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.   

And you’d be sure this sentence was the key to your
life. Also to this cell.

And you’d spend years trying to decipher the sentence,
until finally you’d understand it. But after a while
you’d realize you got it wrong, and the sentence meant
something else entirely. And so you’d have two sentences.

Then three, and four, and ten, until you’d created a new language.
       . . .
Dabrowski's entire poem is available here.

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