Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Poetry Enriches Science -- a growing point of view!

     Recently I found and enjoyed the article "Scientists Take On Poetry," an article by Katherine Wright in Physics  --  a free, online magazine from the American Physical Society.  After the following lead-in:

Stuck with how to present your latest scientific project? Try a poem.

Wright's article tells of numerous scientists who have been poets and offers visual poetry by Stephany Mazon and Manjula Silva.  The article quotes Sam Illingworth, a poet and geoscientist at the University of Australia, "Poetry is a great tool for interrogating and questioning the world."  Illingworth heads the Editorial Team of an online journal, Consilience -- a newish journal that describes itself as "the online poetry journal exploring the spaces where the sciences and the arts meet."  The current issue has the theme "uncertainty" and offers 19 poems; one of these is "Heisenberg's uncertainty principle" by Alicia Sometimes -- and it begins with these words:

       The reality we can put into words is never reality itself

       we cannot measure
       the position (x) and the momentum (p)
       of a particle with absolute precision

         . . .

This link leads to the rest of Sometimes' poem and to others offered in Consilience.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

TalkingWriting with Mathematics

     TalkingWriting is an online journal that's celebrating its 10th birthday -- TEN YEARS of including mathematics in its mix of poetry.  This mathy connection has grown strong through the poetry editorship of Carol Dorf, poet and retired math teacher.  In this anniversary issue, poems are paired with works of visual art and the effect is stunning; from it,  I offer below samples of poems by Amy Uyematsu and by me.      
      Amy Uyematsu's poem "Lunes During This Pandemic"  thoughtfully applies the counting structure of the "lune" (aka "American Haiku") with three-line stanzas of 3/5/3 words per line.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Poetry-math resources -- for classrooms and for fun

"Enrich Discussions about Mathematics with Poems" -- 
an article that offers links to poems that introduce mathematicians and air math-attitudes -- 
items that can benefit from a bit of attention in many math classes. 
Lots of ideas/suggestions are available at this link!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

If a Garden of Numbers . . .

      In a summer email from math-poet-editor Carol Dorf,  I first enjoyed "If a Garden of Numbers" -- a mingling of numbers with the natural world -- by California poet Cole Swensen.  I offer its opening lines below followed by a link to the complete poem.

If a Garden of Numbers      by Cole Swenson 

If a garden is the world counted
                                                      and found analogue in nature
One does not become two by ever ending
                                                                    so the stairs must be uneven in number

Monday, September 21, 2020

Misunderstanding mathematicians . . .

      One of the comments that non-maths often make when they meet a math-person is "Oh, I never was good at math."  An awkward start to possible friendship.  Another awkward beginning rests on the assumption that mathematics is primarily calculation, that the main task of mathematicians is to organize numbers.  This error is the focus of the following poem -- written in the early 90s before our banking was done electronically.

"Misunderstanding" is found in my poetry collection, My Dance is Mathematics -- its poems are online here For non-maths (and the rest of us, too) one of the wonderful up-to-date online sources for "living mathematics" is +plus magazine -- and of course +plus includes poetry

Friday, September 18, 2020

What is x?

     This thoughtful poem by versatile poet Mary Peelen appeared in the Winter, 2016 issue of The Massachusetts Review.   

       Variable     by Mary Peelen 

       The x could have been
       anything at all,

       the sound of wind chimes,
       a gong, a choir, a cantor,

       a mermaid, a schoolmarm,
       cathedral bells.

       Instead—what a lark—
       it’s laughter. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Venn Diagram Poem

     One of my granddaughters has been working with Venn diagrams in her middle school math class.  And my thoughts turned to this poem -- back in 2018, Twitter poet Brian Bilston (@brian_bilston) celebrated the August 4 birthday of the diagram's inventor, logician John Venn (1834-1923), with this clever poem in a Venn diagram.

Lots more of Brian's poetry adventures can be found here at his website.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

TEACHERS are important ... enlarge Hardy's view!

     One of the classics written about mathematics is G. H. Hardy's 1940 book-essay, A Mathematician's Apology -- a treatise that gives valued insights into the nature of mathematics, its beauty, and the roles of mathematicians.   But today I want to urge us all to enlarge Hardy's view (shown in the box below) which offers scorn for those who talk ABOUT mathematics instead of creating it.  Our teachers and the others who spread mathematics out into the world ALSO are vital.
    Let us use geometry as Edwin Markham does -- and include
in the important world of mathematics those persons who communicate about that world.

          Outwitted     by Edwin Markham (1852-1940)

          He drew a circle that shut me out--
               Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
          But Love and I had the wit to win:
               We drew a circle that took him in!

Monday, September 7, 2020


     The September 2020 issue of Scientific American contains a poem by British Poet Laureate Simon Armitage -- "Bring Back the Leaf"  -- AND an announcement that from now on each monthly issue will contain poetry. Like!
     Although this poem is not mathematical, I offer news of it here because the Scientific American's inclusion of the arts with the sciences and mathematics (STEM enlarged to STEAM) is a very important step.

From:  "Bring Back the Leaf"      by Simon Armitage

Bring back, bring back the leaf.
Bring back the tusk and the horn
Bring back the fern, the fish, the frond and the fowl,
the golden toad and the pygmy owl,
revisit the scene
where swallowtails fly
through acres of unexhausted sky.

The complete poem, "Bring Back the Leaf" is available here.
 At this link is info about a Simon Armitage poem that helps to clean the air . . .

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Another Fibonacci poem . . .

     Through many years of the history of poetry, the sonnet has been a treasured form -- as poets strive carefully to match the iambic pentameter rhythm and some pattern of rhyme, this concentrated thinking leads to careful word choices and memorable poems.  (Here is a link to a mathy sonnet by a math teacher's son, John Updike.)
     Modern poetry has many "free verse" poems that follow no particular form AND ALSO a variety of new forms.  One particularly popular format (appearing often in this blog) is to count syllables-per-line using the Fibonacci numbers   Here an interesting example by poet Marian Christie which describes increasing complexities of crocheting using Fibonacci syllable-counts.

"Crochet" -- a FIB by Marian Christie

 Christie's poem was first published in here in Issue 36 of The Fib Review.