Thursday, March 16, 2017

Julia . . . Set Aside Gender Roles . . .

       For me there is a special pleasure in finding in my reading a word like "identity" or "prime" that has a special mathematical meaning in addition to its ordinary usage.  And, because poets work hard to capture multiple images in their work, poems are where such pleasure occurs most often.  Poet and songwriter and professor Lawrence M. Lesser has beautifully connected the Julia Set of fractal geometry with his grandmother, Julia -- and he has given me permission to share his poem, "Julia,"  offered below.  This poem is offered, along with other work by Lesser, in a Poetry Folder, "Moving Between Inner and Outer Worlds," in the most-recent issue of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics.

For more about Julia Sets, visit

Julia       by Lawrence M. Lesser 

          for Julia Louise (Shanblum) Lesser, 1907-1981 

Julia set
in motion my journey
in mathematics.
For a quarter-century, my grandmother
taught math with distinction
in the public schools
of Fort Worth.
Driving up to Colorado for my first professorship,
Dad and I stop at her grave,
reflect on how

Julia set
a tone, left a legacy.
In our family of
complex dynamics,
a tiny perturbation
could yield big changes.
Surely the enrichment
gems she’d mailed me over my youth
made such a shift in my intellect.
A perturbation no less important was how

Julia set
aside gender roles.
She was an athlete in her youth and later
coached baseball teams of each gender.
A former student wrote my dad,
“Your mother taught the girls we could be
savvy in math right alongside the boys. . .
your mother opened up the ordered universe for us.  I can still see
the chalk flying when she hit the board
in a frenzy of excitement.”

Larry Lesser has recently established a Facebook page for persons interested in mathy poetry.  Visit it -- and share.

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