Tuesday, March 28, 2023

MATHEMATICS and POETRY -- a balancing act!

     Recently I came across this article in Good Times -- a weekly newsletter from Santa Cruz County in California -- an article that features poet Gary Young and his two poet-sons -- one of whom (Cooper Young) chose to major in mathematics.  Quoting Cooper (from the Good Times article -- and referring to his father):

“He didn’t push poetry on me at all,” says Cooper, who recently graduated from Princeton University. “As I was growing up, poetry was always Jake’s interest. I was more of a science/math kind of guy. Then college came around and freshman year, I was looking for a fifth class. I figured I ought to know a little bit about what my father and my brother had dedicated their lives to. So I enrolled in a poetry class. And I really dug it.”

The poetry that I have found by Cooper Young is not mathy -- but it has led me to look back to one of my favorite mathematical poems  -- "To Divine Proportion," by Spanish poet Rafael Alberti (1902-99); I offer it below.

To Divine Proportion     by Rafael Alberti   
                                                                                  (translated from Spanish by
Carolyn L. Tipton)

          To you, amazing discipline,
          ratio:  source of beauty without flaw, 
          revering the rich life cloistered within 
          the armored confines of your sacred law.

          To you, the retina's beatific jail,
          golden section, squaring up to scale,
          mysterious wellspring of moderation
          that gives rise to harmonious Creation.

          To you, ocean of angulated dreams,
          flower of the five regular forms,
          blue dodecahedron, sonorous arc.

          You spark a kindled compass with your wings.
          A clear sphere is the song your theorem sings.
          To you, divine proportion, gold from dark.

"To Divine Proportion" is one of the poems included in Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group (A K Peters), 2008) edited by Sarah Glaz and me.  Here is a link to earlier postings in this blog that feature work by Rafael Alberti.   

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