Monday, November 9, 2020

Special Days for Mathematics

Today is the birthday of black mathematician, astronomer, almanac-writer and puzzle-maker Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) -- and some of his puzzles were poems:  this link leads to this blog's previous postings of his work.

This week (November 9-14) is  2020 Maths Week in England.  Learn more, via an introductory video, here.

During these Covid-19 days of isolation I am particularly aware of distances that separate me from those I love . ..  and the numbers that keep track of it all.  Here are opening lines from the poem "Distances" by Peter Meinke that reflect on the changeable meanings of numbers. 

from:     Distances     by Peter Meinke

            Some distances cannot be crossed; like
            Zeno's arrow you can only go halfway at a time:
            there remains a remoteness, a shadow thrown
            across an almost infinitesimal line:
            a separation.
            I am usually glad there is a distance between us:
            it gives me somewhere to go.
            But now, you are 467 miles away
            as the crow flies, and I think
            That's not a bad number:  4 + 6 makes 10,
            the perfect figure, minus 7 makes 3,
            the holy trinity or the eternal triangle . . .       

"Distances" is included in Meinke's collection The Night Train and the Golden Bird (University of Pittsburgh Pres, 1977) and also in the anthology Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (AK Peters/CRC Press, 2008) edited by Sarah Glaz and JoAnne Growney.  Another poem from Strange Attractors that I have thoughtfully revisited recently is "Counting" by Douglas Goetsch, a poem that is also available here at

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