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.