Tuesday, July 25, 2017

from "The Half-Finished Heaven"

     In 2011, Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer (1931-2015) won the Nobel Prize and this year Graywolf Press has issued a wonderful collection of his work The Half-Finished Heaven: Selected Poems (translated by Robert Bly).  Here is the title poem; is it mathematical?

       The Half-Finished Heaven     by Tomas Transtromer

       Cowardice breaks off on its path.
       Anguish breaks off on its path.
       The vulture breaks off in its flight.

       The eager light runs into the open,
       even the ghosts take a drink.  

Monday, July 17, 2017

A CENTO from BRIDGES 2017 Poets

     A cento is a literary work made from quotations from other works -- most often it is a poem, assembled from lines by other poets.    Below I have created a cento from lines written by the poets who have been invited to participate in the July 30 Poetry Reading at the 2017 Bridges Math-Arts Conference in Waterloo, Ontario.  A wonderful program is planned -- it's not too late to register and join us.

       All is number,      mysterious proportions             
       Like Egyptians      burying gold with the dead       
       Golden Fear                    
       that divides and leaves     no remainder   

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Too soon -- Maryam Mirzakhani taken by cancer

     The brilliant and celebrated mathematician -- and 2014 Fields Medal Winner -- Maryam Mirzakhani has, on July 14 at age 40, died after a long battle with cancer.  I learned this sad news from NPR.  The radio story tells that (as was the case also for me) early in her life, Mirzakhani had wanted to be a writer, but her mathematical talents won out.  Her description of mathematics is a charming one and math deserves to be more-often pictured in this positive way:

          is fun --
          like solving
          a puzzle or
          connecting the dots
          in a detective case.

This stanza-form, in which lines grow in length by one syllable at a time, is called a syllable-snowball.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

They Say She Was Good -- for a Woman

      Regulars to this blog know of my appreciation and support for the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics -- an online journal that publishes poetry and fiction as well as articles that link the arts with mathematics.  Bravo to editors Gizem Karaali and Mark Huber -- a new issue (Vol. 7, Issue 2) has come online today.
     I am honored to announce that my article, "They Say She Was Good -- for a Woman," -- a collection of poems and musings about women in mathematics (and featuring a poem about Emmy Noether) -- is part of the current issue.  

     Other key items in this issue of JHM that I have already found time to enjoy include a visual poem of  geometry and numbers by Sara Katz, a collection of poems about "infinity" by Pam Lewis, a review of poetry anthologies by Robin Chapman, a call (deadline, 11/1/17) for "mathematical" Haiku; a call (deadline 1/1/2018) for papers on mathematics and motherhood.  Go to the Table of Contents and enjoy it ALL.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Three Odd Words

     I love the mental jolt I get when a math word is used with a non-math meaning -- suddenly some playful back-and-forth happens in my head.  Here it happens in a tiny poem by Polish Nobelist Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012).   

       The Three Oddest Words     by Wislawa Szymborska

       When I pronounce the word Future,
       the first syllable already belongs to the past.

       When I pronounce the word Silence,
       I destroy it.

       When I pronounce the word Nothing,
       I make something no nonbeing can hold.
This poem is found on my shelf in Map:  Collected and Last Poems  (Mariner Books, 2016).  Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak, edited by Clare Cavanagh.  This link leads to several previous posts that also include work by Szymborska.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Finding poems in Maria Mitchell's words

SO MANY words and phrases are poetic
that are NOT YET called poems.

A recent Facebook posting for the Max Planck Society featured this picture and quote
by 19th century American Astronomer Maria Mitchell (1818-1889):