Friday, October 28, 2022

In Praise of the Irrational

     Japanese-American poet and retired math teacher Amy Uyematsu recently has published a new poetry collection, That Blue Trickster Time (What Books Press, 2022) and she has given me permission to share this fascinating mathy poem -- which vividly links the mathematical with the personal --  from that collection.

   In Praise of the Irrational     by Amy Uyematsu

        :  Kanpai (that's Japanese for “cheers”)

       Hooray for the illogical,
       this tale of built-in contradictions,
       each perilous paradox that can
       drive us bananas – and the curious
       ways we keep the faith.

       There's a logic to zero –
       ask any mathematician, poet or priest -
       but don’t expect them
       to explain.

       There's a profound dependability
       in the irrational instincts
       of women – yes us – all
       tenderness, guts, and a fierceness
       no man will ever fathom.  

       :  Round and Round

       Among the most famous
       in the irrational numbers family -
       pi, the empress of unending
       and unrepeating digits -
       secret to binding diameters
       to perfect circles,
       simplified for students
       as π = C / d.

       “How beautiful,” says
       a man who can recite
       over 23,000 digits of pi -
       recalls them by certain
       colors and forms -
       some, like 3-2-8, conjure
       a mountain of lime and blue,
       or 7-5-6, a bromeliad bloom.

       If I asked you your favorite
       earthly shape, you might say
       a round ball at the age of seven
       or that milk-scented areola
       before you could talk.
       Long ago we worshipped
       suns and moons, laid out
       stones in the shape of circles.

       It was no small leap
       to invent riding on wheels,
       or capture life's crazy imbalance
       with the yin/yang symbol -
       even better the Zen circle
       embracing all and nothing
       in just one or two
       strokes of the brush.

       And maybe I'm in
       on a secret I don't understand -
       no accident that since last night's yoga
       I'm now caught in the spell
       of an ancient brass gong -
       ripple after ripple, encircling
       some tiny region
       of my heart unbound.

Previously posted work by Uymatsu in this blog may be found at this link.

Information about purchase of That Blue Trickster Time is available at this link.

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