Thursday, January 31, 2019

What can be proven . . .

     Two weeks ago poet Mary Oliver (1935-2019) died and her passing has caused me to turn again to her work. In "I Looked Up" -- from her 1994 collection, White Pine -- I have found and am reflecting on this line.

     What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Mathy Limericks

     Many mathy poets enjoy the challenge of satisfying (or almost-satisfying) the prescribed rhythm and rhyme schemes for the five-line poem-form called a limerick.  Below are five limerick-creations from Kate Jones, poet and part of Kadon Enterprises, creator of a host of mathematical game puzzles. (AND this link leads to several earlier postings in this blog that also present verses in limerick form.)

     Limericks     by Kate Jones

     There once was an artist supreme
     Whose geometry had a rare scheme.
          Tessellations and creatures
          And impossible features. . .
     MC Escher created an infinite dream.   

Monday, January 28, 2019

2019 AMS Prize-Winning Math Poems

     Last fall the American Mathematical Society held a math-poetry contest for Maryland students and the winners were announced and celebrated in Baltimore last Saturday.  Two of the winners, Tina Xia and Brooke Johnston, have given me permission to offer their poems here!

Math is Me     by Brooke Johnston, Notre Dame Preparatory School

          Math can inspire.
          Math can inquire.
          Math does not require those who know
          but those who understand.
          Math is me.

A Love Letter to My X     by Tina Xia, Walt Whitman High School

To wonder is to dream, said one of the greats--
To meddle is to be irrational.  Love, like
Many things, is fickle and feckless. Ask mother:
She would agree.  And people will tell you to find
X until you die, but man, you need to move on.
I believe in the power of both math and love,     

Thursday, January 24, 2019

A Multi-Author Poem Celebrating Math-People

     At the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Baltimore last Friday evening, the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics (JHM) and SIGMAA-ARTS sponsored a poetry reading.  
Moderated  by Gizem Karaali, the pre-reregistered participants included
 Lawrence M. Lesser, Sarah Glaz, Ben Orlin, Rachel Levy, Luise Kappe,
Brooke C. Johnston, Douglas Norton, Claudia Gary, JoAnne Growney
In addition to poems by participants registered in advance, the event included a "crowd-sourced" poem.  Each person attending was invited to submit two lines of poetry about math-people -- and the pairs of lines were put together into a poem that I offer below.  MANY THANKS to these participants who gave us lines.
Order of contributors (2 lines each): David Reimann, Maru Colbert, Greg Coxson,
 David Flesner, Nancy Johnston, Kate Jones, Hunter Johnston, Debra Bordeau (4 lines), 
Luise Kappe (in German—with translation at end), Margaret Kepner, Thomas Atkinson,  
Brooke Johnston, Andrew Johnston, Ximena Catpillan, Bronna Butler, Courtney Hauf,
 JoAnne Growney, Doug Norton, Sean Owen, Eric Marland
Sending THANK-YOU to all of the authors, 
               I present below our poem, "We Love Mathematics."

We Love Mathematics

Mathematicians are meeting today—
ideas unfold in space, time, and hearts. 
   Math is the language of everyone
   Any part of everything began as a sum.   

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

"Math and Self" -- a visual poem

     One of the great pleasures of attending mathematics meetings in Baltimore last week was meeting old friends.  One of these, Gabriel Prajitura, a mathematician at SUNY Brockport, is also a poet and a person with whom I have worked on translation of poetry by Romanian poet Nichita Stanescu.  Gabi has shared with me "Math and Self," one of his visual poems: 
"Math and Self" by Gabriel Prajitura

Here is a link to several earlier postings in this blog featuring translations by Gabi and me of mathy poetry by Nichita Stanescu.

Monday, January 21, 2019

A poetry equation . . . .

     My recent attendance (January 16-19) at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Baltimore has resulted in a pile of math-poetry items to sort and organize for offering here in my blog.  While that sorting happens, here is an idea to ponder -- found in a recent article about Brooklyn-based poet and teacher Taylor Mali -- this thoughtful quote:

"... a metaphor is an equation between two words.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A Perfect Number

     One of the the things I love to find in a poem is the surprise of a double meaning -- especially involving a mathematical term such as "group" or "zero" or "identity."  The following poem of mine aims to offer that surprise -- as it celebrates actor-inventor Hedy Lamarr while playing with the meanings of "perfect."

Looking for Mathematics in Hedy Lamarr   by JoAnne Growney

All my six husbands married me for different reasons.
                               ---Hedy Lamarr

Perhaps Hedy Lamarr married so often because six
is a perfect number – the sum of all its proper
divisors, “proper” meaning “less than six,”
“divisor” meaning “a counting number
that divides and leaves
no remainder.”

After a perfect number of husbands, there is no
remainder. Six is the smallest perfect
number, the next is twenty-eight.
And twenty-eight
is too many

Today I head to the 2019 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Baltimore
including a Poetry Reading Friday, January 18, 7 PM
 -- hope to see you there!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Poems that Celebrate Mathematicians

     Recently I received from John Golden (blogger at and math professor at Michigan's Grand Valley State Universitythis link to a collection of poems developed by students Ellen Audia and Connor Dudas as their senior project for degrees in Mathematics from Grand Valley State University.   On page 6, we have their poem about Archimedes:


Everyone knows
The great Archimedes
One of the leading scientists
Of the classical antiquity

The area of a circle
Equals pi r squared
Archimedes also discovered
The volume of a sphere  

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Mathematical motherhood -- keeping count

     The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, with new issues coming twice a year, late in January and July, is a wonderful resource.  Their latest issue (July 2018) was themed "Mathematics and Motherhood" and is an example of their wonderful support for expanding our images of mathematicians to recognize the vital contributions of women.
     From that issue, here are opening stanzas of  a poem by Nevada scientist and mathematician Marylesa Howard -- lines that offer a mathematical description of the constant adjustments of parenthood.   Several decades ago, when I was a math professor and parent of young children, I needed to keep details of parenting away from my profession -- a divided life.  I'm glad things are different now.

Friday, January 4, 2019

A poem . . . like a mathematical proof . . .

     Mathematician-Poet Sarah Glaz has been active in bringing poetry events to the annual summer Math-Arts conference Bridges -- and she has given me permission to include this poem which appears in the Bridges 2018 Poetry Anthology and in her wonderful recent collection Ode to Numbers  (Antrim House, 2017)

      Like a Mathematical Proof     by Sarah Glaz

       A poem courses through me
       like a mathematical proof,
       arriving whole from nowhere,
       from a distant galaxy of thought.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Celebrate a Science Woman -- and offer friendship!

      Last weekend's Washington Post used the headline 
  Astronomer celebrated as the 'mother' of the Hubble Space Telescope  
for the obituary of Nancy Grace Roman.  It opens with this sentence:

               When Nancy Grace Roman requested permission
               to take a second algebra course in high school,
               the teacher demanded to know, "what lady
               would take mathematics instead of Latin?"

But Roman persisted in the challenging studies and was not dissuaded by biases.  The obituary quotes an interview from Science magazine in which she said: