Monday, June 29, 2015

Celebrating angles and rainbows . . .

 M A R R I A G E
       A     A
       T     Y  

And let me add a bit of mathematics -- for my friends (both gay and straight) who love to play with language:
           A recent New Yorker article  ("Go Ask Alice" by Anthony Lane, 6-8-15,48-54) 
          on Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) offered this quote -- this "found" poem:

            Obtuse anger
            is that which is greater
            than right anger.

This year, 2015, marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The power of eleven

One of my recent poetry acquisition treasures is Measure for Measure:  An Anthology of Poetic Meters, edited by Annie Finch and Alexandra Oliver (Everyman's Lbrary, 2015).  From a DC poet and friend, Paul Hopper, a few weeks ago I received comments about one of the sections of this collection  -- a section containing stanzas in hendecasyllabics, that is, in 11-syllable lines  Hopper has sent a sample quatrain of hendecasyllabics that points to "Into Melody" by Lewis Turco.  A bit of mathematical terminology is found in the opening lines of Peter Kline's "Hendecasyllabics for Robert Frost" -- and I offer these samples below.

Hopper's quatrain:

Someone should build a large dodecahedron,
with a poem in hendecasyllabics
on each pentagonal face except the base.
I'd start with this poem by Lewis Turco. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Found poetry -- Mary Cartwright

Recently I have been reading about mathematician Mary Cartwright (1900-1998) and working to develop a poem about her -- relying on a fine article/interview by my friend Jim Tattersall published in the The College Mathematics Journal (September 2001).  Her work on the foundations of chaos theory was prominently presented in a 2013 BBC News article.   A couple of days ago my acquisition of Rachel Swaby's book -- Headstrong Women:  52 Women Who Changed Science and the World  (Broadway Books, 2015) -- added to my information about Cartwright.  Here, from quotations offered by Tattersall and Swaby, are some of Cartwright's poetic words (reflecting on the ages and genders of mathematicians). First, speaking of her employment at Cambridge:

I regret to say that my impression 
when I began research was that, in general,
less qualified men were employed quite a lot, 

which eliminated some quite good women.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Uncertainty . . .

     Sometimes we find things of great value when we are looking for something else -- in fact, Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges has said, The best way to find a good thing is to go looking for something else . . .
     One of my recent stumbles (while looking for work by Borges) was onto the website of Robert Ronnow -- and I have found it a fun place to browse.  Here is a sample, a poem from his recent collection, The Scientific Way to Do Mathematics:

Uncertainty       by Robert Ronnow

                                                       --with a line by Pico Iyer

There cannot be two identical things in the world. Two
hydrogen atoms
offer infinite locations within their shells for electrons.
Thus, nothing can be definitely eventually known. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Seeing the NEWS in square stanzas

Reading today's Washington Post, a surprising statistic:

               Sharks don't kill
               as   many
               as cows do.
In the years 2001 to 2013 in the US an average of 20 deaths annually were caused by cows, 
compared with 1 during each of those years from sharks.

Also, Pope Francis has spoken out, expressing his concerns for our environment:

               Pope Francis,
               like me, sees
               climate change--

               a real

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Judith Grabiner and Howard Nemerov

     Last evening at the Distinguished Lecture Series sponsored by the MAA it was my privilege to hear an outstanding presentation by Judith Grabiner entitled "Space: Where Sufficient Reason Isn't Enough."  (I invite you to go to the MAA website to learn more about Grabiner and her talk.)
     Grabiner is a math-woman I have long admired and, after the lecture, while I was shaking her hand and thanking her for the excellent presentation, I took a moment to ask her if she had any favorite mathy poems.  Although surprised by my question she was able to cite Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnet XLIII  that counts the ways of love -- a few lines of which are found here -- and the name Howard Nemerov, whom readers of this blog know is one of my favorite poets.
     You may scroll down to find Nemerov's "Magnitudes" (found also at and along with other work by this fine poet).  Poet Laureate of the United States during 1988-1990, Howard Nemerov  (1920-1991) served as a combat pilot during World War II and maintained a continuing interest in the stars and navigation.  Here are links to my earlier postings of poems by this favorite poet.

"Two Pair"      "Grace to Be Said at the Super Market"
"Lion and Honeycomb"     "Creation Myth on a Mobius Band"
"To David, About His Education"     "Found Poem"    "Figures of Thought"

And here, expressing concerns about our planet, is Nemerov's "Magnitudes":

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Imagine a Fractal

California poet Carol Dorf is also a math teacher and is poetry editor of the online journal TalkingWriting.  In the most recent issue of Talking-Writing is this fascinating poem by Brooklyn poet, Nicole Callihan, "How to Imagine a Fractal."  Enjoy Callihan's poetic play with recursion and infinite nesting -- be lulled by the back and forth of forever.

Carol Dorf's work has appeared in this blog:
and a poem about fear of math is posted here.

How to Imagine a Fractal     by Nicole Callihan 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Square stanzas for Women in Maths

in Maths --

it all
adds up.

     Go here for "It All Adds Up" -- a story in plus Magazine by Rachel Thomas about the recent Women in Maths conference sponsored by the London Mathematical Society.
     And if you know of POEMS that celebrate women in mathematics, please contact me (email address at bottom of blog) or post a link in the comments to this post.

Friday, June 5, 2015

A portrait of TB in numbers

Poet Sarah Browning recently directed me to "Tuberculosis in Numbers," a fine poem by M. Brett Gaffney that appears in the latest issue of Rogue Agent.  The poem opens this way:

Tuberculosis in Numbers     by M. Brett Gaffney

        “In the past, we have been unable to get a true picture of the TB situation
        in Louisville due to the method of keeping statistics.” – Dr. Oscar O. Miller

Two weeks coughing when the mother’s only son
finds three bloody tissues—thinks of maple leaves.

Ten days at the sanatorium, four ribs taken. One father teaches
his boy how to wait by filling in crossword puzzles—
twelve across, seven letters: to eat or devour.  

The boy’s mother dies four months after his thirteenth birthday.
Tuesday morning at nine, it rains. His father smokes one cigarette, two.
Men come and take her body away. Under the sheet, ten toes.

One priest. Four lines of scripture. . . .

Gaffney's complete poem is available here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

17 syllables -- and other art

What is he talking about?  What does he mean?
The thought-provoking riddle posed by these 17 syllables (presented here as 3 square stanzas) from Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)  is something I found on the the wall of the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome, not far from a replica of "Fountain" by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968).  Photos of both are shown below.

What you are
as a gift 

is a 

for you 
to solve.