Monday, August 31, 2015

The answer is NO

This past weekend I have much enjoyed reading Mathematics:  a novel  by Jacques Roubaud  (Dalkey Archive Press, reprint 2010, translated from the French by Ian Monk); Roubaud is a mathematician, poet, and member of the OULIPO.  And here is a found poem from Chapter 1:
          posed to a
          lively colleague:

          do you tell your
          dancing partners
          that you practice

For me, like so many of us -- females especially -- revelation of a connection to mathematics leads to an awkward moment, an impediment to a possible relationship.  And so we say things like "I am at the university" or "I am doing some writing" or . . .

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hate Math -- 21 Reasons (NOT) . . .

Two four-letter words that I want NEVER to be used TOGETHER are hate and math.  A lively contradiction to my wish is provided by the following piece by slam poet Shappy Seasholtz.

(For details on the World Poetry Slam to be held in Washington DC on Oct. 7-10, 
scroll down to the bottom of this posting.)

21 Reasons Why I Hate Math     by Shappy Seasholtz

1 - It's my worst subject.
2 - I failed Algebra in high school.
3 - When I retook Algebra in high school during the final exam the principal announced that the space shuttle had just blown up.
4 - The space shuttle probably blew up because of a mathematical error. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Three (or fewer) choices

Here is a link to an anthology of English translations of work by Chilean poet and mathematician, Nicanor Parra.   Some rank Nicanor Segundo Parra Sandoval (born 5 September 1914) among the most important poets of Spanish language literature.   Parra describes himself as an "anti-poet," having a distaste for poetic pomp and function; after recitations he exclaims "Me retracto de todo lo dicho" ("I take back everything I said").  I posted Parra's small poem "Thoughts" here in October, 2010-- and below I offer another example of Parra's play with ideas and words and numbers:   

       The Last Toast   by Nicanor Parra

       Whether we like it or not,
       We have only three choices:
       Yesterday, today and tomorrow.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Caught in an infinite loop . . ..

Philadelphian Marion Cohen has been a mathematician since girlhood and a poet almost that long.  Besides her mathematics and writing, she teaches an interdisciplinary math-and-literature course at Arcadia University.  Here is a sample of Cohen's math poetry -- which imaginatively links mathematics to everyday life, sort of -- from her recent collection, Parables for a Rainy Day (Green Fuse Press, 2013).

Weirdness at 22nd and Walnut     by Marion D. Cohen    

Friday, August 14, 2015

Primes and a paradox

       Canadian poet Alice Major has loved and admired science and mathematics since girlhood and this background brings to her mathy poems both charm and amazement -- qualities that those of us who seriously studied mathematics easily lack.  At the recent BRIDGES conference I had a chance to hang out with Alice for a while and to purchase her latest collection, Standard Candles  (University of Alberta Press, 2015). Such fun to experience her views of infinities and paradoxes, of triangles and symmetries and formulas and ... .  
     Alice has given me permission to post two of her poems here; read on and enjoy "The god of prime numbers" and "Zeno's paradox."  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Reservation Mathematics

Both a talented writer and an articulate conveyor of the culture of American Indians, Sherman Alexie is a Spokane / Coeur d’Alene Indian from Wellpinit, Washington.  Besides several collections of poetry, Alexie has published novels and short-stories; he wrote the screen-play for the 1998 film, Smoke Signals.  "Reservation Mathematics"  is from Alexie's poetry collection First Indian on the Moon, (Hanging Loose Press, 1993) and was previously posted in this blog in January 2011.

Reservation Mathematics     by Sherman Alexie

Monday, August 10, 2015

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Buffalo 66

     Nearly twenty years ago, in the formative years of River Poets (in Bloomsburg, PA), Jim Murray from Shamokin, then a student at Bloomsburg University) and I both were part of the group that gathered at Phillips Emporium for monthly poetry readings.  We became friends who kept in touch as he traveled to South Dakota and South Korea -- and I almost got to hear him read in Bloomsburg last month. 
     In recent weeks I have been enjoying journeying with Jim across the years and miles, seeing his reflections and insights (and sense of humor) as revealed through his poetry collections, Almost Normal (, 2012) and Normal:  The Last Ride of a Poet (, 2015).  Moreover, a visit to Murray's Hard Coal Studios website reveals other facets of his creative activity -- his comics, his ghost stories, his novella, and more.    Here is a sample (a short poem from Almost Normal) set in the old Capitol Theatre (now a restaurant) located along Main Street in Bloomsburg back in the 90s when single theaters were losing viewers to multiplexes.

Monday, August 3, 2015

MatHEmatics / MatSHEmatics

     Last week at the 2015 BRIDGES Math-Arts Conference in Baltimore I gave a short talk on using poetry to celebrate and inspire math girls and women, to recognize achievements and to encourage speaking out -- and also to encourage staying and building community in what often is now a lonely field.  Through a poem we can open doors that help us to talk about difficult issues -- such as isolation or loneliness or misgivings or discrimination. 
     A time-clock at BRIDGES kept me from saying all that I would have wished --  I would like to have quoted the following lines, spoken by a girl and found in "Hanging Fire" by Caribbean-American poet Audre Lorde (1934-1992).

from   Hanging Fire      by Audre Lorde 

          Nobody even stops to think
          about my side of it
          I should have been on the Math Team
          my marks were better than his . . .