Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Antiparticular . . . and so on . . .

     Writer and St Mary's University (in Halifax) mathematics professor Robert Dawson enjoys composing both poetry and fiction -- and his work has been included in a number of previous postings in this blog.  Recently he has published several poems in Polar Starlight, a new Canadian magazine of speculative poetry; the poem below, "Antiparticular" -- in which Dawson plays with the meaning of "anti" -- appeared in the June 2022 issue.  (All issues of Polar Starlight are available online at this link.)

         Antiparticular     by Robert Dawson

     Physicists have produced, for many a day,
     Anti-electrons, even antiprotons,
     But nobody has yet, to my dismay,
     Claimed the discovery of antiphotons.
     They move (in theory) at the speed of dark,
     They carry lethargy but have no mass.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Writing a Proof in Verse -- with ChatGPT3

     Academician Punya Mishra (from Arizona State) is active in integrating various topics and learning patterns.  Back in 2020, at this link I featured his poem, "The Mathematical i"  -- and Mishra has recently shared with me some of his explorations with poetry created by artificial intelligence.

     Back in 2010, Mishra wrote a fascinating poem (The Infinity of Primes")  -- a poem that is also a proof -- which begins with these stanzas:

     Over numbers and their combinations if you sit and mull
     You will find that not one of them is uninteresting and dull.
     But it is a certain class of figures that most attention stirs
     Yes, I am speaking of those special ones, the prime numbers.

     Prime numbers are interesting, the mathematician posits,
     ‘Cos they make up all the others, the so-called composites.
     Here’s an imperfect analogy, a simple little working rule,
     Consider the prime to be an atom, then a composite’s a molecule. 

                        . . .               Mishra's complete 17-stanza poem is available here.

Mishra recently explored the the ability of ChatGPT3 to create a proof of the infinity of the set of primes;  The stanzas below offer a start of a proof-attempt; its completion and two other attempts are available at this link.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Poetry found in Scrabblegrams

      Poetry is often shaped by constraints -- syllable counts, patterns of rhythm and rhyme, and others -- and a writing constraint that has come to my attention recently is the "Scrabblegram."  I learned of the Scrabblegram in a blog posting by Marian Christie -- it is a collection of words that uses each of the 100 Scrabble-tile (including the pair of blank tiles, identified as needed) exactly once.

     Christie's blog introduced me to the work of David Cohen who -- using the Twitter handle @dc_scrabblegram -- posts a Scrabblegram daily.  Here is a link to Cohen's website.  And here is a mathy Scrabblegram verse that he posted on Twitter on World Maths Day, March 8, 2023.

A Scrabblegram from David Cohen.

Here is a link to another of David Cohen's Scrabblegrams -- this one features PI (and is also offered as a comment to my March 6 posting).        And here is one about the Fibonacci sequence.               

Monday, March 13, 2023

March is Women's History Month

Learn the history of MATH-WOMEN!

     A recently-released poetry collection that I have been excited to acquire is Jessy Randall's collection,  Mathematics for Ladies:  Poems on Women in Science (London: Goldsmiths Press, 2022).  I first met Jessy Randall's poetry when her poem ‘Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz (1822–1907)’ was published in the August, 2021 issue of Scientific American.

     After a thoughtful "Foreword" by Pippa Goldschmidt, we find 68 poetic snapshots of math women --going back as far as the 12th century and continuing into the the present.  Here is a sample:

CHARLOTTE ANGAS SCOTT (1858-1931)    by Jessy Randall

          When I was at college for mathematics
          I attended Cambridge lectures

          from behind a screen, of course.
          So the male students couldn't see me.

          (I might have distracted them.)   

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

International Women's Day

     Today, March 8, is International Women's Day -- a day to pause, recognize, and celebrate the achievements and abilities of women (and their equality with men).

In my poetry-stanza below I celebrate Laura Church -- my high school math teacher (in Indiana, PA)  a bold spokesperson for math-for-all back in the 1950s  AND the woman who led me into mathematics.

       Chalk in hand,
       she tosses her book,
       strides across the room,
       excited by trigonometry,
       excited that we,
       restless in our rows,
       caught some of it.
       Flamboyant, silver,
       fearless woman.

The stanza above is part of "The Ones I Best Remember" -- the full poem is available here.

Recognition and celebration of women in mathematics has increased dramatically since my high school days.  On of the important advocates is the Association for Women in Mathematics, founded in 1971, and often mentioned in this blogHere is a link to a poem that celebrates AWM.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Celebrate Pi-Day

 3 . 1 4 1 5 9 2 6 5 3  .  .  . 

March 14  -- that is, Pi-Day -- will soon be here.  One of the ways of celebrating  π  is with dessert pastries (pies)  -- but a  π-day  greeting often takes on the challenge of a message in Pilish -- a language whose word-lengths follow the digits of  π -- a challenge that students often enjoy!   An example:

Hug a tree, I shout -- hungering to defend trees and  . . .

Friday, March 3, 2023

FREE MINDS write and share . . .

     Last weekend I attended a very special event at Live Garra Theatre in Silver Spring -- an event featuring poetry and drama from ascending citizens -- described in the image below.

Two organizations that endeavor to improve the lives of incarcerated and recently incarcerated persons are The Free Minds Book Club and Freedom Reads libraries

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Is a proof the opposite of a poem?

      One of the valuable online sources from the MAA (Mathematical Association of America) is the Math Values blog -- found at this link -- a blog that explores COMMUNICATION, COMMUNITY, INCLUSIVITY, and TEACHING and LEARNING.  Using the SEARCH feature, I entered "poetry" and found this variety of resources -- including mention of the Steven Strogatz Prize for Math Communication -- SHARE YOUR LOVE OF MATH WITH THE WORLD -- a contest for high school students with deadline April 28, 2023.  Entry categories include Art, Audio, Performance, Social Media, Video, and Writing.  Guidelines are available here.

     Back in June, 2021 at this link I shared a portion of the poem by Julia Schanen that won in the Writing category that year.  It's second line is the title of this blog posting -- and the complete poem is available here.  A 2022 Strogatz winner was Wyeth Renwick -- and this blog posting features his poem.

     I close with two of my favorite lines of poetry:

        The Secret Sits     by Robert Frost (1874-1963)

               We dance around in a ring and suppose,
               But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Math-Poetry Word Cloud

      On this February Friday I became curious once-again about the frequency of various mathy-poetic words used here in my blog -- and I went to the website to ask for a picture of my word-frequency.  Entering my blog-link ( led to the photo below:

Word Cloud for 

So many of the words are too small to read -- "love" and "teachers" are two that I was delighted to be able to find.
A previous blog-work-cloud from several years ago is found at this link.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Celebrate Black Mathematicians

     In January, at the National Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston, the National Association of  Mathematicians gave this year's Lifetime Achievement Award to Scott Williams, one of the organization's founders back in 1969.  NAM is  nonprofit professional organization in the mathematical sciences with membership open to all interested persons who support promoting excellence in the mathematical sciences for all Americans and promoting the mathematical development of all underrepresented American minorities, especially African Americans. (Learn more about NAM at this link.)

     My connection with Scott Williams began at a program at the headquarters of the MAA (Mathematical Association of America) in Washington, DC and it has continued because of the interest we share in poetry as well as mathematics.  Scott's Facebook postings often include poems -- and work by him is included in the latest issue of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics --  about which I posted last week (at this link). 

Friday, February 17, 2023

More Math-Poetry from JHM

     Every six months a new issue of the open-access online publication, Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, becomes available.  And -- among lots of other inclusions -- it offers a rich variety of mathy poems.   Here is a link to the table of contents of the latest issue -- and I strongly suggest that you visit and explore.  Math-poetry items, listed at the bottom of the TC, are shown in the screen-shot below:

Monday, February 13, 2023

Happy Valentine's Day

      A perfect way for math-poetry fans to celebrate Valentine's Day is to visit the anthology, Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics (AK Peters/CRC Pres, 2008), edited by Sarah Glaz and me.  Here is a sample from that collection, a limerick;

     There Was a Young Maiden    by Bob Kurosaka*

       There was a young maiden named Lizt
       Whose mouth had a funny half-twist.
            She'd turned both her lips
            Into Mobius strips . . .
        'Til she's kissed you, you haven't been kissed!

     *Of Japanese heritage, Kurosaka was born in Lake George, NW -- he became a college teacher and author of science fiction and limericks.

     Here is a link to previous Valentine-related postings:  
this link leads to blog-search results for "Strange Attractors."

Friday, February 10, 2023

The Power of Words -- from June Jordan

      One of the very special privileges that I had while taking classes  at Hunter College (1999-2001) was to attend a poetry reading by June Jordan (1936-2002) -- a reading that introduced me to the power of her fearless voice and the importance of her words.

     Jordan often uses repetition and the precision of numbers to  build  strength in her poems; here is a sample -- the opening lines of "The Bombing of Baghdad":


     began and did not terminate for 42 days
     and 42 nights relentless minute after minute
     more than 110,000 times
     ae bombed Iraq we bombed Baghdad
     we bombed Basra/we bombed military
     installations we bombed the National Museum
     we bombed schools we bombed air raid
     shelters we bombed water we bombed
     electricity we bombed hospitals we
     bombed streets we bombed highways
     we bombed everything that moved/we
     bombed everything that did no move we
     bombed Baghdad
     a city of 5.5 million human beings .  . .

The complete poem may be found here at

At this link are numerous recordings of Jordan reading her poems.   Here is a link to an article by Hunter College professor Donna Masini, "Writing and Teaching in a Time of Crisis:  Lessons from June Jordan" -- and here is a link to previous mentions of Jordan and her work in this blog.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Remembering Linda Pastan

     On January 30, the wonderful and versatile poet, Linda Pastan (1932-2023) died.  Here at the Poetry Foundation website is a brief bio of Pastan along with ninety-six of her poems -- including the mathy poems "Arithmetic Lesson: Infinity" and "Counting Backwards".   This link leads to previous mentions of Pastan and her work in tis blog.  And below, one of my favorites of her poems, "Algebra" -- which I also posted at this link back in November, 2013.

Algebra     by Linda Pastan

        I used to solve equations easily.
        If train A left Sioux Falls
        at nine o'clock, traveling
        at a fixed rate,
        I knew when it would meet train B.
        Now I wonder if the trains will crash;
        or else I picture naked limbs
        through Pullman windows, each
        a small vignette of longing.   

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Celebrate Groundhog Day!

      Since my days as a girl on a farm near the town of Indiana, Pennsylvania -- not far from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania -- I have long been familiar with Groundhog Day.  Here is a link that you can use to browse this blog's celebrations and memories of  this special holiday.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Daughters Can Also Be Heroic . . .

     A recent online Cultural Collective article featured the Chinese astronomer -- and mathematician and poet -- Wang Zhenyi (1768-1797) in an article entitled, "The Woman Genius Who Surpassed Da Vinci and History Forgot."   Although her poetry was mentioned, no samples were included -- here is a link to a stanza of hers that I posted back in February 2021 (a stanza that includes the title of this posting).  

     A well-known Qing dynasty scholar, Yuan Mei, commented on Wang’s poetry by saying it “had the flavor of a great pen, not of a female poet.”  Her poetry included her understanding of classics and history and experiences during her travels -- items such as scenery and the lives of those with whom she made acquaintances.   Here is a sample -- one of several of Zhenyi's poetic stanzas in Wikipedia:

       Transiting Tong Pass      by Wang Zhenyi

            So important is the doorway,
            occupying the throat of the mountain
            Looking down from the heaven,
            The sun sees Yellow river streaming.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Remembering Charles Simic

       Recently Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former US poet laureate (2007-2008) Charles Simic has died.  Although Simic's poems were seldom mathy, he spoke as mathematicians do -- with precision and purpose.  Below I offer again one of his poems that speaks of Euclid (previously posted back in 2011). 

       The Chair     by Charles Simic

       The chair was once a student of Euclid.

       The book of its laws lay on its seat.
       The schoolhouse windows were open,
       So the wind turned the pages
       Whispering the glorious proofs.

       The sun set over the golden roofs.
       Everywhere the shadows lengthened,
       But Euclid kept quiet about that.

"The Chair" is found in Simic's collection Hotel Imsomnia (HBJ, 1992).  This link leads to a list of previous blog postings that feature Simic.   Here is a link to that features lots of Simic's poems and here at are lots more.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A mathy poem from artificial intelligence

     A recent Facebook posting by Maryland poet and computer programmer Henry Crawford included a poem written by a robot -- and he shared with me the link for BETA.OPENAI.COM -- a free site, but one requiring the opening of an account.  I did that -- and began to explore.  Here is a screenshot of one of the results -- from when I entered the request "Write a poem using math words".

A poem composed by AI

Lots of additional information about AI is available in a free article/editorial (about ChatGPT)  by Gizem Karaali entitled "Artificial Intelligence, Basic Skills, and Quantitative Literacy" -- available at this link.  And here is a link to an interesting and related article in the NY Times, "How Smart Are the Robots Getting?" 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Poetry in Politics

      Numerical or alphabetical constraints often are used by writers to add shape and impact to their writing -- and such was the case in a recent speech by Hakeem Jeffries, New York Congressman and Democratic leader of the House of Representatives as he spoke on January 7 ;  Jeffries' speech went through the alphabet -- poetically directing his colleagues toward American Values instead of Autocracy, Benevolence over Bigotry . . . . all the way to Zealous Representation over Zero Sum Confrontation.  A wonderful illustration of the value of constraints in shaping ideas!

Create an abecedarian poem of your own: 
perhaps for a Valentine --
or to celebrate the coming of spring!

Here is a link to previous instances of abecedarian in this blog -- and below is a sample, my  abecedarian portrait of a mathematician.

Monday, January 16, 2023

A Lecture on the Cube

     Summer weeks spent teaching English to Romanian students have helped me to learn of several of the country's fine poets and to get involved in a bit of translating.  Romanian mathematics professor, Gabriel Prajitura (now at SUNY Brockport) -- whom I first met at Pennsylvania's Bucknell University when I was teaching nearby at Bloomsburg University -- worked with me to translate several mathy poems by Nichita Stanescu (1933-1983).  The Summer/Autumn 2004 issue of Circumference:  Poetry in Translation included "A lecture on the cube" and "A lecture on the circle."  My blog posting on April 18, 2014 -- available at this link -- shares "A lecture on the circle" -- and I offer the other below:

     A lecture on the cube     by Nichita Stanescu

        You take a piece of stone,
        chisel it with blood,
        grind it with Homer’s eye,
        burnish it with beams
        until the cube comes out perfect.       

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Mathematics Sets Sail . . .

     Each time I open a new issue of Scientific American I am delighted to turn to "Meter", a poetry feature begun in 2020 and edited by longtime science writer, Dava Sobel.  One of my early favorites in "Meter" (found here in the February, 2020 issue) is "Mathematical Glossolalia" by Jennifer Gresham -- and Gresham has given me permission to include the poem here:

     Mathematical Glossolalia     by Jennifer Gresham

     As though time could have a hobby
     we speak in eigenvalues, the harmonious
     oscillations in the green flash before sunset.

     We interpret raised to the power to mean
     you were taken in by numbers
     as a young babe & your childhood

     can be classified irrational. Euclid,
     Euler, the empty set's a nest atop a piling.
     If two words diverge on the open seas &

     the dot product is without derivative, the intercept
     can be found only by Venn diagrams on the tongue.
     Swallowed by wave functions, turning back, theorems

     to explain the circumference of illusion, good heavens,
     the sailboat's isosceles never goes slack.

Jen Gresham is founder of Work for Humanity; she has a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Maryland.  "Mathematical Glossolalia" is from her 2005 collection, Diary of a Cell, winner of the Steel Toe Books poetry prize, is available hereAt this link, a bit of background about the word "glossolalia".

Monday, January 9, 2023

Applied Mathematics -- in Spoken Word Poetry

     Lots of mathy poems are available on YouTube -- for example, recordings by poetry participants in Bridges Math-Arts conferences are available;  here is a link to a webpage (maintained by Sarah Glaz) for 2022 Bridges poets and poems .  Today I have been fascinated by and want to share some words from an Applied Mathematics YouTube video by spoken word poet Dan Simpson, a UK writer, performer, producer, and educator.  A few lines from the poem appear below, followed by a link to the video performance.

I love the curvature of your wave form the way you deviate from the norm .  . .  when we touch it's an electric storm . . .  if you were described by numbers they would all be trying this but like Heisenberg you're uncertain  . . .  this verse is in a language that you can understand bringing maths and poetry together in double helix sounds . . .  statistically speaking I'll make you laugh sooner or later . . .

     Dan Simpson's complete and very entertaining YouTube performance of Applied Mathematics is available here.  Other mentions in this blog of Dan's poem and other YouTube recordings may be found at this link.

Friday, January 6, 2023

AMS 2023 Math-Poetry Contest Winners

     This week, January 4-7, in Boston MA, more than a dozen national mathematics organizations are holding national meetings -- at a conference called the Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM).  This gathering includes a math-art exhibit and the celebration of winning poems in an math-poetry contest for students (sponsored by AMS, the American Mathematical Society).  The picture below is a portion of a poster that celebrates and publicizes the winning poems,  (The complete poems are available here at the AMS website.)

This is the top section of a poster of AMS 2023 winning mathy poems.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Celebrate the life of John Sims

      These days I am celebrating the life -- and mourning the passage -- of mathy-artist-writer and fighter for human rights, John Sims, who died last month of a heart attack at the young age of 54.  Here are three of the many headlines (with links to articles) that celebrate his life and mourn his death.  (I encourage readers also to search online for "John Sims" to learn more about his many, many ventures and achievements.}

From the Sarasota Herald-TribuneJohn Sims, Sarasota-based conceptual artist and former Ringling professor, dies at 54

From ArtReview, John Sims, artist who confronted American racism has died

From Sarasota Magazine, Remembering Sarasota Artist John Sims  . . . "Sims, who died earlier this week, spent decades producing provocative art that touched on racism, mathematics and much more . . ."

From WUSF Public Media, John Sims, prominent Sarasota artist and former Ringling instructor, dies at 54

I first met John Sims early in 2010 at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City.  He was poet-in-residence there and had invited mathy poets and artists to participate in a Sims project called  "Rhythm of Structure."   A booklet featuring exhibit items -- with a varied selection of poetry and art, by Sims and others (including a poem by me) -- is available online here.  Here is the cover with images of visual poetry by Sims.