Monday, November 11, 2019

Mathematics -- something useful ... or beautiful ...

     I offer a sample below from a poem by Jane Hirshfield entitled "Mathematics" and invite you to go here to read the entire poem -- and to reflect on it.  What does the poem say that is true about mathematics?

from Mathematics     by Jane Hirshfield

          I've envied those 
          who make something 
          useful, sturdy— or
          a chair, a pair of boots.  

          Even a soup,
          rich with potatoes and cream.
 . . .
          Does a poem enlarge the world, 
          or only our idea of the world?

          How do you take one from the other . . . 

Jane Hirshfield's "Mathematics” is found online here at and appears in her collection  Given Sugar, Given Salt (HarperCollins, 2001).


  1. Really interesting! How do you think mathematics relates? Is that her vision of something useful, or a kind of calculus of what she makes or...?

    1. My reading of Hirshfield's poem obeys her title and links each of her ideas to mathematics -- something useful, cooking, fixing, wallpaper patterns . . .
      And then, toward the end, I wonder -- "Does mathematics enlarge the world or only our idea of the world?"