One of the wonderful things about writing a blog about my paired passions of poetry and mathematics is that the blog connects me with fascinating and generous people whom I might not otherwise meet. One of these is Marylander Greg Coxson -- physicist, engineer, mathematician, Operations Researcher -- who took three years of Latin in high school and loves words. With interests in art and poetry, Greg has organized exhibits of math-related art -- and is a regular recommender of mathy poems for this blog.
A week or so ago Greg alerted me to an NPR interview with Ohio Poet Laureate Amit Majmudar (a radiologist as well as a poet) -- letting me know that Majmudar's poetry was rich with mathematical imagery. Following Greg's lead, I found Majmudar's website and was able to contact both Majmudar and his publisher, Knopf, for permission to offer these mathematical poems.
Here, from Amit Majmudar's new book Dothead, are two sections of the poem "Logomachia" -- sections alive with geometry and logic. The first, "radiology," is visually vivid; the second, "the waltz of descartes and mohammed," is a sestina that plays with the logic of word-order.
from Logomachia by Amit Majmudar
Picture the fibrous spokewheel-
scaffold of an infinitely thin
wafer of orange
held to a window, transilluminated
in its circumference of rind.
Now picture a volume of human
reduced to planes and fluttering
under my thumb like a flip-book
showing the disease in action.
Every one of those planes: hundreds of lines
stacked tight enough to resolve
the speck not yet a lump.
Every one of those lines: a string
of pixels end to end, razor-
luminous horizon round a darkening world.
Each pixel: a point geometry
defines dimensionless, no height,
no width, no death. I see what ails the body
by regressing body back to spirit:
the volume a stack of planes, the plane a row
of lines, the line a string of points,
and the point, at last, nothing at all, all form
substanceless by radiologic proof. I read
no images more imaginary than
the mind’s, every layer of it immaterial—
the gray matter,
the white matter,
e. the waltz of descartes and mohammed
But God . . .”
I . . . think.
There is . . .
I think there is
No God but the God
I am there for.
These selections are excerpted from Dothead by Amit Majmudar, Copyright © 2016 by Amit Majmudar. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.