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.  

       Even a cylinder makes sense, at least
           in that it’s not a cube.  Even a cleft
           makes sense, maybe just because
           it’s not a big mountain.

       A special logic must be assigned to cylinders
           that pretend to be cubes.  And clefts
           that think they’re big mountains.

        The logic of these things is in fact that
           they strip other things of their meaning.

       This reflection isn’t abstract.

       It’s in view
           of recent history.

This poem and several others by Holub appear in Numbers and Faces:  A Collection of Poems with Mathematical Imagery, a group of poems that I gathered and edited for the Humanistic Mathematics Network in 2001.  This small anthology is out of print but is available online here.

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