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,
which I was an idiot to trade
years later when seduced by a Bernina.
As a child, I made clothes, costumes—
things a feral kid would wear, or Huckleberry Finn.
The only tricky part of sewing is the fitting,
making clothes that fit exactly right.
The actual sewing is easy—it’s just
manual dexterity, patience, and precision.
Fitting is geometry and math.
Geometry comes to me easily,
but math is an old childhood enemy.
Its door remains locked. Why?
. . . What makes some of us feel math as our enemy?
The rest of Twichell's poem is available here.
Chase Twichell has published eight poetry collections, including Things as It Is and Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been.
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