Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Zero is three!

     February's second weekend was a busy one with the AWP Writer's conference in downtown Washington, DC -- and one of the special treats of that weekend was browsing the Book Fair, renewing connections and finding special books.  One of my great finds was the bilingual collection of Jean Cocteau's Grace Notes (The Word Works, 2017), translated by Mary-Sherman Willis.  Cocteau surely is a challenge for translators as he plays with with connections between disparate images; in the poem I offer below I much enjoyed the mathy connections -- person and number, three and zero, triangle and oval, and so on.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Geometry of Poetry

     Some poems lie around for A LONG TIME waiting for me to pick them up.  Or I pick them up and put them down in a special place and then place something else on top of them.  Such is the case with Janet Kirchheimer's "The Geometry of Poetry" -- several years ago Janet and I corresponded and then I didn't follow through with posting her poem.  And now, this week, I am working on a paper for Bridges 2017 -- a math-arts conference to be held in Waterloo, Ontario at the end of July -- and my working title is the same as the title of Janet's poem.  AND, this coincidence helped me to FIND her poem to give you to enjoy.
     I first read "The Geometry of Poetry" by Janet R. Kirchheimer online in Poemeleon -- and her work also has appeared in many other journals, anthologies and websites. She is currently producing AFTER, a film that explores poetry written about the Holocaust.  Thanks, Janet, for this poem with its mathy comparisons.
The Geometry of Poetry    by Janet R. Kirchheimer  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

An old link but a GOOD one!

     Today I have been working on some ideas for a paper for the 2017 BRIDGES Math-Arts Conference and I have needed to refer back to an old paper of mine, "Mathematics in Poetry," that I wrote for MAA's JOMA more than 10 years ago -- a survey article that introduces a variety of viewpoints and examples.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Infinite

     On page 53 of the February 6 issue of The New Yorker I recently found and enjoyed a poem entitled "The Infinite" by Charles Simic.  Here are its opening lines:

     The infinite yawns and keeps yawning.
     Is it sleepy?
     Does it miss Pythagoras?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Love and Mathematics -- and Valentine's Day

     Perhaps you need a love poem for a mathematician, or about a mathematician -- you might enter the words love and mathematician in the search box to the right and find what this blog has to offer.  And here is a link to previous postings that celebrate Valentine's Day.  Enjoy!!

Read it (math OR poem) more than once . ..

     Recently my poet-friend, Millicent Borges Accardi, sent me a copy of her latest book, Only More So (Salmon Poetry, 2016).  She mentioned a poem entitled "The Night of Broken Glass" for its mathematics -- indeed it includes several numbers as it movingly describes attempts at normalcy amid the horrors of urban attack; and it ends with this stanza :

      The essential business of living well
      Continues in shock waves
      That fall into the ground of innocent
      People, triggered inside a soul
      Of nothingness that pretended
      To solve an impossible equation.

     My favorite poem in Accardi's collection is "Amazing Grace" which I give you below.   It is a poem that, like an intriguing piece of mathematics, I have read, and read again, and again . ..  each time getting more meaning than the time before.
     For me, one of the similarities of poetry and math is their density, the need for several readings -- for reading both aloud and silently, for reading with pencil and paper for note-taking, for reading in the library and at the kitchen table, sitting or standing.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Like James Baldwin - refuse labels!

     Last Sunday evening -- instead of watching Super Bowl LI -- in a crowded theater in downtown Silver Spring I watched the recently-released documentary "I Am Not Your Negro," narrated using words of writer James Baldwin (1924-1986).  Baldwin was a contrarian, he avoided or contradicted labels and categories.
     One of my favorite quotes -- that I see as intimately related to discovery in mathematics (from Hungarian-American Nobelist, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1893-1986)) -- applies also to Baldwin:

                     Discovery is seeing
                     what everybody else has seen, and thinking 
                     what nobody else has thought.

And here, from Jimmy's Blues & Other Poems (Beacon Press, 2014) is Baldwin's little poem "Imagination" which captures the same sort of mind-play that occurs with mathematics.   

Monday, February 6, 2017

Celebrate Francis Su

     In this morning's email I got a link (Thanks, Greg Coxson!) to this story that celebrates the talented mathematician and compassionate human being, Francis SuDr Su (of Harvey Mudd College) has recently completed a term as president of the Mathematical Association of America.  Here is a link to Dr Su's retiring presidential address -- for which he received a standing ovation.  Read.  Learn.  Admire.  Celebrate.  Imitate!
     Scrolling down in this blog to my posting for January 11, 2017 will lead you to links to several poems that celebrate mathematicians. And a blog-SEARCH using "mathematician" will find even more such poems.  Enjoy!

       A thorough advocate in a just cause, 
             a penetrating mathematician facing the starry heavens, 
                   both alike bear the semblance of divinity.
                                                                     -- Goethe (1749-1832)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Groundhog Day 2017

      My scan of this morning's Washington Post did not find a mention of today's important status as Groundhog Day -- and I am worried that perhaps the new President 45 has banned these useful creatures.  If you wish, you may search this blog for postings related to Groundhog Day and, if you do, you can get these results.  Enjoy!