Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Be someone TO COUNT ON in 2015

By any means of counting, 
the number of incarcerated persons in the United States 

and the proportion of prisoners with BLACK SKIN
  and there is TOO MUCH VIOLENCE and DEATH in our prisons.

RESOLVE to stop the violence (RSVP)  in America's prisons!  Work for fair sentencing and Equal Justice!  Let your resolutions for the New Year 2015 be inspired by a poem;  the one below is from Poetry, 2009, found at poetryfoundation.org  -- and you may find more at Split This Rock.

To the voice of the retired warden of Huntsville Prison
(Texas death chamber)                 by Averill Curdy

Until wolf-light I will count my sheep,
       Adumbrated, uncomedic, as they are.
       One is perdu, two, qualm, three
                           Is sprawl, four, too late,

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Fractal Poem

    A fractal is an object that displays self-similarity -- roughly, this means that the parts have the same shape as the whole -- as in the following diagram which shows successive stages in the development of the "box fractal" (from Wolfram MathWorld). 

Michigan poet Jack Ridl and I share an alma mater (Pennsylvania's Westminster College) and we recently connected when I found mathematical ideas in the poems in his collection Broken Symmetry  (Wayne State University Press, 2006); from that collection, here is "Fractals" -- offering us a poetic version of self-similar structure:

       Fractals    by Jack Ridl

       On this autumn afternoon, the light  
       falls across the last sentence in a letter,
       just before the last movement of Brahms’ 
       Fourth Symphony, a recording made more 
       than 20 years ago, the time when we were  
       looking for a house to rehabilitate, maybe  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A thousand Christmas trees

My email poem-a-day today from www.poets.org is "Christmas Trees" by Robert Frost (1874-1963); this 1916 poem includes some calculations and reflections based on the line:

       “A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.

Frost's poem has provoked me to thoughts of inflation and conservation; for the full poem, follow the link given with the title above.  And, if your time permits, go back to previous "Christmas" postings in this blog at these links:  23 December 201324 December 201221 December 201222 December 2011, and 2 September 2010.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The gift of a poem

     In this holiday season of giving, sometimes the gifts are poems -- and sometimes mathy poems.  A few days ago, "Zero" by Robert Creeley (1926-2005) arrived in an email from Francisco José Craveiro de Carvalho, a Portuguese mathematician who loves poetry and has translated many math-related poems into his native language -- a seeker and finder of such poems who shares them with me.  (See also 23 October 2010 and 17 September 2013.)  At this time of giving and receiving, enjoy playing with these thoughts of zero as nothing or something.

          Zero     by Robert Creeley

                              for Mark Peters

          Not just nothing,
          Not there's no answer,
          Not it's nowhere or
          Nothing to show for it -- 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Girl Who Loved Triangles

     I found this poem by Michigan poet Jackie Bartley when I was browsing old issues of albatross (edited by Richard Smyth) and she has give me permission to post it here.  Like Guillevic (see, for example, this earlier post), Bartley has found personalities in geometric figures.

To the Girl Who Loved Triangles     by Jackie Bartley

          Triangulation:  Technique for establishing the distance between two points
                                      using a triangle with at least one side of known length.

One girl in a friend's preschool class
loves the triangle.  Tanya's favorite shape,
the children call it.  Simple, three sided, at least

one slope inherent, slip-slide down
in the playground of mind.  Tension and its
release.  Sure balance, solid as the pyramids.  The 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fractals -- poems and photos

     Marc Frantz and Annalisa Crannell have written about mathematics and art (Viewpoints:  Mathematical Perspectives and Fractal Geometry in Art: Princeton University Press, 2011) and now Frantz (who is both a mathematician and an artist, a painter) has collaborated with a poet -- Robin Walthery Allen --  to develop a collection entitled Dance of Eye and Mind (not yet published).  I am honored to present a poem-photo pair from this exquisite collection.

     What is in us that must reach the top,
     that longs to look down upon the world as if a god?
     Don’t we know that in this infinite space
     the same rocks at the seashore know the secret of each peak?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Our curve is a parabola

Found in the essay, "Intellect" (1841) --  these words by 19th century American philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882):

     When we are young, we spend much time and pains
     in filling our note-books with all definitions
     of Religion, Love, Poetry, Politics, Art, 
     in the hope that, in the course of a few years,
     we shall have condensed into our encyclopaedia
     the net value of all the theories
     at which the world has yet arrived.
     But year after year our tables get no
     completeness, and at last we discover
     that our curve is a parabola,
     whose arcs will never meet.    

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A mathy Haiku

Found at the froth magazine website, this Haiku by Christopher Daniel Wallbank.


I, mathematics,
One plus root five over 2.
My soul is golden. 

 Note:  In mathematics, two quantities p and q (p>q) are in the golden ratio 
if the ratio p/q is equal to the ratio (p+q)/q.  The value of the golden ratio -- 
often represented by the Greek letter phi (φ) -- is 1.618...  or (1+√5)/2.

Here is a link to another mathy froth poem, this one "Division" by Ryley-Sue.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A scientist writes of scientists

     Wilkes-Barre poet Richard Aston is many-faceted -- a teacher, an engineer, a textbook author, a technical writer.  And Aston writes of those whose passion he admires-- in his latest collection, Valley Voices (Foothills Publishing, 2012) we meet laborers, many of them miners from the Wyoming Valley where he makes his home.  Aston also writes of scientists and mathematicians -- and he has given permission for me to offer below his poems that feature Marie Curie, Isaac Newton, and Galileo Galilei.  With the mind of a scientist and the rhythms of poetry, Aston brings to us clear visions of these past lives.

Scientist     by Richard Aston

It took more than a figure, face, skin, and hair
for me to become Marie Curie,
wife of simple, smiling, selective, Pierre
who could recognize — because he was one — my genius.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Poet as mathematician

     Lillian Morrison (1917-2014) was a NYC poet and librarian whose work I first met in the poetry-with-math anthology, Against Infinity.  Here is one of her poems from that collection.

       Poet as Mathematician    by Lillian Morrison

       Having perceived the connexions, he seeks
       the proof, the clean revelation in its

       simplest form, never doubting that somewhere
       waiting in the chaos, is the unique

       elegance, the precise, airy structure,
       defined, swift-lined, and indestructible.

Morrison's insightful poem disappoints me in one important way:  her mathematician-poet is "he."  Another Morrison poem, "The Locus of a Point," may be found in my posting for 15 September 2014.