Monday, October 20, 2014

Martin Gardner collected poems

     Last week the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) had a special program honoring Martin Gardner (1914-2010); tomorrow (October 21) is the 100th anniversary of his birth.   The shelving in the MAA meeting room displayed copies of many of Gardner's approximately one hundred books.  However, none of the books displayed were books of poetry and, indeed, Gardner referred to himself as "an occasional versifier" but not a poet.  Nonetheless he helped to popularize OULIPO techniques in his monthly (1956-81) Scientific American column, "Mathematical Games," and he also was a collector and editor of anthologies, parodies, and annotated versions of familiar poetic works.  Here is a link to his Favorite Poetic Parodies.  And one may find Famous Poems from Bygone Days and The Annotated Casey at the Bat and half a dozen other titles by searching at using "martin gardner poetry." 

     In "The Ultimate Science Fiction Poetry Guide," Jonathan Vos Post offers us this puzzle poem (by poet John William Burgon) which appeared in Gardner's column in the October 1960 issue of Scientific American.

                A rose-red city half as old as Time.
                One billion years ago the city's age
                Was just two-fifths of what Time's age will be
                A billion years from now.  Can you compute
                How old the crimson city is today?

Have YOU figured out the age of the rose-red city?


  1. <3

    My favorite of his is about pi and e. I recite it from memory to my students once a year. :)

  2. Yes, I like that one too -- Gardner actually wrote that verse. (It's available in my blog here:
    THANKS for dropping by to read and comment!