Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Recursion . . . in a life . . . in a poem . . .

     The New Yorker offers a rich variety of poetry and in their print issue of 22 July 2019 they give a poem that I love:  "Sentence" -- by Tadeusz Dabroswski  (translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones) plays with two meanings of the word "sentence" and also embodies the concept of recursion -- so important in mathematics.  Below I offer the opening lines; at this link may be found the entire poem (both a print version and an audio recording).

Sentence     by Tadeusz Dąbrowski

It’s as if you’d woken in a locked cell and found
in your pocket a slip of paper, and on it a single sentence
in a language you don’t know.   

Monday, July 29, 2019

What is beauty? Is mathematics beautiful?

     My thoughts have been turned to the beauty of mathematics by stumbling onto a very fine article, "Beauty Bare: The Sonnet Form, Geometry and Aesthetics," by Matthew Chiasson and Janine Rogers -- published in 2009 in the Journal of Literature and Science and available online here.
      The article opens with this quote from A Mathematician's Apology (see p. 14) by G. H. Hardy:       Beauty is the first test:  there is no permanent place 
                                                   in the world for ugly mathematics.

Today I'm puzzling over what "beauty" means . . .   

Thursday, July 25, 2019

As in mathematics--a lot in a few words--in Haiku

     Recently on a visit to the website Singapore Math I found dozens of "mathematical" Haiku -- and I offer several below.   Still more Haiku may be found at "The Republic of Mathematics" (a blog curated by Gary E. Davis), including a link to Haiku by Daniel Mathews.
     Haiku are three-line poems that often -- but not always -- conform to a 5-7-5 syllable count.  With their brevity they often resemble mathematics in that they have condensed a large amount of meainng into a few words.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Mathematicians are not just white dudes . . .

     Recently I found the wonderfully informative website arbitrarily close: musings on math and teaching -- my first visit to the site was to this 2016 posting about "The Mathematician's Project" -- a project and posting that offers lots of resources and links to introduce us to female mathematicians, black mathematicians, and more . . . 
     The following lines are from a puzzle-poem by mathematician-poet Benjamin Banneker -- a non-white dude; the sample has been obtained from a website that celebrates Banneker -- a website compiled by Washington, DC high school teacher John Mahoney.  These lines come from Puzzle 5:

A snip from a puzzle by Benjamin Banneker

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Math-Poetry -- Linz, Austria -- 07/19/2019

     On Friday, July 19, 2-4 PM at the 2019 Bridges Math-Arts Conference in Linz, Austria will be a Reading of Mathematical Poetry that features these poets:

Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya 
     Susan Gerofsky
          Emily Grosholz 
               Lisa Lajeunesse 
                    Marco Lucchesi 
                         Iggy McGovern 
                               Mike Naylor and
                                   Eveline Pye 
reading mathy selections from their work.

And here is a sample of the stanzas you will enjoy at the reading -- from "First Test" by Marco Lucchesi, translated from the Portuguese by Renato Rezende:  

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

An Ode to Mathematics

     One of the math-poets that I have met through this blog is Foteck Ivota, a mathematics teacher in the Cameroon.  In an email message, Ivota has offered this point of view:
       I love poetry too so much and I believe poetry  can be used as a means of making students love and develop interest in mathematics. As teachers of this beautiful subject we face a lot of challenges to make students perceive maths as easy and down to earth.   
     Ivota also has shared several poems with me; here is one of them:

      An Ode to Mathematics     by Foteck Ivota

       Your merits, maths, many may miss
       And in ignorance may dismiss
       Marvelous Maths that is life,
       Believing that all is strife.

                 Maths for you and Maths for me,
                 Maths, Maths and Maths for all,
                 Maths, Maths for everything.    

Monday, July 15, 2019

Mother-daughter geometry -- in poetry . . .

     Last week (July 9) was the birthday of my mother -- and, although her body lies in a grave, her spirit continues to dance (and to both inform and confuse me).  Recently published in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics (January 2019 issue) this poem by Jenny Patton -- a creative writing teacher at Ohio State University and a wellness coach -- has been provoking my memories. 

       Geometry of Night     by Jenny Patton

       In three-dimensional Euclidean space,

       lines in a plane that do not meet are parallel.

       My beautiful aunt loved to sleep, blogs

       my insomniac cousin about my mother
       who went to her parallel life every night.

       Those studying Playfair’s axiom note the

       constant distance between parallel lines. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Euler's Vision -- in Verse

      Scheduled to be read at the Mathematical Association of Victoria's annual conference in December of this year is a poetical choral piece for eight voices entitled "Euler's Vision" -- composed by Tom Petsinis -- a Melbourne writer (poet, playwright, and novelist) and mathematician.  Here are the opening lines:
From "Euler's Vision" by Tom Petsinis

Monday, July 8, 2019

Visual Poetry -- Newton's Third Law

     One of the long-term and talented producers and advocates of mathematical visual poetry is Kaz Maslanka; his long-term mathematical-poetry blog is found here.  Maslanka is a featured participant in The Film and Video Poetry Society's 2019 program.  On Saturday, August 3, in Pasadena, CA, Maslanka will offer a presentation entitled "Mathematics and Digital Art."  In addition, work by Maslanka on display (July 11 - August 3) at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art.  Kaz has sent me this photo of one of his featured (backlit) images:

Newton's Third Law in Karmic Warfare
by Kazmier Maslanka

Digital painting displayed as a Duratrans

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Fighting the heat -- with limericks!

     Brief poems with strict patterns -- like the FIB and the LIMERICK -- are often used to convey mathy messages.  Recently this limerick caught my eye (found at

       Heated Limerick     by Madeleine Begun Kane

       One-hundred degrees? I may swoon.
       Yes, I’m singing a very hot tune.
       And I’m down in the mouth
       Cuz this isn’t the south,
       But Bayside, New York — early June.

At her long-standing and encyclopedic website,, Kane offers lots more limericks -- and instructions for writing a limerick --  and also math-humor.  

     A wonderful source of math-humor and limericks is Ben Orlin's site, "Math with Bad Drawings."  Here is a sample:

A limerick for mathematicians -- by Ben Orlin

This next clever limerick -- originally first posted in this blog back in March 2010,  has been attributed to Leigh Mercer:  

A clever computational limerick -- by Leigh Mercer

To find limericks previously posted in this blog, use the SEARCH box in the right-hand column OR follow this link.