailstone" and follow it with his explanation of how mathematics shaped the poem from its origin as a "found passage" from the beginning of Dickens' Great Expectations.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Hypertext poetry

     We computer-screen readers all know hypertext; when we read along in Wikipedia or some other online document and come across an underlined term whose font color is light blue -- at such a point we may decide to keep on reading as if we had not noticed the light blue "hyperlink," or we may locate our cursor on that text, click our mouse, and link to a new screen of visual information.
     My first encounter with hypertext poetry was the work of Stephanie Strickland -- in her 1999 love poem, "The Ballad of Sand and Harry Soot," available at this link.  If you, however, are someone who is not yet comfortably familiar with hypertext poetry, I invite you to gain some experience with hyperlinked reading via a prose essay -- reading it first as a traditional essay and then exploring ways that hypertext can vary the experience of reading.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mathy poems via e-mail

Publishing a blog about poetry and mathematics brings me new connections -- it is not unusual for a day to begin with an email from another poetry-math enthusiast who wants to share a link or a poem. One of these is retired USC biochemist Paul Geiger.  
     Using as raw material a poem by Shel Silverstein, Geiger created a 9x9 syllable-square:

S.C.S. STOUT     by Paul Geiger

       Apologizing and Acknowledging Shel Silverstein's 1974 poem