Friday, July 20, 2018

Counting insects, counting on them . . .

     Recently I had the opportunity to vacation in southern Portugal with my older daughter and her family and there -- with clear, bright-blue skies and cooled-down night-time temperatures -- not only did we vacationers thrive but so do many insects.  Their busy behavior reminded me of their presence on the childhood farm in Pennsylvania on which I grew up and their important role as partners in the agricultural process -- pollinating and irrigating and . . . 
    And so -- jet lagged yet continuing in my appreciation of the population-mathematics of insects -- I offer below a poem of bees by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), also found here.  Another bee-poem by Dickinson posted back in August 2013 is available at this link.

The most important population   (1746)   by Emily Dickinson

       The most important population
       Unnoticed dwell,
       They have a heaven each instant
       Not any hell.

       Their names, unless you know them,
       'Twere useless tell.
       Of bumble-bees and other nations
       The grass is full.

An interesting Smithsonian article, "Bees May Understand Zero . . ." may be found here and the Washington POST has featured bees at this  recent link and this earlier one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

After Waking, Running

     Today's posting is a villanelle about running -- and it is was written as a response to Theodore Roethke's villanelle, "The Waking" -- posted a few days ago on July 3.  Moving quickly has been a part of my mental life (as I dart from rhymes to equations, looking for connections) and my physical life (as I try to burn enough energy that I may sit thoughtfully for a while).  Runners are among those I admire; my heroes include  Flo-Jo -- Florence Delores Griffith-Joyner (1959-98), whose 1988 records still stand, making her "the fastest woman in the world" -- and Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister (1929-2018) -- whom I remember from a lunchtime news broadcast in 1954 when I was a girl on a farm in Pennsylvania and he ran the first sub-4 minute mile in Oxford, England.
     A villanelle has a rather complex structure -- stated somewhat simply, it is a nineteen-line poem with two rhymes in its five stanzas and two lines that each are repeated (precisely or approximately) four times.  These repetitions can lead to an interesting back-and-forth in the development of images and ideas. Although not about mathematics, this villanelle may, it seems to me, say a bit about mathematicians.

          Response (by JoAnne Growney) to “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke 

       My sleep is brief.  I rise to run again,
       to flee the doubts that catch me when I'm still.
       I live by going faster than I can.

Monday, July 9, 2018

What does MEAN mean?

Visual poetry by Mathemusician Larry Lesser:

These diagrams are part of a paper by L.M. Lesser found here.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

A proof in limericks

     The word "transcendental" is an adjective that refers to an abstract or supernatural noun.  In mathematics, the term's meaning is specified more precisely -- a transcendental number is one that cannot be a root of any algebraic equation with rational numbers as coefficients. The number π (ratio of the length of the circumference of a circle to its diameter) and the number e (base for the system of natural logarithms) are the best known examples of transcendental numbers.
     Retired Arkansas law professor (and former math teacher) Robert Laurence has fun with this pair of transcendentals using limerick stanzas.  Get out your pencil and graph paper -- and enjoy puzzling through his rhymes.

A Transcendental Proof in Six Stanzas     
by Robert Laurence   © 2018
       They are transcendent you see:
       eπ and πe.
       The prize you’ll win when,
       With pencil or pen,
       You prove which is smaller to me. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Waking -- to mathematics, to poetry

Bridges-Math-Arts-Conferences --   Places to make connections!
Yesterday I posted a bit of information about POETRY at the 2018 Bridges Conference.
At the 2017 conference in Waterloo, Canada -- via a dramatic presentation -- I met Peter Taylor 
and some of his math-poetry ideas are featured below.

     One of my high school literature texts included "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) and I remember it particularly because its author was alive and its subject matter relevant to the experiences of those of us in rural Pennsylvania who were assigned to read it.  Not all of Roethke's poems are favorites -- one that I have wrestled with is "The Waking" -- which I recently found in a lecture entitled "Mathematics and Poetry," -- prepared and delivered by Professor Peter Taylor of Queens University (and available here).  In that lecture, Taylor's remarks range widely.  For example, he considers the equation
24 = 42
and suggests it as a poem.
     Both mathematics and poetry challenge us with difficult ideas -- and Taylor wonders if we might see more similarity between the two if we did not place higher economic value on mathematics.
     Roethke's poem, "The Waking," is a villanelle -- a poem of 19 lines with two lines repeated four times, each time in a new context -- and this structure helps create the vivid feeling of waking to new knowing.  Taylor challenges us:  as teachers, as students -- of mathematics, of poetry -- we need to be WAKING.  Roethke's poem explores the complexity of that process.   

Monday, July 2, 2018

BRIDGES, 2018 -- math-art-poetry -- in Stockholm

       During each summer since 1998, mathematicians and visual artists, poets and musicians, have gotten together at a BRIDGES conference to celebrate the overlapping connections of their arts.  This years conference, BRIDGES 2018, will be held July 25-59 in Stockholm.  As she has done in several previous years, mathematician-poet Sarah Glaz has organized a poetry reading as part of that event; this link leads to information about the participating poets.  Available for purchase, a poetry anthology with work from past and present Bridges poets.  The small poem offered below is one that is featured in the anthology.

          Good Fortune       by JoAnne Growney

          is good numbers—
          the length of a furrow,
          the count of years,
          the depth of a broken heart,
          the cost of camouflage, 
          the volume of tears.

     "Good Fortune" also is found in my collection, Red Has No Reason (Plain View Press, 2010).

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Reaching out . . .

Consider the geometry and community of  trees .  Can we learn from them?

          We plant two trees.

          Their trunks grow strong
          and straight--and parallel.
          Parallel lines don't meet.

          These trees, however--
          straight and tall and parallel--
          reach out with branches.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Visual, Poetical -- Mathematical Impressions

Art / Visual poetry      by Anatolii T Fomenko 

Statistical fantasy . .. imagining our random world . . .
     The art by Fomenko shown above conveys multiple meanings and thus is a good fit with both mathematics and poetry.  It invites contemplation -- give it some of your time! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Our place in the universe . . .

     Nanao Sakaki  (1923-2009) was a Japanese poet who began to wander the world after his term in the Japanese military in WWII -- and his poems give views of these travel experiences. He met Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg in the 1960s and his work has been noticeably influenced by theirs.  Here, from his collection Break the Mirror (Blackberry Books, 1996) is "A Love Letter" -- a poem that considers how the universe spreads out around us.

       A Love Letter      by Nanao Sakaki

       Within a circle of one meter
       You sit, pray and sing.

       Within a shelter ten meters large
       You sleep well, rain sounds a lullaby.

       Within a field a hundred meters large
       Grow rice and raise goats.       

Monday, June 18, 2018

Choose the right LINE

     Recently, looking through my copies of POETRY Magazine, in the September 2008 issue I found this quote (used as an epigraph) from a poet whose work I greatly admire, British poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985):

The whole point of drawing is choosing the right line.

Finding the Larkin quote led me to look back in my blog for poems that feature the concept of line  -- with its multiple meanings -- and I offer this link to search-results that offer a variety of choices for poems with line for you to explore.

And here are links to a couple of my own recent attempts to choose the right line:

    The online journal TalkingWriting has recently interviewed me
a portion of my poem, "My Dance is Mathematics,"  
that stars mathematician Emmy Noether.  
"They Say She Was Good -- for a Woman,"  features that same poem 
and some additional reflections on the struggles of women in mathematics.

Friday, June 15, 2018


Thinking today about ZERO -- zero tolerance, zero fear!

     In recent days, there's been widespread reporting of results of a study done by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concerning the large number of instances of sexual harassment in scientific professions, the most common type being   "degrading jokes and comments that made women feel excluded."
     These findings take me back to the 1980's and "affirmative action" at Pennsylvania's Bloomsburg University (where I was a member of the Mathematics Department).  The University had an Affirmative Action Officer who worked to help faculty and staff develop behaviors and policies that endeavored to end discrimination against women and minorities.  One important test of the appropriateness of an activity was a "symmetry test" -- if a remark or act did not seem proper when the roles of two participants were reversed, then the original was probably something to avoid. In those days, my male colleagues needed to reconsider some of their behaviors and I needed to overcome my fear of speaking up.
      The concept of  zero as "something" that signifies "nothing" is an ever-thought-provoking one.  In support of ZERO TOLERANCE -- with a goal of NOTHING, I offer the following poem, "The Zero," by Israel Har.   

Monday, June 11, 2018

Use MUSIC to enrich STEM teaching

     Last year this blog announced an online conference involving the use of song in teaching STEM subjects.  From one of the organizers, Gregory Crowther, I have this update -- announcing a second annual VOICES conference in September 2018:
       featured 40 presentations on teaching STEM subjects with music. 
       Presentation ideas are now being solicited for the 2018 conference
                     to be held on 26 September 2018.   All are welcome to enter!"

     Song lyrics often are poetry; here are links to several lyrics featured earlier in this blog:  "The Derivative Song" by Tom Lehrer,  Lines from "Mandlebrot Set" by Jonathan Coulton,  "Circle Song" and lines from "Hotel Infinity"  by Larry Lesser,  "Questions You Can't Ever Decide" by Bill Calhoun.  

Friday, June 8, 2018

More people are reading poetry!!

     In an email today from, I received a link to an article describing increases in the numbers of readers of poetry in recent years (comparing 2017 with 2012).  The article, published by the National Endowment for the Arts, is available here.   Although that article does not mention or credit the STEM to STEAM movement, I'd like to think it may be a factor in enlarging poetry's readership.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A visual poem

     One of the delights of today's Internet is that it enables us to find friends with common interests all over the world.  An email message from Tope Salaudeen-Adegoke of Nigeria has introduced me to one of his visual poems:
               "Coding Colonisation" is a visual poem written and arranged
               in the computer programming indentation of HTML/CSS. 
               The poem fuses what seem to be mathematics and poetry together . . ."
I have included this poem below; for those who wish background information, some explanation is given in this linked essay.  Please take time to explore the meanings coded here.

      /*Coding Colonisation */       by Tope Saludeen-Adegoke

       #menu nativity {

Monday, June 4, 2018

Nature's Examples of Fibonacci Numbers

     Recently I have been reexamining some of the treasures that have been on my bookshelves for a while.  One of these is Discovering Patterns in Mathematics and Poetry by Marcia Birken and Anne C. Coon (Rodopi B. V., 2008).  And, on page 60 of that collection,  I find "Fibonacci Time Lines" by Kansas poet Michael L.Johnson --  the poem is a lovely weave of the Fibonacci numbers with objects they count  (and was originally published in The Unicorn Captured (Cottonwood Review Press, 1980)) and, with the poet's permission, is offered below.

     Fibonacci Time Lines    by Michael Johnson

     curl, pine
     cone's swirl, goat's
     horn's turn, nautilus'
     shell's homing out, pineapple's whorl,
     sneezewort's branchings, hair's twist, parrot's beak's growth, 
     tusk's curve, monkey's tail's spiral, cochlea's whirl of sound, 
           Vitruvius' analogies, 
     Parthenon's geometry, logarithms' golden sections, time's way 
            through form, mind's acceleration on its helical vector 
            to death . . .

Here is a link to a host of poems linked to the Fibonacci numbers and found in earlier postings in this blog.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A self, divided

     On this very humid summer morning it is a treat to be drawn by Virginia poet Joan Mazza's poem to the chill of a winter morning as the poet divides her energies, measuring her world using fractions.  

Fractions             by Joan Mazza

Half awake at 5 AM, I leave my half of a warm bed
and quilts to the dog, hold the banister to descend
the narrow stairs. The woodstove’s still warm,
only one-tenth the coals aglow under their blanket
of gray ashes. I’ve half a mind to let it be, use electric,
only a quarter more cost than wood. No labor.
Clean heat, with some say one hundredth
the pollution I contribute with my stove.   

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Celebrating with a Fib

is to
all those people who
connect poetry and math -- CHEERS!

For more about Fibs, do a SEARCH of this blog -- or, for one rich source, go here.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Time comes quantized . . .

     Earlier this month, I saw a poem ("Time/text") by wonderful Canadian poet and friend Alice Major on Facebook and she has given me permission to offer it here.  It is from her first book of poetry, Time Travels Light, (Rowan Books, 1992).

Time/text     by Alice Major

Time comes quantized
in little books     pocked
with fifteen-minute intervals
that mark my progress
through the day —

          Niggling book of kells
      spelling out the duties
  and services
         peculiar to each hour.    

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Counting What's Left

     Recently at the 2018 Split This Rock Poetry Festival, I purchased a copy of ghost fishing:  An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology edited by poet Melissa Tuckey (University of Georgia Press, 2018) and, below, I offer a sad poem about "counting" from this anthology.   There is much to value in this fine anthology; follow this link for more information.

As If Hearing Heavy Furniture Moved on the Floor Above Us
                                                 by Jane Hirshfield
As things grow rarer, they enter the ranges of counting.
Remain this many Siberian tigers,
that many African elephants. Three hundred red egrets.
We scrape from the world its tilt and meander of wonder
as if eating the last burned onions and carrots from a cast iron pan.
Closing eyes to taste better the char of ordinary sweetness.

Hirshfield's poem also is found in the Split This Rock Poetry Database along with many other poems of environmental concern and protest.  It was first published in Washington Square Review.   This link connects to work by Jane Hirshfield featured in previous postings for this blog.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Playing with time

        Here is a poem that plays with the geometry of time -- a poem that first appeared in Mathematics Magazine, Vol 68, No 6 (December 1995), page 288.   Several of my other mathy poems written around that same time were collected in a booklet, My Dance is Mathematics, now out of print but available here on my website.  

       Finding Time     by JoAnne Growney

       Points chase points
       around the circle,
       fighting time.
       You know time's a circle,
       rather than a line.          

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Meeting the horizon line . . .

Poet James Galvin's work is described in this bio as both musical and "profoundly ecological" -- both qualities that strongly draw me to it.  The following poem, "Art Class," plays with math terminology -- drifting back and forth between reality and abstraction -- in a way that is fun to read as well as thoughtful.  Enjoy!

       Art Class  by James Galvin
       Let us begin with a simple line,
       Drawn as a child would draw it,
       To indicate the horizon,

       More real than the real horizon,
       Which is less than line,
       Which is visible abstraction, a ratio.   

Monday, May 14, 2018

Counting to 13

     I am a long-time New Yorker subscriber and what a delight it is, occasionally, to open a new issue of the magazine and find that one of their poems has links to mathematics. Such happened for the issue of April 2, 2-18 -- on page 70 of that issue is the poem, "Who Knows One" by Jane Shore.  
     Shore's poem features thirteen stanzas, one for each of the counting numbers 1, 2, 3, ... 13.  The nth stanza has n+2 lines -- except for n=13 -- and that last stanza has n+4 lines.
     Thanks, Jane Shore, for playing with numbers!
     Readers -- here is stanza 4.
          Who knows four. I know four.
          What were you doing on all fours?
          Three’s the hearts in a ménage à trois.
          Two’s the jump ropes in double Dutch.
          One is God for God is One—
          One good turn deserves another.

Here is a link to the rest of Shore's poem.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Math gems -- in the imagery of poems

     Much of mathematical terminology is of the flexible sort that can create vivid and interesting images in poetry -- and many poets embed jewels of mathematics here and there in their work.  Whenever I am with a group of poets it almost always turns out that at least one has poems that feature math terms and ideas.  For example, Allyson Lima, a Montgomery College faculty member whom I met at a recent Silver Spring, MD meeting of DC-area translators, shared with me her poem "Turn" -- offered below.  At a recent Takoma Park (MD) Community Center Poetry Reading I met retired attorney Richard Lorr and he has shared with me his poem, "Sweet Crumbs."   At an Arlington, VA reading of prize-winning poems to appear on busses, I met dentist Eric Forsbergh and learned of his poem about DNA-Testing, "Police will Swab Your Cheek."    PLEASE, scroll down, read, Enjoy! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Appreciation of Teachers (this week and FOREVER)

 This is National Teacher Appreciation Week 
 Celebrate your teachers with poems 
This link leads to a poem (previously posted) that celebrates four of my teachers -- Miriam Ayer, Laura Church, T. K. Pan (all math teachers) and Elinor Blair.
Here is a link to a poem by a favorite poetry teacher, Karl Patten.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Statistics and Mindfulness . . .

     April was Math-Stat Awareness Month and National Poetry Month  -- and here in this blog we celebrate those topics year-round -- today with a selection from Larry Lesser, professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, and first published at the website of  The American Statistical Association.

     Mindful Means      by Lawrence M. Lesser

     An explanatory variable has a response and
     The space
     Before response is deemed
     Sought by degrees:
     More time to reflect
     If randomness is
     Uniform, if correlation is
     Causal, chance, or complexity yet

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Counting on . . . and on . . .

     Claudia Gary is an active and celebrated poet in the Washington, DC area and she has a lifelong interest in mathematics -- starting, she tells me, "at age 8 when my father gave me a copy of George Gamow's One, Two, Three, Infinity."  Her poem, "In Binary," offered below, was first published in Rattle and features her and poet Richard Moore (1927-2009) who also was fascinated by mathematics.  Enjoy the fun of counting on and on, in verse.

In Binary     by Claudia Gary

What brought them together were gifts without number,
but binary digits enticed them to stay.
A system that each had discovered in childhood
cemented their fate at an offbeat café.


For her it was somewhat like playing piano.
He would make loops as if stringing small beads.
Both had departed the realm of addition,
since shapes, such as hands, had geometry’s needs.

While nursing their coffee and ordering breakfast,
asking more questions and ordering tea,
learning how deeply their temperaments nested,
each counted on fingers to ten-twenty-three.  

Monday, April 30, 2018

Embrace both art and mathematics

      A recent news article in The Hofstra Chronicle opens with a statement attributed to John Adams that begins something like this:

          I must study Politiks and War that my sons
               may have liberty to study  ...

And then, questions begin -- 
          is it painting and poetry 
                 or mathematics and philosophy      that should follow.

But why must a divide be proposed?

Whether mathematics or painting or philosophy or poetry, let us connect the best thoughts of each -- let our STEM be STEAM.  In this vein, consider the opening stanza of  "To Divine Proportion,"a sonnet by Rafael Alberti (translated from the Spanish by Carolyn Tipton):    

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Poem for My Pocket

April 26 is "Poem in Your Pocket Day" for 2018
This poem is in my pocket!

The Great Figure      by William Carlos Williams  (1883-1963)

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.

This link leads to several of my previous "Poem in Your Pocket" choices.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Move beyond dislike to the genuine . . .

April celebrates National Poetry Month and
     One of the sad similarities between mathematics and poetry is that both are subjects many people dislike -- with reasons such as "I'm lousy at  ___" or "I don't get it" or "It's stupid -- who needs it?"  Lots of us are trying to change that.

     The title for this posting is the opening line of "Poetry"  by Marianne Moore (1887-1972) -- and the poem goes on like this:

I, too, dislike it.
     Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in 
     it, after all, a place for the genuine.

In my copy of The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore (Penguin Books, 1981), there is a short version of this poem, "Poetry," that contains only the lines above and, here at we find a longer version that goes on for twenty-three more lines.

 Allow yourself to look for the special, to find it.  
 Celebrate the genuine       in poetry       and       in mathematics.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Poetry sometimes OPPOSES mathematics!

     One of the finest historians of mathematics is Judith V. Grabiner, professor emerita of Pitzer College;  here is a link to one of her thoughtful and widely informative articles, "The Centrality of Mathematics in the History of Western Thought," (originally published in Mathematics Magazine, 1988).
     Toward the end of this article is a section with the header "Opposition."  It opens with this statement:
          The best proof of the centrality of mathematics is that 
               every example of its influence given so far 
               has provoked strong and significant opposition.
Grabiner includes the voices of poets among the resisters.  She mentions Walt Whitman becoming "tired and sick" and leaving to look at the stars in "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" and quotes stanza from William Wordsworth's "The Tables Turned."   Wordsworth's condemnation of learning as an opponent to nature ends with these stanzas:  

Monday, April 16, 2018

Mathy three-liners -- thoughts for today

When two negatives meet,
is the pair more
or less negative?

          For almost any question,
          almost every number
          is the wrong answer.

                    The irrational numbers
                    are more numerous than
                    the rational ones.

          Steal the same amount
          from both sides of the equation
          if you wish not to be found out.

Which is better --
a large number
or a rational one?

Nothing is.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Interview with mathy poets . . .

     Philadelphia mathematician and poet Marion Cohen has worked with Sundress Publications to prepare an interview offering MATH-POETRY viewpoints from three other mathematician-poets and herself -- including me and Sarah Glaz, recently retired in the mathematics department at the University of Connecticut, and Gizem Karaali, in the mathematics department at Pomona College.  All of these math-women have numerous books, articles, and so on -- and I invite you to follow the links associated with their names and also to go here to read the Sundress interview (which does, at the end, include several poems).

     Each of these math-poetry women has been featured often in this blog -- and, in addition to reading the interview, I urge you to click on their names to explore these links:       Marion Cohen        Sarah Glaz        Gizem Karaali

I close with a link to an article of mine, "Mathematics in Poetry, " published by the MAA a bit more than ten years ago -- an easy read that has generated some recent attention.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Celebrate Martin Gardner

     Martin Gardner (1914-2010) was a friend to mathematics and made many aspects of the subject available to a wide audience for twenty-five years in a Scientific American column , "Mathematical Games" -- material later collected in a variety of books.  I have featured Gardner's connections to math-poetry in several previous blog postings -- and today I want to mention an event  happening this weekend (April 11-15, in Decatur, Georgia), the 13th Annual Gathering for Gardner.   Lots of math-fun is on the agenda -- and a bit of poetry.  
     On Sunday, April 15, Professor Manjul Bhargava of Princeton University will lecture on “Poetry, Drumming, and Mathematics.” Bhargava won the Fields Medal, which is one of the highest honors for a mathematician.  More information about the annual gatherings for Gardner is available here.  
     In closing,  noting the coming of spring with its April celebration of both mathematics and poetry, here are a few lines of verse -- the opening stanza from an old poem of mine entitled "Time."

          The clock goes round --
          making time a circle
          rather than a line.
          Each year's return to spring
          layers time on time.
A second part of "Time" is available here.
Both are collected in Red Has No Reason (Plain View Press, 2010).

Monday, April 9, 2018

March for Our Lives -- Numbers and complexities!

     One of the very moving recent events in my life was the "March for Our Lives" in Washington a couple of weeks ago.  Passionate AND thoughtful speeches by young people that will, I hope, lead to moral and legislative action.  One of the stars whose performance complemented those of the young speakers is Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the current and popular musical "Hamilton"; seeing Miranda at the March reminded me of a poem of protest sent to me by Australian poet Erica Jolly a few months ago.    Jolly's poem draws from an essay by Matthew Peppe in the Special Issue of Lapham's Quarterly about Alexander Hamilton and contrasts the character of the theatrical Hamilton with the behavior of the character who inspired him.  (This link to the blog "John's Space" offers additional background information.)  Thank you, Erica, for this moving use of numbers!

Daddy Yankee:     
       The Irony of ‘Hamilton’
       Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 
       Advocacy for Puerto Rico
by Erica Jolly (December 2017)
             An essay by Matthew Peppe found in the Special Issue
             about Alexander Hamilton in Lapham’s Quarterly.

I draw in my breath in disbelief.
How does one take in all those numbers?
How is it possible for an island of this size
to have a debt of seventy six billion dollars?  

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Bits of Geometry -- from a "Phenomenal Woman"

     Today's Google Doodle beautifully reminds us that this day is the 90th anniversary of the birth of Dr Maya Angelou (1928-2014) -- and in the Doodle Angelou is celebrated with a recording of her poem, "Still I Rise."  A recording of "Still I Rise" also is available from a push-button within a recently erected bronze statue of Angelou, "Maya's Mind" by Mischell Riley -- on 17th Street in Washington, DC, through December 2018 and part of an exhibit sponsored by the Renwick Gallery.

"Maya's Mind" by Mischell Riley

The text of "Still I Rise" is available here at  As I noted in an earlier post, "Phenomenal Woman,"  Angelou's poetry is full of the generous geometry of womanhood -- here are a few lines from that poem:

        It's in the reach of my arms,
        The span of my hips,
        The stride of my step,
        The curl of my lips.
        I'm a woman

From Angelou's Phenomenal Woman:  Four Poems Celebrating Women (Random House, 1994).

Monday, April 2, 2018

Split This Rock Poetry Festival, April 19-21, 2018

For poems and poets that speak out FOR rights, AGAINST injustice, 
attend the biennial SPLIT THIS ROCK Poetry Festival!
Festival information is available here.  
Split This Rock maintains a hugs poetry database, available here.

One of this year's Festival's featured poets is Sharon Olds who was, a few years ago, my poetry teacher.  This link leads to an introduction to Olds and to a stanza from one of her poems that celebrates math-girls.   
. . .
indivisible as
a prime number
. . .

Friday, March 30, 2018

Celebrate life -- BILLIONS of heartbeats

     I've been thinking a lot about last weekend's March for Our Lives and now it is the Easter weekend -- and these events have led me also to think about  the heart and to reflect on this poem by Pennsylvania poet Gary Fincke entitled "The Billion Heartbeats of the Mammal."

The Billion Heartbeats of the Mammal     by Gary Fincke 

     Feel this," my father says, guiding my hand
     To the simple braille of his pacemaker.
     "Sixty," he tells me, "over and over
     Like a clock," and I mention the billion
     heartbeats of the mammal, how the lifespan
     Can be rough-guessed by the 800 beats
     Per minute of the shrew, the 200
     Of the house cat, speeding through their billion
     In three years, in twelve. How slowly we act,
     According to our pets. How we are stone   

Monday, March 26, 2018

Mathematical cycles of life

    After participating last Saturday in Washington, DC's "March for Our Lives" my head has been full of numbers related to gun violence.  Stepping away from those to other numbers, I have re-found and enjoyed this poem by Spanish poet Elena Soto

     The cicadas of mathematical cycles     by Elena Soto

     Sheltered by the prime numbers,
     the nymphs of the periodic cicadas
     descend to the underworld.
     Their cycles -- 
     only divisible by one and by themselves --
     avoid death.
     Magicicada septendecim and Magicicada tredecim
     enter the veil of the earth looking for tender plants.
     They gather for oblivion and life
     and thus conclude the circle of chaos.
     And the legend says that they never return
     because their blood becomes chlorophyll
     and they are forever subjected to
     the ancient cycle of plant constellations.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Happy Birthday -- Emmy Noether!

Born March 23, 1882. Amalie Emmy Noether (1882-1935) was an outstanding mathematician.  Three years ago GOOGLE celebrated her birthday.  At this link is a poem I wrote about her.  And for more about her and other math-women, go to this article in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Skinny poetry -- 11 lines, most with just 1 word . . .

     Last weekend at a DC poetry gathering I had the opportunity to hear poet Truth Thomas speak about the "Skinny" -- a poetry form that he created at Howard University in 2005.  More about Thomas and The Skinny Poetry Journal may be found here.

            A Skinny is a short poem form that consists of eleven lines. 
            The first and eleventh lines can be any length (although shorter lines are favored). 
            The eleventh and last line must be repeated using the same words 
                     from the first and opening line (however, they can be rearranged). 
            The second, sixth, and tenth lines must be identical. 
            All the lines in this form, except for the first and last lines, must contain ONLY ONE word. 

Since learning of the Skinny, I've wanted to write one.  Here's a try:

               Math women count
               math women count

The Skinny Poetry Journal invites submissions.  More information here.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Math and poetry -- shout out the connection!

    Recently I came across a fun-to-read posting here in the blog "math for grownups" about connections between math and poetry -- blogger Laura Laing is a freelance writer who was a math major  (here is her personal webpage) and she offers strongly positive remarks about poetry and math and women and    . .
    Following the theme of positive connections, I offer a sample of work by Theoni Pappas, taken from a recently-republished collection math talk:  mathematical ideas in poems for two voices (Wide World Publishing, 2014).  Here are the opening lines of the first poem of the collection -- it is fittingly entitled "Mathematics."  

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Math-minorities -- stories needing to be shouted

     One of my favorite Facebook communities is Women in Maths -- a group energized by Susanne Pumpluen at the University of Nottingham and a site that consistently offers must-read items concerning math-women.  One of the important blogs on my reading list is the American Mathematical Society Blog, inclusion/exclusion -- a diverse group of bloggers, headed by Adriana Salerno that discuss issues pertaining to marginalized and underrepresented groups in mathematics.  A February posting by Piper Harron focuses attention on the question "What does it feel like not to belong?" -- treating exclusion issues with important frankness.  As someone who felt uncomfortable without speaking out about it, I admire Harron's expression of her views.

     For a poetic comment on this situation I turn to the final stanza of a poem of mine about Emmy Noether, a verse that illustrates the oft-repeated habit of praise that actually is a put-down. 

               Today, history books proclaim that Noether
               is the greatest mathematician
               her sex has produced. They say she was good
               for a woman. 

Readers interested in reading a bit more are invited to visit my 2017 article in the online Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, "They Say She Was Good for a Woman:  Poetry and Musings."