Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Thirst to Know HOW MANY?

    One of the important math-poetry projects that I have been involved in is Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics, a poetry anthology collected and edited by mathematician-poet Sarah Glaz and me -- published by AK Peters/CRC Press in 2008 and now available on Kindle and at various online used-book sites.

     A poem in Strange Attractors that I have been drawn to again recently is "Ode to Numbers" by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973).  Here are its opening lines: 

from  Ode to Numbers     by Pablo Neruda

          Oh, the thirst to know
          how many!
          The hunger
          to know
          how many
          stars in the sky!   

          We spent
          our childhood counting
          stones and plants, fingers and
          toes, grains of sand, and teeth,
          our youth was past counting
          petals and comets’ tails.
          We counted
          colors, years,
          lives, and kisses;
          in the country,
          oxen; by the sea,
          the waves. Ships
          became proliferating ciphers.
          Numbers multiplied.
          The cities
          were thousands, millions,
          wheat hundreds
          of units that held
          within them smaller numbers,
          smaller than a single grain.
          Time became a number.

            . . .                                         Neruda's complete poem is available here.

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