Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The personal becomes mathematical -- in poetry

     Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) used counting in her description of love in her sonnet that begins "How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways."  Contemporary artist, poet, and retired math professor Sandra DeLosier Coleman finds relationships a bit more complicated -- and builds her description in the poem below on the square root of two.

       Between You and the Root of Two     by Sandra DeLozier Coleman

       I have less chance of knowing you
       than of writing out the root of two.
       How e're I start, it never ends,
       exploring how love lies, pretends.   

       At least, as this square root unfolds,
       the mind accepts what it is told.
       The root of two is less than two,
       but more than one, its clearly true.
       And it is easy to derive
       that it is less than one point five.
       It's just as easy, what is more,
       to see it's more than one point four.
       Just form the squares of these two stems!
       Two lies between the two of them.
       Thus, we may show it's greater than
       a one point four one four two one
       and that it's surely lesser, too,
       than one point four one four two two.

       But with such fine precision gained,
       I find my interest has waned,
       and back I go to figure out
       your truths entwined with threads of doubt.

2    =  1.41421356237309504 . . . 

     The poem above is included with two more of Coleman's poems and a wide selection of poems by other writers in a poetry folder here in Volume 2, Issue 2 of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics.  The folder contains poems presented at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston in January, 2012. 
     If you have time to browse (or Search) in the various issues of the  Journal of Humanistic Mathematics you can find lots and lots of mathy poems -- some of which you will love.
A Search of this blog using "Coleman" will lead to still more of her work.

No comments:

Post a Comment