Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Twelveness -- a Fibonacci poem from G4G

     Science writer, philosopher, and skeptic Martin Gardner (1914-2010) is perhaps best known for his long-running Scientific American column, "Mathematical Games."  His life and work are celebrated by G4G conferences ("Gatherings for Gardner") held in even-numbered years in Atlanta.  Here fans gather and present fun-mathematics to each other.
     A several-time participant in G4G is Kate Jones of Kadon Enterprises, an organization devoted to the development and distribution of Game PuzzlesBelow in a Fibonacci poem created for the 2016 G4G Jones tells the history of her game-puzzle enterprise.
Many Fibonacci poems use the Fibonacci number sequence 
to determine the numbers of syllables in successive lines of a poem.  
In the following poem, it is the numbers of words that are counted.
 A pentomino is a plane geometric figure formed by joining five equal squares edge to edge.  
There are twelve differently-shaped pentominos; this number gives the title of Jones's poem.

TWELVENESS  by Kate Jones

  1    Martin
  1    Gardner
  2    Long ago
  3    Wrote about pentominoes,
  5    Brainchild of young Solomon Golomb,
  8    The coolest recmath set in all the world.   

Monday, August 29, 2016

Math-play via verse (with George Darley)

A recent email from Colm Mulcahy -- who seeks out all things Irish -- alerted me to Dublin poet and math-text author, George Darley (1795-1846), and an online archived collection of his poems.    Colm's email had opened the collection to pages 70-71 and there I found -- and had fun reading --  this poem that plays with math.

     A Poetical Problem.      by George Darley

     Once on a time, at evening hour,
     A sweet, and dewy-bosom'd Flower
            Was cradling up to rest ;
     A Pilgrim, wandering near her bed,
     Raised, with his staff, her drooping head,
            And thus the Flower addrest : 

     "From matin-rise to moonlight hour,
     Tell me, my pearly-crested Flower,
            How many a lucid gem
     Hath left the high, cavernal air,
     To form upon thy queenly hair
            A rainbow diadem?" 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Numbers and Faces - poem, anthology

 "Numbers and Faces" is the title of a poem by W. H. Auden that ends with these lines:
            True, between faces almost any number
            Might come in handy, and One is always real;
            But which could any face call good, for calling
            Infinity a number does not make it one.
The complete poem is posted here.

     "Numbers and Faces" is also the title of a small anthology of poems, published in 2001 and containing Auden's poem, that I collected and edited for the Humanistic Mathematics Network.  The anthology has been out of print for many years but a file with its mathy poems is available online here
     The Humanistic Mathematics Network (started around 1987 by Alvin White) had a Newsletter and then a Journal but these paper publications faded away around 2004.  The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics emerged in 2011 to fill the void.  Recently I have learned from JHM editor Gizem Karaali, that an online archive of the prior publications is available here(Using the search box, I was able to find several of my own years-ago articles, including one from 1994 entitled "Mathematics in Literature and Poetry.")

Monday, August 22, 2016

Math-poetry connects with Carol Burnett

     When I began teaching mathematics my students compared me -- to my delight -- with Carol Burnett.  Recent thoughts of this amazing comedian have led me to Kevin Spacey's poem, "Carol" that he composed and read (imitating poet and actor Jimmy Stewart) to honor Burnett.  I share with Jimmy Stewart the hometown of Indiana, PA and I reconnected with memories of Carol Burnett this past weekend via NPR's "Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me."   Here is the text of Spacey's 14-line poem:

     Carol Burnett is a wonderful gal
     She always makes me laugh somehow
     All she has to do is put on that silly grin
     And I get this funny feeling all over my chin  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Swim, Girl, Swim -- thirty-five miles

     Today's poem uses a single number (35) as it celebrates Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003), an Olympic (1924) swimmer and (in 1926) English Channel crosser -- also, I notice, someone whose Wikipedia entry needs more work.  This poem honoring Ederle --  by a Children's Poet Laureate, J. Patrick Lewis -- I found at
     As the 2016 Olympics take place now in Rio, many of the stories feature outstanding female athletes -- and it has not gone unnoticed that male competitors are simply "athletes" whereas Olympic women are "female" athletes.   Is this unconscious bias?  It is similar to the way a mathematician who is a woman is detractingly described as "a female mathematician."

Celebrate Gertrude Ederle!   Celebrate swimmers!

     Swim, Girl, Swim     by J. Patrick Lewis
                    for Gertrude Ederle
     As Europe woke from sleep,
     Young Trudy Ederle
     At Cap Gris Nez in France
     Dived into a daunting sea.   

Monday, August 15, 2016

Find math-poetry links in BRIDGES archives

     As noted in last week's posts, the annual international math-arts festival, BRIDGES, recently was held in Finland.  Now the archives of papers presented there are available at this link.
     One of the programs related to poetry was a workshop by poet Tom Petsinis of Melbourne, “Mathematics Through the Matrix of Poetry,” archived here.

Past BRIDGES conferences have also included
a variety of poetry-math connections.
For example, in 2015, "Composing Mathematical Poetry"  by Carol Dorf,
 “Visualizing Rhyme Patterns in Sonnet Sequences” by Hartmut F. W. Hoft,
and a few remarks from me, “Inspire Math-Girls-Women (perhaps with poems)”.

Using the SEARCH box (beneath the list of years in the left column) and entering the term “poem” led me  to a total of 28 hits.   Explore! Enjoy!!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

More from BRIDGES poets . . .

     The 2016 BRIDGES Math-Arts Conference is currently taking place at the University of Jyväskylä in Jyväskylä, Finland.  Poets on this year's program include: Manfred Stern, Vera Schwarcz, Eveline Pye, Tom Petsinis, Mike Naylor, Alice Major, Emily Grosholz, Carol Dorf, Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya, Madhur Anand and the organizer, Sarah Glaz.
      Although he is not a participant in this year's BRIDGES, the name of Portuguese mathematician, poet, and translator Francisco José Craveiro de Carvalho appears near the top of the conference's poetry page for his translation of these lines that have become a sort of motto for BRIDGES poetry:

             Newton's binomial is as beautiful as Venus de Milo.
             What happens is that few people notice it.

                        --Fernando Pessoa (as Álvaro de Campos)
                          translated from the Portuguese by Francisco Craveiro  

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. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

POETRY -- in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics

     Pomona College mathematician Gizem Karaali, one of the editors of the online Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, is also a poet.  And the journal conscientiously features links between mathematics and the literary arts.  
     The current issue (online since late July) features my review of Madhur Anand's vibrant new collection, A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes (Penguin Random House, 2015) and these poems:  
       "The Greatest Integer Function" by Alanna Rae, 
              "Quantitative Literacy" by Thomas L. Moore,  
                      "Menger Sponge"  by E. Laura Golberg, 
                             "Calculus Problems" by Joshua N. Cooper, and
                                    "An Exercise on Limits" by Manya Raman-Sundström.