Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Calculating Pi -- a poet's view

     Initially I was drawn to a reading at The Writer's Center in Bethesda a couple of weeks ago because my neighbor, non-fiction writer and editor, Josh Tyree was reading from his London explorations, Vanishing Streets.  But the two writer's who read with Tyree also were known to me and are remarkable:
                    Annie Fincha poet I have known through WomPo, an online community (founded by her) that supports women-poets.  Links to Annie's work in this blog -- which feature items that pay careful attention to syllable-counts -- are here, (for July 29, 1010) and here, (for June 27, 2015).
                    Gary Fincke, who was once almost a neighbor of mine -- I taught mathematics at Bloomsburg (PA) University and he taught and developed a creative writing program at nearby Susquehanna University -- and, before I moved south to the Washington, DC area, Gary and I knew each other through local literary events.  It was great fun to hear Gary read not only poetry -- I offer a sample of his mathy work below -- but also short fiction; I came away from the November 11 reading with a copy of his new book of short stories, The Killer's Dog (Elixir Press, 2017), which is a very intriguing collection.

Fincke's poetry does not shy from mathematics and "The Butterfly Effect" was posted in this blog back on November 22, 2010.  Here, from Fincke's collection, Blood Ties:  Working-Class Poems (Time Being Press, 2002) is "Calculating Pi."

Calculating Pi     by Gary Fincke

          "Pi has been calculated to 480 million decimal points."
                                                                                 --  Newsweek

Printed out, this means six hundred miles of digits,
A paper carpet from Pittsburgh to Chicago  
For high tech absurdists who might be tallying
The sheep they've imagined before sleep, the fat flock
They've columned and counted like the cartoon restless.

Who might be lapsing into the dreams the awake
Have:  numbering loss, summing the hours, repeating
The simplest algorithms for despair.  Who might
Be foolproofing the warhead, eliminting
Error, so deep in the silos the soldiers know

Their computers are exact, whether they're sending
The missiles to Moscow or its suburbs.  Pi checks
For typos, dust specks, and cosmic rays. Pi's perfect,
Pi's a sitter's lullaby. Hush, it sings, don't cry,
Crooning soft verse to soft verse to infinity.

According to this item from BBC news, the record for Pi has been greatly extended since Fincke's poem --  2-quadrillionth digit of Pi was calculated in 2010.

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