Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mathematics and Poetry ARE Similar

        A recent email request sent me looking for a one-page article / quiz I had published in the American Mathematical Monthly in 1992 -- a list of 17 statements (quotations) each with a word missing.   The missing words are either "mathematics" or "poetry" (or a related word).  My claim is that, without using the author's name as a clue, it is difficult to decide which of these arts is intended.  I offer here the first four of the statements and suggest you reflect on missing words and then, if you wish, follow this link to a file with the entire list --   including also the author of each quote and (afterward) a list of the missing words.

_____  is the art of uniting pleasure with truth.   (Mathematics/Poetry)

To think the thinkable -- that is the ____'s aim.   (mathematician/poet)     

All _____ [is] putting the infinite within the finite.   (mathematics/poetry) 

The moving power of _____ invention is not reasoning 
                                                    but imagination.     (Mathematical/Poetic) 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The magic of mathematics (in art)

     Australian teacher and  poet Erica Jolly is convinced that breaking down the barriers that make silos of sciences and humanities subjects will promote better education systems and improve job prospects for students.  She brings mathematics into this engaging poem found in Holding Patterns, an online book of physics and engineering poems, part of the "Science Made Marvelous" project.

Sculpture at Questacon (Australia National Science and Technology Center)      
                                                                                       by Erica Jolly
     It looks like magic --
     children are turning
     a great stone sphere
     this way and that
     smoothly, easily.  

Friday, October 23, 2015

JMM Seattle, 1-7-16 -- Poetry+Math+Art

 Read your mathy poems in Seattle!
An invitation to participate -- in January!  Read on!

 ANNOUNCING Poetry + Art + Math
 January 7, 2016, Thursday, 5:30 pm–7:00 pm.
Room 608, Washington State Convention Center, Seattle 
     At the Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM) organized by Gizem Karaali, Pomona College; 
Lawrence M. Lesser, University of Texas at El Paso; and Douglas Norton, Villanova University. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Celebrating waves of light . . .

     On October 8, Scotland's celebration of National Poetry Day had the theme "Light."  An online collection of themed poems suitable for children is available here.  From my Romanian friend, Doru Radu, who attended that celebration, I received poem-cards from the event. One of the cards contained a poem by filmmaker and poet Margaret Tait (1918-1999). I include that poem with its accompanying image below.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Use a phone App to find mathy poems

A day late, Happy Birthday, E. E. Cummings 
(b 14 October 1894, d 3 September 1962).

     One of my favorite poetry sites is -- publisher of POETRY Magazine and supplier of a wonderful phone app (also entitled POETRY).  The app offers access to an enormous data-base of poems, sorted into categories that may be accessed using a SPIN feature, activated by touch.  Spinning the upper layer of categories can lead to "Humor" or "Joy" or "Insecurity" or  . . ..  Spinning the lower layer of categories can lead to "& Life" or  "& Nature" or . . . . When my spin picked the match of "Humor" and "& Arts and Sciences" I found a list of 263 poems.  One was Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky."  I also found the tiny poem "Nothing"  by Ken Mikolowski that plays with meaning as mathematicians also love to do. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Daughter and Father - a warm geometry . . .

     Kate Stange is a mathematician -- from the Canadian province of Ontario and now at the University of Colorado -- whose father, Ken Stange, is a visual artist and poet. I met them on the internet via our combined interests in the intersections of poetry and mathematics. Lots of years ago, Kate gathered an online anthology of mathy poems. One of her recent online ventures is the development of WIN -- Women in Number Theory.  Below I offer one of Ken Stange's poems, taken from his collection Advice to Travellers (Penumbra, 1994).

Don't Mistake Your Mirror for a Window on the World     by Ken Stange

A reflection is both a thought about the world and the image we see in the mirror. -- Hippokrites

Consider your daughter's first smile.   

Toward Infinity . . .

     During summer teaching opportunities a dozen or more years ago in Deva, Romania I met Doru Radu who taught English there -- and our mutual love of poetry led us to collaborate on English translations of work by Romanian poets George Bacovia and Ileana Malancioiu.  Now Doru is in Poland and he is translating Polish poetry into Romanian.  One of his favorite poets is Ewa Lipska -- a poet I have met via Poetry International.  Below is her poem "Newton's Orange:  Infinity" -- found at Poetry International together with the original Polish poem.
     As I have noted before, "infinity" is a term whose varied uses fascinate me.  Sometimes I wonder how much of my "mathematical" understanding of the concept I might some day incorporate into a poem.

     Newton's Orange:  Infinity     by  Ewa Lipska   

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A mathematician's favorite poet

     A summertime gift book that I have much enjoyed reading is Love & Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality by Edward Frenkel (Basic Books, 2013).  I admire the way Frenkel's memoir braids mathematics together with the other threads of his life.  Including poetry.  Like me, he chooses E E Cummings as one of his favorite poets.  And he used lines from Cummings' 1931 poem "the surely" as an epigram for a 2007 book that summarized his work.
     Below I include the entire text of Cummings' poem, with Frenkel's epigraph highlighted in bold face.

the surely     

motif smites truly to Beautifully
retire through its english

the Forwardflung backwardSpinning hoop returns fasterishly