Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Aesop's fables in verse ... the price of greed ...

     The farmhouse* in which I grew up had a room we called "The Library" because of its small bookshelf with my father's books -- including selections from Kipling and Twain and Aesop's Fables.  I liked to read.  And a lot of the morals are now stored in my head.  Recently I have found and enjoyed poetry versions of some of these in Jean de La Fontaine's Selected Fables (Dover, 2000) -- see also Project Gutenberg.  Here is one about the mathematics of greed ... .

The Hen with the Golden Eggs    by Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695)
                                   translated by Walter Thornbury
My little story will explain
An olden maxim, which expresses
How Avarice, in search of gain,
May lose the hoard that it possesses.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mathy poems OUT LOUD

     Here is a link to "Applied Mathematics" written and recited by London poet Dan Simpson.   This link leads to several math-arts samples (including two poems -- the first is by Gizem Karaali and you may scroll down to hear my poem, "A Taste of Mathematics") recorded by Samuel Hansen. (The complete text of "A Taste of Mathematics" is available here.)  This link connects to information about a 2014 YouTube video featuring a varied list of mathy poets.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Man Who Knew Infinity

     A few days ago I followed a broken link on the Poetry Foundation website and the site offered me this cryptic quatrain by American poet J. V. Cunningham (1911-1985) -- it is the final stanza of a poem I have posted here.

       Error is boundless.
       Nor hope nor doubt,
       Though both be groundless,
       Will average out.
               – J.V. Cunningham, from “Meditation on Statistical Method”

     Often on my mind these recent days has been the film I saw last week -- "The Man Who Knew Infinity" -- and I invite you to follow these links to poetry concerning its central characters, mathematicians Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) and G. H. Hardy (1877-1947).

Friday, May 20, 2016

In Wyalusing, counting pelicans

     The number in the title of Robin Chapman's poem first attracted me to it and the mention of Wyalusing in the first line drew me further in -- for Wyalusing is the name of a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania (a region in which I lived and taught -- at Bloomsburg University -- for many years).  But, of course, Google was able to tell me of another Wyalusing, a park in Wisconsin, home state of the poet, and a place advertised as having plentiful bird-watching.  Enjoy:

       One Hundred White Pelicans     by Robin Chapman

       Over Wyalusing, riding thermals, they shine
       and disappear, vanish like thought,
       re-emerge stacked, stretched, 
       a drifting fireworks' burst.   

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A math problem or a word problem?

     One of my recent poetry-finds has been the anthology Regreen:  New Canadian Ecological Poetry, edited by Madhur Anand and Adam Dickinson (Scrivener Press, 2009) and in it some small mentions of mathematics.  The following poem by artist and poet Erin Robinsong considers things big and small -- and observes some paradoxes. Is math the puzzle or the explanation or . . .?

SEED : CEDE   by Erin Robinsong  

Looking into the peach-pit, we find a vast spaciousness, as if actually looking into a pit –

A math problem:
A peach pit is weighed against
the year’s yield plus the tree: 
30 g, 900 kg.
Which weighs more? 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Squaring the Circle -- from the POETRY App

     One of my smart-phone delights is the App (available from PoetryFoundation.org) that gives me a selection of poems on the go. (My posting for 15 October 2015 gives a description of how the App works.)  A few days ago, spinning its dials -- matching the categories "Humor," "& Arts and Sciences"-- I found the exceptional poem "Squaring the Circle" in which poet Philip Fried has some fun with the impossible problem.   ("Squaring the Circle" first appeared in the July /August 2014 issue of Poetry and Fried has given me permission to include it here.)

Squaring the Circle      by Philip Fried

It’s a little-known fact that God’s headgear — 
A magician’s collapsible silk top hat,
When viewed from Earth, from the bottom up — 
sub specie aeternitatis,   

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A 6 x 6 syllable-square -- and links to more . . .

          Last Sunday's paper had
          an essay by a clown
          who said as long as I
          play dumb people let me
          do what I want.  And I
          cannot stop wondering.
 6, a perfect number    

Find lots of mathy poems here at TalkingWriting.com; this week featuring Sarah Glaz.
At this link find poems, etc. by Spelman College math students working with Colm Mulcahy.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Poems that count: Eight Buffalo

     In mid-April at the Split This Rock Poetry Festival, one of the sessions I attended and valued had the title " "Eco-Feminist Poetry, Intersectionality, & the End of the Earth."  In the midst of my concern about ecology and women is my addiction to mathematics -- and a poem by Cecilia Llompart started me counting.  See if you, too, count the word "buffalo" eight times during this poem; and shudder when you read the final word.

       Eight Buffalo      by Cecilia Llompart

       An obstinacy of buffalo 
       is not to say that the buffalo 
       are stubborn. No, not like 
       a grass stain. More that 
       the very bulk of one— 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Can you multiply with Roman numerals?

     Canadian writer Siobhan Roberts (whom I know from BIRS workshops) has a recent New Yorker article that celebrates the 100th birthday and achievements of Claude Shannon (1916 -2001) -- often referred to as "the father of the information age." Most of the important information in that article I leave for you to read for yourself, but I call to your attention to one of Shannon's accomplishments featured therein -- Claude Shannon built a machine for doing arithmetic with Roman numerals.  This connects to poetry via a poem by Ron Padgett, below.
The Roman numeral system has largely been abandoned 
because arithmetic is less cumbersome with a place-value system.
 Here is a link to a site that exhibits procedures for Roman numeral arithmetic.

 The Roman Numerals     by Ron Padgett

       It must have been hard
       for the Romans to multiply
       —I don’t mean reproduce,
       but to do that computation.