Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A poem for your pocket

Years ago, when "Poem in Your Pocket Day" (April 30) was first celebrated, we did not have cellphones to carry poems with us easily.  Here is a tiny but memorable poem for you to carry with you tomorrow -- on your phone or in your pocket -- a poem to open and read, again and again.

     Addition     by Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

     7 x 7 + love =
     An amount
     Infinitely above:
     7 x 7 − love.

Hughes' poem "Addition" is found in Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics (A K Peters, 2008) and was first posted in this blog, along with other poems linked to Black History Month on February 20, 2011.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Geometry of baseball

Many poems are written of baseball; a few of them involve mathematics --  see the posting for April 9, 2010 for math-related baseball poems by Marianne Moore (1877-1972) and Jerry Wemple; see the posting for September 18, 2011 for one by Jonathan Holden.
     Today I feature the opening stanza from a baseball poem by Pennsylvania poet, Le Hinton.

from   Our Ballpark    by Le Hinton

       This is the place where my father educated us:
       an open-air school of tutelage and transformation.
       This is where we first learned
       to count to three, then later to calculate the angle
       of a line drive bouncing off the left field wall.
       We studied the geometry and appreciated the ballet
       of third to second to first, a triple play.
              . . .

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day -- April 22, 2015

Consider today the thoughtful words of this sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950):

     Read history: so learn your place in Time
     And go to sleep: all this was done before;
     We do it better, fouling every shore;
     We disinfect, we do not probe, the crime.
     Our engines plunge into the seas, they climb
     Above our atmosphere: we grow not more
     Profound as we approach the ocean's floor;
     Our flight is lofty, it is not sublime.
     Yet long ago this Earth by struggling men
     Was scuffed, was scraped by mouths that bubbled mud;
     And will be so again, and yet again;
     Until we trace our poison to its bud
     And root, and there uproot it: until then,
     Earth will be warmed each winter by man's blood.

These lines are found on my shelf in Collected Sonnets (Revised and Expanded Edition) by Edna St. Vincent Millay (Harper & Row, 1988).  AND, recall the arithmetic of a sonnet:  14 lines (or breaths) and 5 iambs (or heartbeats) per line. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

April celebrates Math and Poetry

     April is National Poetry Month and Mathematics Awareness Month. Yesterday I was able to attend several of the popular and crowded events at the National Math Festival (Here's a link to "A Field Guide to Math on the National Mall" where you can see photos of items pointed out to yesterday's visitors.) and tomorrow evening (April 20) I will be part of a reading that features poetry of math and science at the DC Science Cafe (at Busboys & Poets, 5th &K Streets, 6:30 PM).  
     For tomorrow evening's reading I intend to wear my red-peppers earrings; one of the poems I will offer will be "A Taste of Mathematics" (from my collection Red Has No Reason and posted in its entirety at this link). Here is the poem's final stanza:

            She said, "Hot peppers
            are like mathematics —
            with strong flavor
            that takes over
            what they enter." 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Remembering Abraham Lincoln

Today -- April 14, 2015 -- marks the 150th birthday of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865) and April 15 is the date on which he died. Lincoln loved poetry and trained his reasoning with Euclid's geometry.  Here is a brief sample of his own poetry (found -- along with other samples -- at

       Abraham Lincoln     by Abraham Lincoln

       Abraham Lincoln
       his hand and pen
       he will be good but
       god knows When

From my copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (Signet Classics, 1955), from the section "Memories of Lincoln," I have copied these well-known and thoughtful (and non-mathematical) lines:

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Time is no straight line . . .

Swedish poet and Nobel Laureate Tomas Transtromer (1931-2015) died last month. At his website I found this poem that reflects on the arithmetic and geometry of life:

Reply to a Letter    by Tomas Transtromer

In the bottom drawer I find a letter which arrived for the first time twenty- six years ago. A letter written in panic, which continues to breathe when it arrives for the second time.

A house has five windows; through four of them daylight shines clear and still. The fifth window faces a dark sky, thunder and storm. I stand by the fifth window. The letter.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Man Ray's "Human Equations"

     Art lovers in Washington, DC have the opportunity (until 5/10/15) to see, on exhibit at The Phillips Collection, "Man Ray -- Human Equations: A Journey from Mathematics to Shakespeare." I visited the exhibit on February 19 on the occasion of a poetry reading by Rae Armantrout -- she presented work of hers that she felt captured the spirit of Man Ray's work.  (Bucknell poet Karl Patten, whom I had as a poetry teacher years ago, insisted that "Every Thing Connects" and, indeed, this is the title of one of the poems in Patten's collection The Impossible Reaches.  Both of these phrases that became titles for Patten seem also to describe Man Ray's and Armantrout's work:  they have taken seemingly disparate objects and reached across seemingly impossible gaps to relate them.  As often happens in mathematics.)   

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mathematics and poetry -- are the same ! ! !

Last week the Art Works Blog posted an interview with mathematician, poet, and translator, Enriqueta Carrington.  You will want to follow the link and read the whole thing.  Here is a paragraph:

quoting Enriqueta Carrington:
Mathematics and poetry are the same thing,
 or one is a translation of the other.

Well, perhaps that is an overstatement; 
but both math and poetry are about beautiful patterns, 
about creating, gazing at, and sharing them, 
and about appreciating those created by others.
It is not necessary to be a great mathematician or a great poet 
to enjoy this beauty, as I can tell you from my own experience.

Several years ago, at a time near the beginning of this poetry-math blog, in the posting for April 8, 2010, is a pantoum by Carrington.  And here is another of hers, this time a Fibonacci poem -- whose lines increase in word-count that matches the first eight Fibonacci numbers:  1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21.