Sunday, November 30, 2014

Geometry of Love

     A couple of weeks ago my "Google Alert" linked me to a posting of a science poem concerning "the geometry of love."  The posting -- at The Finch and Pea -- is a poem that is both elegant and precise (and one that has been included in the anthology, Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics, that Sarah Glaz and I collected and edited several years ago).  Here it is:

The Definition of Love     by Andrew Marvell (England, 1621-1678)

My love is of a birth as rare
As ‘tis for object strange and high;
It was begotten by Despair
Upon Impossibility.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving thanks for poems

     As Thanksgiving approaches I am thankful not only for many blessings but also for the numbers I use to count them -- eight grandchildren, four children, two parents, one sister, one brother, an uncountable number of friends.  And I am thankful for poetry.  Here is one of my favorite math-related poems.

How to Find the Longest Distance Between Two Points   
                                                     by James Kirkup (England, 1919 - 2009)

From eye to object no straight line is drawn,
Though love's quick pole directly kisses pole.
The luckless aeronaut feels earth and moon
Curve endlessly below, above the soul
His thought imagines, engineers in space.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Math Lady Sings

     One of my daily emails results from a Google Alert -- which I have set up to let me know of new web-postings (or old information newly accessed) that contain the terms "mathematics" and "poetry." (Another online delight comes when I Google "mathematics poetry" (or "math poetry") and browse the images that occur at the top of the list that Google offers.  What fun!)
     It is through a Google Alert notification that I learned of the poetry book It Ain't Over Till the Math Lady Sings by Michelle Whitehurst Goosby (Trafford, 2014).  This Math Lady was the subject of an article by Jennifer Calhoun in the Dotham Eagle (Dotham, AL)  -- and Calhoun put me in in touch with the poet who graciously offered permission for me to present one of her poems here.  Goosby is a teacher and the poem poses a number puzzle for readers to solve.

Five Naturals
Consecutively Odd  
by Michelle Whitehurst Goosby

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In Praise of Fractals

     Philosopher Emily Grosholz is also a poet -- a poet who often writes of mathematics. Tessellations Publishing has recently (2014) published her collection Proportions of the Heart:  Poems that Play with Mathematics (with illustrations by Robert Fathauer) and she has given me permission to present one of the fine poems from that collection.

In Praise of Fractals     by Emily Grosholz

               Variations on the Introduction to
               The Fractal Geometry of Nature by Benoit Mandelbrot
               (New York: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1983)

Euclid’s geometry cannot describe,
nor Apollonius’, the shape of mountains,
puddles, clouds, peninsulas or trees.
Clouds are never spheres, 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Imaginary Number

Last week (on November 6) I was invited to read some of my poems at the River Poets reading in Bloomsburg, PA (where I lived and taught for a bunch of years).  Among the friends that I had a chance to greet were Susan and Richard Brook -- and, from them, received this mathy poem by Pullitzer-Prize-winning-poet Vijay Seshadri.

Imaginary Number     by Vijay Seshadri

The mountain that remains when the universe is destroyed
is not big and is not small.
Big and small are

comparative categories, and to what
could the mountain that remains when the universe is destroyed
be compared?    

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

In college she studied mathematics

     In the third paragraph of the Wikipedia bio for Marguerite Duras (1914-1996), we read "At 17, Marguerite went to France, her parents' native country, where she began studying for a degree in mathematics."  I had the opportunity, several weeks ago at AFI Silver, to enjoy a screening of an exquisite restoration of "Hiroshima Mon Amour," a 1959 film for which Duras wrote the screenplay (nominated for an academy award).
    At the website I found this mathy (and poetic) quote that I recognized as from the film:

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Composite or Prime?

 Her age 
is 9.
Is that 9
or prime?

     I have a wonderful collection of grandchildren and am continually on the lookout for both math and poetry activities to include in the things that they enjoy.  Recently I mail-ordered retired fourth-grade teacher Franny Vergo's collection Mathapalooza:  A Collection of Math Poetry for Primary and Intermediate Students (AuthorHouse, 2013).  Here is a sample from that collection: 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A big voice, Galway Kinnell (1927-2014)

     Last week master poet Galway Kinnell died (NYTimes obituary).  One finds a detailed bio and a baker’s dozen of his best poems at the Poetry Foundation website -- do a search using the poet's name.  Many of Kinnell's poems are about nature -- somewhat in the way that mathematics may be about science  --  that is, he uses the images of nature to speak multiply of complex issues.  Here is a poem about identity that includes several math terms.

     The Gray Heron    by Galway Kinnell (1927-2014)

     It held its head still
     while its body and green
     legs wobbled in wide arcs 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Poetry from the words of Lord Kelvin

Do not imagine that mathematics 
is hard and crabbed, and repulsive 
to common sense. 
It is merely the etherealization
of common sense.