Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Mathematical images via Haiku

         So many versions       
of the truth -- mathematics
        always one of them   

     The recent issue of  the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics includes not only a variety of poems linked to mathematics -- it also has a special treat:  a folder of Haiku -- 31 pages with contributions by 31 different writers.  One of these contributors is Hannah Lewis and she has given me permission to share her work.  Here are Hannah's Haiku:

     But, Why?

          x equals y, but—
          why? dig deeper and all your
          answers will unearth.     

Monday, February 26, 2018

Poetry from Ursula Le Guin

     Well-known and beloved writer Ursula Le Guin (1929-2018) died last month -- at the age of 88.  Although best known for her fiction, Le Guin also was a poet -- and I include samples of her poetic work (and links) below.
     An adaptation for the stage of Le Guin's novel, The Lathe of Heaven, is currently in performance (until March 11) at the Spooky Action Theater as part of Washington, DC's Women's Voices Theater Festival.  I had the privilege of attending last Saturday's performance -- and liked it a lot.
     Le Guin's poetry is not substantially mathematical, but I include a couple of verses below that each contain a mathy term or two . . .

A palindrome I do not want to write

The mournful palindromedary,
symmetrical and arbitrary,
cannot desert the desert, cannot roam,
plods back and forth but never reaches home.
Mental boustrophedon is scary,
I do not want to write a palindrome.
-- UKL, February 2009

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Circles are inclusive . . . let's make circles!

Rectangular picture of a syllable-triangle poem about the power of a circle.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of ... Mathematics

     One of my favorite mathy authors is Lillian R. Lieber (1886-1986) and one of the websites that has recently featured her work is the energetic and eclectic (authored by Maria Popova) -- in a posting recommended to me by my Bloomsburg, PA poetry-friend Carol Ann Heckman.  Carol alerted me to a January 2018 brainpickings posting about Lieber -- a writer whose poetic treatise, Infinity: Beyond the Beyond the Beyond (Paul Dry Books, 2007) is a reading I once recommended to her as an aid in understanding calculus.  Originally published in 1953 and illustrated with striking drawings by Lillian's collaborating husband, Hugh Lieber, Infinity also had enriched my own understanding of some challenging concepts.  The Heckman-recommended posting offers ideas from an out-of-print gem by Lieber entitled Human Values and Science, Art and Mathematics -- and here are a few opening lines from that collection that seem very relevant today:
     This book is really about
     Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,
     using ideas from mathematics
     to make these concepts less vague.  

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Sonnet for Bolyai -- and translations

     The Hungarian mathematician János Bolyai (1802 – 1860) was one of the discoverers of non-Euclidean geometry — an axiomatization  that differs from Euclid's geometry in its stipulations concerning parallel lines. This discovery of  an alternative view of space -- that also was logically consistent -- helped to free mathematicians to explore new ideas, and the consequences developed by Einstein and others have led to far-reaching results.
     Hungarian poet Mihály Babits (1883-1941) wrote a sonnet about Bolyai.  I learned of this sonnet and its English translation (by Paul Sohar and offered below) from Osmo Pekonen, a Finnish mathematician who is engaged in the project of collecting translations of Babits' sonnet into as many languages as possible.  (The original Hungarian version -- along with a Spanish translation -- is available here.) 

     Bolyai      by Mihály Babits              translation into English by Paul Sohar

     God had imprisoned our minds in space.
     Those puny things have remained prisoners.
     Thought, the hungry bird of prey fought the curse,
     but never breached its diamond bars' embrace.  

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day -- I love SEVEN!

Happy Valentine's Day!
                     I love seven –  as  a 

     Not only is seven prime, it is the number
     of my granddaughters who all like math --
     I want to make a mountain to celebrate 
     the girls and the women they become . . .  

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Matrix Poem, "RESIST"

     My first awareness of the term "matrix" was in a math class -- where it means a rectangular array of quantities that are treated as a single unified object.  But my online dictionary does not list that definition first; a Google Search using "matrix definition" led me to "an environment or material in which something develops; a surrounding medium or structure."  And so it goes.
     And when I enter the pair "matrix" and "poem" into a Google Search, the results include poems with the word "matrix" in the title AND rectangular arrays including this one from  Eleven Matrix Poems by Roy Lisker and found at this source. Reading instruction includes this: 
       Matrix poems are written to be read in all of the directions 
indicated by their accompanying diagrams.
"RESIST" by Roy Lisker
My favorite line is shown as the second column; which is yours? 
Fight    Ever    Will To    Never    Evade
     In closing, one more remark about the Google Search I performed using "matrix poem"; as with many Google searches there was a link to images, and from that I found a delightful array of word-diagrams such as the one above.  Try it sometime!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Find a Mathy Valentine!

As the 2018 version of Valentine's Day draws near, I urge you to visit past postings to sample the variety contained in my years of collecting -- if you are looking for Mathy Valentines:

 do a blog Search using Valentine

      Two of the poems in the anthology that Sarah Glaz and I edited -- Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (AK Peters/CRC Press, 2008)  -- have the title "Valentine."  Here is the final line of the one by Katharine O'Brien:

         . . . won't you be my cardioid?

and the final pair of lines of Michael Stueben's verse:

       I love you as one over x,
       as x approaches zero.

Sending my wishes a week ahead of time, Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Math-poetry for Black History Month

     Recently I have revisited my post (from October 2, 2012) that offers a puzzle poem by math-science guy Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), "The Puzzle of the Hound and the Hare" and available here.   
     This link leads to several more posts that also offer mathy poems linked to African-American history and culture.  And here, below, is a treasure to enjoy in any month:

     Addition     by Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

     7 x 7 + love =
     An amount
     Infinitely above:
     7 x 7 − love.

Hughes' poem "Addition" is found in the anthology Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics (AK Peters/CRC Press, 2008), edited by Sarah Glaz and me and first posted in this blog, along with other poems celebrating to Black History Month, on February 20, 2011.