Monday, August 8, 2016

Words -- and Meanings -- and BRIDGES, 2016

     Tomorrow the 2016 BRIDGES Conference (which celebrates the connections between mathematics and the arts) will open at the University of Jyväskylä in Jyväskylä, Finland.  Helping the conference to celebrate poetry will be Sarah Glaz, who has organized a poetry reading for the afternoon of August 12 and prepared a poetry collection that anthologizes poets who have been BRIDGES participants.   Here is a one of my favorite poems from the collection -- by Maryland poet Deanna Nikaido who, alas (and like me), will not be able to attend the conference.

     Trouble with Word Problems  by Deanna Nikaido

     Once asked to solve the arrival time of two trains
     traveling at different speeds
     toward the same destination—I failed.
     Mathlexia my friend said. 

     But sitting in either of those two trains
     staring out the window
     I knew time was at the center of all my arrivals
     and that distance was not linear.

     I couldn’t solve circumference by its formula
     given the radius or
     find the hypotenuse of a triangle
     given the values for a and b.
     There were not enough words.
     No one explained to me
     that pi was a swirling river or that
     fibonacci sang inside the invisible bones of trees
     I sat in to untangle myself.

     At fourteen I started speaking in poems
     solving my own equation.
     My answers radiating from
     a heart I could not prove
     knowing the distance
     between any two lives
     traveling toward the same stillness
     erases itself.

Nikaido's poem is one of more than five dozen mathy poems available in the anthology, Bridges 2016 Poetry Anthology -- a must-have collection whose cover is this fractal artwork by Robert Fathauer.

Iterated fractal curve   by Robert Fathauer

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