Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Choosing the GEOMETRIC SHAPE of a poem

      Structural constraints often govern the patterns we find in poetry -- well-known in poetic history are rhythm-and-rhyme patterns including the sonnet and the villanelle and the limerick, and the syllable-counting pattern of some Haiku.  Because many poems were shared orally, rather than in writing, patterns of counting and sound helped to ease the challenges of remembering.

     For me a wonderful source for learning about new poetic forms is the blog of poet Marian Christie -- a writer and scholar, born in Zimbawe and now living in England , who has studied and taught both mathematics and poetry.  In her very fine blog, Poetry and Mathematics, found here, Christie explores many of the influences that mathematics can have on poetry -- including, here in a recent posting, some effects transmitted by the SHAPE of a poem.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

EDGES -- as well as VERTICES -- are IMPORTANT!

G. H. Hardy (1877-1947) was a prominent English mathematician, well-known to mathematicians for his achievements in analysis and number theory -- and for his mentorship of the Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanajuan.  For most people outside of mathematics, Hardy is better known for his 1940 expository essay, A Mathematician's Apology; here are Hardy's opening sentences:

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Stimulate Math Class Discussion with Poems

     Sometimes teachers want to understand more about their students' attitudes and concerns about learning a particular subject.  Often, rather than asking direct questions like, "What is your difficulty?" or "Why don't you like geometry?" it can be useful to stimulate discussion with a poem.   The website of the Academy of American Poets, offers at this link a wide selection of poems about school subjects.  Scrolling down through this long list, eventually one comes to Poems for Math Class -- with poems for Algebra, Calculus, and Geometry.  

     One of the Academy's suggested poems is "Calculations" by Brenda Cardenas  -- I offer the first stanza below -- the complete poem is included here in this posting from November, 2017.  

          from    Calculations      by Brenda Cárdenas    

Friday, May 19, 2023

Measuring Infinity

      One of my recent excitements has been to learn about a current exhibit at New York's Guggenheim Museum, " Gego:  Measuring Infinity".  At the Guggenheim website for the exhibit, we learn:

Gego, or Gertrud Goldschmidt (b. 1912, Hamburg; d. 1994, Caracas), first trained as an architect and engineer at the Technische Hochschule Stuttgart (now Universität Stuttgart). Fleeing Nazi persecution in 1939, she immigrated to Venezuela, where she settled permanently, fully embarking on an artistic career in the 1950s that would span more than four decades. In two- and three-dimensional works across a variety of mediums, Gego explored the relationship between line, space, and volume

After visits to the Guggenheim website, I wanted more -- and I purchased a featured book, also entitled Gego: Measuring Infinity, and available at this link.  On page 19 of this lovely book, a bit of poetry.  Written in homage to Gego in 1979 by Venezuelan poet Alfredo Silva Estrado (1933-2009), the poem speaks of Gego's experimentation with structure, space, light, shadow, line, and grid.  Quoting from the Guggenheim book, we have Estrado's words:

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Mathematician of the Day

     On this date, May 16, in the year 1718, the talented Maria Agnesi was born.  A great source of historical information about mathematics and mathematicians is MacTutor, a math-history website maintained by the School of Mathematics and StatisticsUniversity of St Andrews, Scotland.  One of the services that MacTutor provides is a list of names and information about mathematicians born on each day of the year.  For example, this link leads to the listing for May 16 -- and to lots of info about Agnesi.  Here, in a 7x7 syllable-square, is a brief sketch of  her life:

Maria Agnesi's life --
a complicated story --
wealthy and intelligent, 
in love with mathematics,
also very talented--
wrote a teaching text about 
differential calculus.

This 2018 Scientific American blog posting by Evelyn Lamb discusses a curve from calculus, often called (somewhat misleadingly) "the witch of Agnesi."   Previous mentions of Agnesi in this blog may be found at this link.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Exploring the truth with a FIB

     Recently I have been reconnected with British-Israeli mathematician-educator, Yossi Elran  (whom I met at a conference in Banff several years ago).  Elran is well known for his puzzle-book, Lewis Carroll's Cats And Rats... And Other Puzzles With Interesting Tails (World Scientific, 2021).  He is in the process of writing a sequel to this book and it will include some math-poetry; probably some Fibs (poems  -- often with just 6 lines -- with syllable-counts per line that follow the Fibonacci numbers).   Elran's recent email query about Fibs helped me to remember that I had one waiting to be posted, a Fib about missed opportunities and status for women.  Here is is:

Exploring the truth with a FIB        by JoAnne Growney

Monday, May 8, 2023

Celebrate Hypatia

     Consilience is an online journal (edited by Sam Illingworth) that explores "the spaces where the sciences and the arts meet" -- and in the recent Issue 12 I have found a very special poem by British science writer Isabel Thomas that celebrates the pioneering math-woman, Hypatia of Alexandria (died 415 AD), one of the first women whose study and teaching of mathematics, astronomy and philosophy has been documented.  I offer several stanzas of "Rimae Hypatia" -- followed by a link to the complete poem.  

     Rimae Hypatia       by Isabel Thomas

                   The Rimae Hypatia is a lunar fissure named for Hypatia.

          In the greatest library of the ancient world
          turned her mind to 
          algebra, astronomy, geometry,
          examining the world from different angles.    

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Poetry and Mathematics are NOT Opposites

     Recently I found online -- at the Spectrum Magazine website -- a collection of poems by Florida poet Phillip Whidden.  One of these poems is entitled "Mathematics" -- and I offer its thoughtful and thought-provoking opening lines here. 

from   MATHEMATICS     by Phillip Whidden

        Mathematics is not the prose part of the mind, logical, 
                as in meaning the opposite of poetry,
        Not just set out in indented paragraphs of abstraction.
        This is a city where the streets are innocent of collisions,
        Where the options are always 0/1,
        Are right, left, straight,
        Though the results can rise
        Out in a gyring arc from a heliport,
        Up in a sweep from the long rectangle of the airport runway,
        Ocean liners pulling away in parabolas from straight-edged docks
        And nothing ever in reverse.
                 . . . . 

The rest of "Mathematics" and four other poems by Widden -- including "Super Binomial Byronic Poets" (which also has a bit of math) -- are available here

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Geometry and Sewing

     The mathematical ideas that I have mastered over the years spread out and infiltrate whatever I do and experience -- when the newspaper carrier throws my bagged Washington Post newspaper on the the porch in front of my second floor door, I wonder -- is the paper's curved path an arc of a circle, or a parabola?  Or ??? 

     Today, as I was sorting old newspapers and magazines into piles for saving or recycling or trashing, my items-to-sort included lots of copies of The New Yorker -- and the issue from May 16, 2022 had a page marked;  I opened it to find the poem "FEATHERWEIGHT" by Chase Twichell.   This poem reminded me how much my sewing activity connects to mathematics.  I offer below the poem's opening stanzas -- followed by a link to the complete poem online (both print and audio versions).

        FEATHERWEIGHT     by Chase Twichell

            At fourteen, I taught myself to sew
            on a Singer Featherweight,