Saturday, February 28, 2015

Reflections on Logic

Miroslav Holub (1923-1998), Czech poet and immunologist who excelled in both endeavors, is one of my favorite poets.  He combines scientific exactitude with empathy and absurdity.  Here is a sample:

       Brief Reflections on Logic     by Miroslav Holub

                                     translated by Stuart Friebert and Dana Habova

       The big problem is everything has
           its own logic.  Everything you can
           think of, whatever falls on your head.
           Somebody will always add the logic.
           In your head or on it.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Found poetry - words of Dirac

The epigraph for Richard Bready's "Times of Sand" (a stanza of which I posted a few days ago on 21 February) is a quote from British physicist Paul Dirac (1902-1984, founder of quantum theory).  This quote reminded me how often we find poetry within well-written prose -- and I have gone to WikiQuotes and found more poetic words from Dirac:

       If you are 
       and humble, 

       will lead you 
       by the hand. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

How many grains of sand?

     Sand beaches are places I love to walk.  Next to oceans and soft underfoot. 

Below I post a stanza from Richard Bready's "Times of Sand"  --
 a long poem that explores many of the numbers related to sand. 

     Contemplating grains of sand turns my thoughts to the pair of terms "finite" and "infinite."  One of my friends, university-educated, versed in literature and philosophy, offered "all of the grains of sand" as an example of an infinite set.   As we talked further, he proposed "the stars in the universe" as a second example. This guy, like many, equates "infinite" with "too large to count."  And then there is me; long ago in college I encountered a definition of "infinite" that went something like this:  A set is infinite if there is a one-to-one correspondence between the members of the given set  or one of its proper subsets with the set {1, 2, 3, . . ..} of counting numbers.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The numbers say it all . . .

The title of my posting today, "The numbers say it all" comes from the final line of "After Leviticus," by Detroit poet Philip LevineLevine (1928-2015) died this past Saturday.  Often termed "a working class poet," this fine writer won many awards for his work. 

     After Leviticus     by Philip Levine

     The seventeen metal huts across the way
     from the great factory house seventeen
     separate families. Because the slag heaps
     burn all day and all night it’s never dark,
     so as you pick your way home at 2 A.M.
     on a Saturday morning near the end

Friday, February 13, 2015

America, land of equals (perhaps)

Preparing to celebrate (after Valentine's Day) Presidents' Day, remembering particularly George Washington (b February 22, 1732) and Abraham Lincoln (b February 12,1809), I offer a few lines by Walt Whitman (1819-1892).

       America     by Walt Whitman

       Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
       All, all alike endear'd, grown, ungrown, young or old,
       Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
       Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
       A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
       Chair'd in the adamant of Time.        [1888]

This poem is found here in the Walt Whitman Archive.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Surreal parabola, Mobius strip

     When a math term appears in a poem, will its usage make sense to a mathematician? Some mathematical folks are critical of poetic use of math words because precision may be lost to "poetic license." Others feel a pleasing tension between the mathness of a term and the stretched or layered meanings suggested by the poem. With these thoughts in mind, consider these two mathematically-titled poems "Mobius Strip" and "Parabola" by Robert Desnos (France, 1900-1945), translated by Amy Levin and selected from "A sampling of French surrealist poetry."

     Mobius Strip     by Robert Desnos (trans. Amy Levin)

     The track I'm running on
     Won't be the same when I turn back
     It's useless to follow it straight
     I'll return to another place

Friday, February 6, 2015

Celebrate Black History, Valentine's Day

February is Black History Month and on the 14th we celebrate love with Valentine's Day.  To find in this blog a variety of mathy poems on these topics (and many others) use the SEARCH box found at the top of the right-hand column of this blog.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Moebius Strip

Following a lead from Francisco, I found (here) this tiny poem by Michael Hessel-Mial:

       moebius strip

       a belt of clouds
       twist it, latch it

       which way will it rain?

To find more poems that feature the Mobius strip  locate the SEARCH box at the top of the this blog's right-hand column -- and enter the term mobius.  Alternatively, the search box also works for a myriad of other topics.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Is winter half over?

     Today (February 2) those of us with roots in Pennsylvania join enthusiasts from everywhere as we  look to mythical groundhog Punxsutawney Phil for a forecast concerning prolonged winter or early spring.  This morning Phil's forecast was bleak but not unexpected: we will have six more weeks of winter.
     This news that our winter is only half over has led me to a poem (found in the illustrated anthology Talking to the Sun, edited by Kenneth Koch and Kate Farrell, published in 1985 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art):

      Another Sarah     by Anne Porter (1911-2011)
                 for Christopher Smart
       When winter was half over
       God sent three angels to the apple-tree
       Who said to her
       "Be glad, you little rack
       Of empty sticks,
       Because you have been chosen.

       In May you will become
       A wave of living sweetness
       A nation of white petals
       A dynasty of apples."

Another winter poem by Porter with a bit of mathematics is included in this post for 25 November 2012.