Monday, July 19, 2021

Distance Melts . . . between math and poetry . . .

      One of my early math-poetry connections was with applied mathematician John Lew (1934-2006) who contributed often to the Humanistic Mathematics Network Journal (predecessor of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics -- in which this blog finds frequent math-poetry gems.)  With a doctorate in physics, Lew worked in applied mathematics for many years at the IBM Watson Research Center -- and maintained interests in literature and music, serving for a time as poetry editor of the Mensa Bulletin.  His sonnet below comes from his 1996 HMNJ article, "On Mathematics in Poetry."  Lew's complete article is available here.

      The Comet      by John Lew

      Near from infinity I came
               Drawn to your strong, unmoving light
      By some ascendance of its flame
              That charms the planets through their night.
      The distance melts, my spirit thaws,
              Sublimes, and in your radiance flies
      Soon, by the old, unchanging laws,
             An exhalation through the skies.
      Sweet perihelion!  May we touch,
            Our auras intermingle?  No,
      The impulse of my flight too much,
             I must again to darkness go;
      While you may stand, and watch my face
             Dwindle through trans-Plutonian space.

 An interesting controversy arose between Lew and me -- here is a link to a letter he wrote about a math-poetry "quiz" that I developed that had appeared in the American Mathematical Monthly (quiz available here).

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