Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A Visit to Mathland -- where Reason rules!

Published in 1979 by PRIMARY PRESS, out of print -- try your library!

Before purchasing this anthology (found at a math conference) I had never seen a collection of mathy poems -- but then, many years later, I helped to edit one (Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics).   Today I offer an old favorite from Against Infinity  -- the poem "A Visit to Mathland" by Naomi Replansky (born May 23, 1918):

A Visit to Mathland  by Naomi Replansky  (for M., Z., and L., citizens thereof)

 I was a timid tourist
 to the land of mathematics:
 how do you behave in a country
 where Reason rules?   

Under the stern government
where the symbols mean
just what you are told they mean, 
I found a land of play. 
I rode the roller-coasters of curves
that forever approached the ground without touching,
or broke off joltingly,
or rocked me, harmonious.
I balanced myself astride
the perfect seesaws of equations.
A juggler taught me a few
of the infinite tricks you can play
with all the infinities, plus one.

Every number I met
in the great cities of the numbers
had its unique visage among the crowd,
its own sure place
in an ordered world.
I could stop and stare at it,
its hooded mystery, its majesty, its powers.
I could dismiss is or summon it at will.

And I could listen to the music of the spheres.
I could watch the solid emerge from the plane.
And elegant were the formal gardens of the proofs
that opened forever
upon new vistas.

I did not stay long.
That country too had its problems.
The pure air made me dizzy.
I learned only a few words of the language
(though I liked the natives).

And I was homesick for my homeland,
the Swamp of Ambiguity
that breeds its own fevers.

To learn more about Naomi Replansky, follow this link to visit her blog.
A few used copies of Against Infinity can be found for sale at
Here is a link to mentions of Against Infinity in this blog.

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