Monday, December 12, 2016

When one isn't enough ... words from a Cuban poet

     Last week I traveled (as part of an organized people-to-people program) to Cuba.  I will need many days to sort and digest and organize the details of that experience.
     Neither poetry nor mathematics was part of our Cuba schedule but I did have a chance to visit the sparse collection at La Moderna Poesia in Havana and to purchase their only two bilingual poetry collections (by poets José Martí and Nicolás Guillén).  The PoetryFoundation website has introduced me to the work of Cuban poet Omar Pérez  (son of Ernesto "Che" Guevara) and I found there, at this link,  Pérez's poem "The Progression"  -- which includes some mathematical ideas.

The Progression     by Omar Pérez  
                                             translated by Kristin Dykstra 

When one isn’t enough, you need two
when two aren’t enough, you need four
with four the progression begins, moving toward a number
that schoolteachers will call absurd.   
Question: How many men do you need
to put up a house?
Answer: You need absurd men
when one isn’t enough and two can’t do
the work of One.
And how much money should we give these men
to compensate them?
You need absurd coins when one coin
sliced in half and handed out
isn’t enough.
And how many words do you need to
       transform them?
Absurd and absurd and absurd words
when silence isn’t enough.
This is what they call progression:
Absurd men aren’t enough for putting up the house,
absurd coins don’t make them happy
absurd words can’t dissuade them.

A bit more poetry of Cuba can be found here at the PoetryInternationalWeb.

No comments:

Post a Comment