Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Square poems -- pricked by a cactus!

     Back home now in Maryland after some time in Arizona (near Tucson) with cousins, my mind is full of the beauty and diversity of the cactuses that I saw there -- in yards and gardens and, most spectacularly, at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (BIG Thanks, Bob and Ann!)  My interest in these prickly plants led me to seek a poem that featured them.  What I found is a small "square poem" in my article "Mathematics in Poetry" -- published several years ago by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and available here.  Below, I quote that tiny square poem -- preceded by an explanatory introduction.

Mathematicians enjoy pushing against constraints to find what is possible despite their presence; I enjoy a similar struggle in poetry. For example, when I wanted to write about my decision to be polite even though somewhere inside I feel very uncivil, the constraints of a 3 × 3 square poem led me to:

Mock feelings
serve as well
as true ones.  

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

50 years after "The Population Bomb"

          In 1968 while I was in graduate school at the University of Oklahoma, we all were talking about Paul Erlich's new book, The Population Bomb, and its dire predictions.  My worry over population has evolved into worry about climate change -- a deep concern that selfish actions today are leaving an unhealthy world for future generations.  I want my grandchildren to have the opportunity for healthy lives!!!   On the morning of January 3,  the program 1A on  radio station WAMU did a thought-provoking feature, "More People, More Problems"  on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Erlich's book.  And, at a website entitled "Better (not bigger) Vermont"  I found several poems and songs about population, including the "Population Pressure Song" by Calvin Stewart & Joice Marie -- I offer several stanzas below:

from  Population Pressure Song   by Calvin Stewart & Joice Marie (©2008)
     . . .
        Pop pop, goes the population
        Got to stop, the population
        While we still have our woods
        In our quiet neighborhoods   

Monday, January 22, 2018

A poem that counts

     Recently I discovered (at this thought-provoking number-poem by Oklahoma poet Quraysh Ali Lansana.

bible belted: math     by Quraysh Ali Lansana 

          Pro-Black doesn’t mean anti-anything.
                   El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X)

there are at least twenty-seven
white people i love. i counted.

four from high school, five from
undergraduate years, maybe  

Friday, January 19, 2018

Counting syllables and supporting life

Today, as abortion-protesters march in Washington, I look back to a post from March 25, 2013 and repeat it below.  I, too, cherish life -- and know that sometimes people face very difficult choices.
*   *   *   *   *
In a perfect world in which every pregnancy is wanted and every life supported with love, there would be no need for abortion.  As I work toward that world, I have penned this small syllable-square poem of concern about the vulnerability of young lives.

       36 Syllables       by JoAnne Growney

       More than abortion, fear
       unwanted lives -- saddest
       consequence for children
       conceived without a plan
       for parenting.  There is
       more than one way to die.  

Thursday, January 18, 2018

OULIPO, Mathews -- and permutations of proverbs

     Harry Mathews (1930-2017) was a writer -- novelist, poet, essayist, and translator --whose work interests me a great deal.  He was the only American member of the original Oulipo -- a group formed around 1960 of writers and mathematicians who experimented with a variety of constraints designed to force new arrangements of words and thoughts.  An example cited in a NYTimes feature that followed his death on January 25 illustrates the challenges he set for himself:  he rewrote a poem by Keats using the vocabulary of a Julia Child recipe.  What some might have seen as pointless, Mathews found intellectually liberating.
Mathews served as Paris Editor of the Paris Review from 1989 to 2003 and the Spring 2007 issue offers an interview.   The summer 1998 issue offers samples of his perverbs -- that is, permuted proverbs:
"The word perverb was invented 
by Paris review editor Maxine Groffsky
to describe the result obtained by crossing two proverbs.
For example, "All roads lead to Rome" and "A rolling stone gathers no moss"
give us "All roads gather moss" and "A rolling stone leads to Rome"

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Blog history -- title, links for previous posts . . .

      My first posting in this blog was nearly eight years ago (on March 23, 2010).  If, at the time, I had anticipated its duration, I should have made a plan for organizing the posts.  But my ambitions were small.  During the time I was teaching mathematics at Bloomsburg University, I gathered poetry (and various historical materials) for assigned readings to enrich the students' course experiences. After my retirement, I had time to want to share these materials -- others were doing well at making historical material accessible to students but I thought poetry linked to mathematics needed to be shared more.  And so, with my posting of a poem I had written long ago celebrating the mathematical life of Emmy Noether, this blog began.  Particular topics featured often in postings include -- verse that celebrate women, verses that speak out against discrimination, verses that worry about climate change.   
You're invited to:
Scroll through the titles below, browsing to find items of interest
among the more-than-nine-hundred postings since March 2010
Click on any label -- a list is found in the right-hand column below the author profile 
Enter term(s) in the SEARCH box -- and find all posts containing those terms.

 For example, here is a link to the results of a SEARCH using    math women 

And here is a link to a poem by Brian McCabe that celebrates math-woman Sophie Germain.
This link reaches a poem by Joan Cannon that laments her math-anxiety.
This poem expresses some of my own divided feelings.

                                       2017 Posts

Monday, January 15, 2018

Honor Martin Luther King -- think on his words!

Celebrating the birthday of Martin Luther King (1929-1968)
with his words-- which include several mathy terms.

We must accept 
finite disappointment
but never lose
infinite hope.                                                             Freedom is never
voluntarily given
by the oppressor; 
it must be demanded
by the oppressed.

When you are right                  
you cannot be too radical;                 
when you are wrong,                  
you cannot be too conservative.                 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Clear the head for best thinking by walking

     An engineer -- and friend -- who is a long-time supporter of the STEM to STEAM program is US Naval Academy Professor Greg Coxson.  Although a member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, Coxson has a strong interest in the arts.  He reads widely and has suggested a number of poems  for this blog.  Recently his recommendation was "Solvitur Ambulando" by Billy Collins, a poem found on pages 92-93 of the collection The Rain in Portugal (Random House, 2016).   Below I offer the opening stanza and the final, mathematical, portion of Collins' fine poem.  (Go to the book and read more!)

from   Solvitur Ambulando    "It is solved by walking."     by Billy Collins

       I sometimes wonder about the thoughtful Roman
       who came up with the notion
       that any problem can be solved by walking.
. . .  

Monday, January 8, 2018

A Marriage of Music and Mathematics

     Italian mathematician and musician Rosanna Iembo is an interdisciplinary star that I have had the pleasure of meeting -- and hearing --  at poetry readings held at mathematics conferences.  Iembo combines mathematical storytelling with live music; here is a link to a musical video of "The Marriage of Myia and Milo" narrated by Iembo, with musical accompaniment by her daughters -- and, below, I offer an abbreviated sample of a math-related portion of the poetic text.

from  The Marriage of Myia & Milo       by Rosanna Iembo

     A marriage, a marriage,
     said everyone.
     Myia, the daughter of Pythagoras and Theanò,
     marries Milo, the legendary athlete.

     And to the marriage
     even the stranger was invited
     because nobody was excluded
     in that ancient polis
     where Pythagoras founded a School.  

Friday, January 5, 2018

Mathematics and Gender . . . #MeToo

compiled by Dr Laurence J Peter (Collins Reference, 1993).

A woman has to be
TWICE as good
as a man
to go HALF as far.                                              Fannie Hurst 

Men seldom
make passes
at a girl
who surpasses.                                                 Franklin P Jones 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

In short words . . . a Fib for the New Year!

       to wish
       you a fine
       New Year:  play with words
       and time. Count each short word and line.

     One of the fascinating web-postings I have found recently is this one in which mathematical ideas are expressed in short words -- that is, in words of one syllable.  As you might expect, these creations are sometimes awkward and sometimes insightful.  I invite you to try, as I have done above, your own expression of ideas in short words.

     And if you'd like to find more examples of Fibs (that is, poems in which the syllable counts per line follow the Fibonacci numbers), this link leads to the results of a search of this blog using "Fib."