Thursday, October 31, 2019

Math-Poetry at JMM in Denver --January 2020

Deadline, November 12 -- Math-Poetry Contest for Colorado students
More details here in this blog-posting and 
here at the American Mathematical Society website.
Winners will read at the 2020 Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM)
on January 18 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

Deadline November 15:  details below about how to sign up to participate 
in a JMM poetry reading on the evening of January 17 -- 
also at the Denver Convention Center.

    Continuing a math-meetings tradition, math poets will gather at JMM for an MAA Special Presentation: An Evening of Poetry -- this upcoming program will be on Friday, January 17,  7–8:30 pm, in Room 503 of the Colorado Convention Center.  In 2020, we want especially to feature poetry with a focus on how math can help unify us and improve our world.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Celebrate Halloween with counting rhymes . . .

Halloween, Halloween, strangest sights I've ever seen . . .

Three Little Witches

One little, two little, three little witches
Fly over haystacks, fly over ditches,   

Monday, October 28, 2019

A pleasing permutation of lines -- the Villanelle

     A villanelle is a 19-line French verse form -- with lines divided into five three-line stanzas and a final quatrain -- a poem in which the first and third lines each appear four times.  This thoughtful repetition of lines, each time in a somewhat different context, is very pleasing -- and reminds me of the varied situations in which many mathematical models also are effective
     Well-known villanelles include “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas, and Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.” (And here is a link to this blog's offerings of villanelles.)   Below are the opening stanzas of a fine villanelle by Emily Grosholz; the entire poem is included in an article in The Mathematical Intelligencer, "Figures of Speech and Figures of Thought" (available here).  The article -- written by Emily Rolfe Grosholz and Edward Rothstein -- is based on an interview of Grosholz at New York City's Poets House and celebrates her book Great Circles -- The Transits of Mathematics and Poetry (Springer, 2018).  

from  Holding Pattern     by Emily Rolfe Grosholz   

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Playing with permutations of the nouns of a poem

     Founded in 1960, OULIPO  (short for French: Ouvroir de littérature potentielle) has been active in the exploration of the effects of constraints or arbitrary rules  in the production of literature.  
          Developed in the 13th century, the sonnet 
                   (with 14 lines, 10 syllables per line and a prescribed rhyme scheme) 
                       is a well-known member of these "constrained" forms.  The Haiku is another.
     Published in 2005, the Oulipo Compendium, Revised and Updated (edited by Harry Mathews and Alastair Brioche, Make Now Press, Los Angeles) contains definitions and examples of a large variety of rule-following writing.  On page 173 we find some interesting comments about language by French poet Jean Lescure (1912-2005):
     " . . . Lescure remarks that we frequently have the impression 
          that language in itself  'has something to say' and that nowhere 
          is this impression more evident than in its possibilities for permutation.  
          They are enough to teach us that to listen we must be silent
          enough to transform a well-oiled bicycle into a well-boiled icicle."   

Monday, October 21, 2019

Poems and Primes

     Recently Press 53 offered a "Prime 53 Poem" poetry challenge -- to write a poem meeting these conditions:
     ·      Total syllable count of 53
     ·      Eleven total lines 
     ·      First three stanzas are three lines each with a 7 / 5 / 3 syllable count 
     ·      Final stanza must be two lines with a 5 / 3 syllable count, for a total syllable count of 53
     ·      Rhyme scheme (slant/soft rhymes are fine) aba cdc efe gg
A Prime 53 poem’s total line count is a prime number (11), the syllable count in each line is a prime number (7 / 5 / 3) with each line of the last two-line stanza a prime number (5 / 3), and the poem’s total syllable count is a prime number (53).

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Small and large -- poetic views . . .

     A favorite on my bookshelves is The Book of Disquiet: the Complete Edition by Fernando Pessoa*.  Here is a math-poetic item from this "diary" by Pessoa:

     In a discussion about how a village may be larger than a city 
          because you can see more of the world there  -- Pessoa quotes (on p. 241) 
               these lines from Alberto Caeiro, one of his writing personas: 

                 Because I am the size of what I see
                 And not the size of my own stature.

     These lines are from Millimeters (the observation of infinitesimal things),
          on pp. 67-69: 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Using poetry to open dialogues with science . . .

     Recently I have obtained a copy of Sam Illingworth's book, A Sonnet to Science:  scientists and their poetry (Manchester University Press, 2019)  -- a collection of essays-with-poems that features these six scientist-poets:  Humphrey Davy, Ada Lovelace, James Clerk Maxwell, Ronald Ross, Miroslav Holub, and Rebecca Elson.  
       A dust-jacket blurb describes the author:  
            Sam Illingworth is a Senior Lecturer in Science Communication, where his work involves
                   using poetry to develop dialogues between scientists and non-scientists
                   especially amongst traditionally under-served and under-represented communities. 
             Illingworth also is a poet -- with a poem-a-week-blog available at this link.
From Rebecca Elson (1960-1999), an astronomer and poet whose life was cut short by cancer, we have these math-linked lines (written in 1998 and on page 168 of A Sonnet to Science):

     Is there any language, logic
     Any algebra where death is not
     The tragedy it seems   

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Math modeling is poetry . . .

      Jennifer Pazour is a professor the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at  Rensselaer Polytecnic Institute and is, like me, a blogger.  Recently I discovered in her blog this 2014 posting that modifies a description of poetry by poet Geoffrey Orr to compare poetry with mathematical modelling.   First, a brief poem that for me illustrates the mathematical nature of the poetry of Orr -- followed by Pazour's poetry-math-modeling comparison.

       Manhattan Island Poem    by Gregory Orr

       Thin river woman with a concrete star
       wedged in her ear. I wrap
       a blue scarf of old movies around my eyes.
       At night I am a jar of fireflies dying.                   found at 

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Cube of the Rainbow

     Later this week a scheduled screening (in nearby Takoma Park, MD) of a film about Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) has prompted me to return to some rereading of Dickinson's verse -- which is occasionally mathematical.   For example:

       We shall find the Cube of the Rainbow     by Emily Dickinson

       We shall find the Cube of the Rainbow.
       Of that there is no doubt.
       But the Arc of a Lover's conjecture
       Eludes the finding out.

The stanza above is found in many places; my source is Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics, ed. by S Glaz and JA Growney (AK Peters/CRC Press, 2008).  This link leads to previous postings of Dickinson's work in this blog.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

"My number is . . ."

    More than twenty years ago I found and admired Montana poet Sandra Alcosser's poem, "My Number" (included in Except by Nature, Graywolf, 1998) -- and I included it in a small anthology, Numbers and Faces, that I edited; (published in 2001 by the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics).  "My Number" also has more recently also been included in Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics  (Edited by Glaz and Growney: AK Peters/CRC Press, 2008).

My Number     by Sandra Alcosser
I’m linked with the fate of the world’s disasters 
and only have a little freedom to live or die.
My number is small.  An hundred pounds of water,
A quart of salt.  Her digit is a garment.

I wear her like a shadow.  We judge each other,
My number and I.  She is the title.  The license.

The cash drawer.  My random number.
She protects me from myself.  She desires me.

She says she’s only one of thirty million species.
She wishes she were more than anecdotal evidence.