Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mathematical Modeling

My friend and colleague, University of Connecticut mathematician Sarah Glaz, is an accomplished poet and is active in coordinating math-poetry activities -- via her website, the annual BRIDGES Conference, the anthology Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics . . . .  Here is one of her mathy poems -- this one a pantoum, first published in London Grip.

Mathematical Modelling     by Sarah Glaz

Mathematical modelling may be viewed
As an organizing principle
That enables us to handle
A vast array of information      

August 2015 (and prior) -- titles, dates of posts

Scroll down to find titles and dates of posts so far in 2015.  
And follow these links for each year to to go to lists of posts through 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 -- and all the way back to March 2010 when this blog was begun. This link leads to a SEARCH BOX for the blog and this link leads to a PDF file of searchable topics and names of poets and mathematicians presented herein.

Aug 31  The answer is NO
Aug 27  Hate Math -- 21 Reasons (NOT) . . . 
Aug 23  Three (or fewer) choices
Aug 18  Caught in an infinite loop . . ..
Aug 14  Primes and a paradox
Aug 12  Reservation Mathematics 

Monday, August 31, 2015

The answer is NO

This past weekend I have much enjoyed reading Mathematics:  a novel  by Jacques Roubaud  (Dalkey Archive Press, reprint 2010, translated from the French by Ian Monk); Roubaud is a mathematician, poet, and member of the OULIPO.  And here is a found poem from Chapter 1:
          posed to a
          lively colleague:

          do you tell your
          dancing partners
          that you practice

For me, like so many of us -- females especially -- revelation of a connection to mathematics leads to an awkward moment, an impediment to a possible relationship.  And so we say things like "I am at the university" or "I am doing some writing" or . . .

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hate Math -- 21 Reasons (NOT) . . .

Two four-letter words that I want NEVER to be used TOGETHER are hate and math.  A lively contradiction to my wish is provided by the following piece by slam poet Shappy Seasholtz.

(For details on the World Poetry Slam to be held in Washington DC on Oct. 7-10, 
scroll down to the bottom of this posting.)

21 Reasons Why I Hate Math     by Shappy Seasholtz

1 - It's my worst subject.
2 - I failed Algebra in high school.
3 - When I retook Algebra in high school during the final exam the principal announced that the space shuttle had just blown up.
4 - The space shuttle probably blew up because of a mathematical error. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Three (or fewer) choices

Here is a link to an anthology of English translations of work by Chilean poet and mathematician, Nicanor Parra.   Some rank Nicanor Segundo Parra Sandoval (born 5 September 1914) among the most important poets of Spanish language literature.   Parra describes himself as an "anti-poet," having a distaste for poetic pomp and function; after recitations he exclaims "Me retracto de todo lo dicho" ("I take back everything I said").  I posted Parra's small poem "Thoughts" here in October, 2010-- and below I offer another example of Parra's play with ideas and words and numbers:   

       The Last Toast   by Nicanor Parra

       Whether we like it or not,
       We have only three choices:
       Yesterday, today and tomorrow.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Caught in an infinite loop . . ..

Philadelphian Marion Cohen has been a mathematician since girlhood and a poet almost that long.  Besides her mathematics and writing, she teaches an interdisciplinary math-and-literature course at Arcadia University.  Here is a sample of Cohen's math poetry -- which imaginatively links mathematics to everyday life, sort of -- from her recent collection, Parables for a Rainy Day (Green Fuse Press, 2013).

Weirdness at 22nd and Walnut     by Marion D. Cohen    

Friday, August 14, 2015

Primes and a paradox

       Canadian poet Alice Major has loved and admired science and mathematics since girlhood and this background brings to her mathy poems both charm and amazement -- qualities that those of us who seriously studied mathematics easily lack.  At the recent BRIDGES conference I had a chance to hang out with Alice for a while and to purchase her latest collection, Standard Candles  (University of Alberta Press, 2015). Such fun to experience her views of infinities and paradoxes, of triangles and symmetries and formulas and ... .  
     Alice has given me permission to post two of her poems here; read on and enjoy "The god of prime numbers" and "Zeno's paradox."  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Reservation Mathematics

Both a talented writer and an articulate conveyor of the culture of American Indians, Sherman Alexie is a Spokane / Coeur d’Alene Indian from Wellpinit, Washington.  Besides several collections of poetry, Alexie has published novels and short-stories; he wrote the screen-play for the 1998 film, Smoke Signals.  "Reservation Mathematics"  is from Alexie's poetry collection First Indian on the Moon, (Hanging Loose Press, 1993) and was previously posted in this blog in January 2011.

Reservation Mathematics     by Sherman Alexie

Monday, August 10, 2015

Found on Facebook

A numerical poem, recently found on Facebook -- at this link:

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Buffalo 66

     Nearly twenty years ago, in the formative years of River Poets (in Bloomsburg, PA), Jim Murray from Shamokin, then a student at Bloomsburg University) and I both were part of the group that gathered at Phillips Emporium for monthly poetry readings.  We became friends who kept in touch as he traveled to South Dakota and South Korea -- and I almost got to hear him read in Bloomsburg last month. 
     In recent weeks I have been enjoying journeying with Jim across the years and miles, seeing his reflections and insights (and sense of humor) as revealed through his poetry collections, Almost Normal (, 2012) and Normal:  The Last Ride of a Poet (, 2015).  Moreover, a visit to Murray's Hard Coal Studios website reveals other facets of his creative activity -- his comics, his ghost stories, his novella, and more.    Here is a sample (a short poem from Almost Normal) set in the old Capitol Theatre (now a restaurant) located along Main Street in Bloomsburg back in the 90s when single theaters were losing viewers to multiplexes.

Monday, August 3, 2015

MatHEmatics / MatSHEmatics

     Last week at the 2015 BRIDGES Math-Arts Conference in Baltimore I gave a short talk on using poetry to celebrate and inspire math girls and women, to recognize achievements and to encourage speaking out -- and also to encourage staying and building community in what often is now a lonely field.  Through a poem we can open doors that help us to talk about difficult issues -- such as isolation or loneliness or misgivings or discrimination. 
     A time-clock at BRIDGES kept me from saying all that I would have wished --  I would like to have quoted the following lines, spoken by a girl and found in "Hanging Fire" by Caribbean-American poet Audre Lorde (1934-1992).

from   Hanging Fire      by Audre Lorde 

          Nobody even stops to think
          about my side of it
          I should have been on the Math Team
          my marks were better than his . . .  

July 2015 (and prior) -- titles, dates of posts

Scroll down to find titles and dates of posts so far in 2015.  
And follow these links for each year to to go to lists of posts through 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 -- and all the way back to March 2010 when this blog was begun. This link leads to a SEARCH BOX for the blog and this link leads to a PDF file that lists searchable topics and names of poets and mathematicians presented herein.
   Jul 28  Algebra (sort of) in a short story
   Jul 25  Math and Poetry and Climate
   Jul 21  The culture for women in math and the sciences
   Jul 19  Terror/Mathematics
   Jul 16  Celebrating Ada Lovelace

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Algebra (sort of) in a short story

 Tomorrow I head to Baltimore for the BRIDGES Math-Arts Conference.
Explore the conference program at this link.  Would love to see you there!
It is my occasional delight to learn of a new mathy poem in an email message from Francisco José Craveiro de Carvalho, a Portuguese mathematician who loves poetry and has translated many math-related poems to and from his native language -- a seeker and finder of such poems who shares them with me.  (See also 23 October 2010, 17 September 2013, and 24 December 2014.)  A recent message from this friend alerted me to "Problem," an algebra-like short story (?prose poem?) by prize-winning author Lydia Davis. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Math and Poetry and Climate

Canadian poet Madhur Anand is also an Environmental Scientist; her love of nature and concerns for preserving a habitable climate pervade her work -- and she also scatters throughout it some mathematics.  You can imagine my delight when I found in her new collection (A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes) a poem (included below) that features the identity matrix.  Read on!

No Two Things Can Be More Equal    by Madhur Anand

In undergrad I learned about the identity 
matrix. Ones on the main diagonal and zeros 
elsewhere. Anything multiplied by it is itself. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The culture for women in math and the sciences

Perhaps the phrase "ordinary" women scientists is an oxymoron -- but it should not be.  Women should be free to populate the full range of aspiration and dedication to science or any other profession.   In this spirit, I offer below the opening lines of a thought-provoking poem, "Ordinary Women Scientists," by science writer and poet Mary Alexandra Agner, from the excellent and important anthology Raising Lilly Ledbetter:  Women Poets Occupy the Workspace.

     Here are links to several recent items about math-women:
Here is a report of a panel at Harvard discussing roles of women in mathematics. 
Here is a link to the Women in Maths Facebook page where visitors 
may post information and offer support for math women.
This link leads to my poem celebrating Emmy Noether.  Here we celebrate Caroline Herschel.
Here at is a place to find all sorts of math-links.

     from    Ordinary Women Scientists          by Mary Alexandra Agner       
                                                                                      for R.C.
      leave the lab late, flasks washed and waiting,
      computer on an overnight crunch job,
      warm dinner in the microwave
      while wondering at excited water molecules,
      wave their kids goodnight, grateful    

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Several friends have sent me links to the poem "Terror/Mathematics" by Zeina Hashem Beck -- written after the beheading of 21 Christian Egyptians in Libya in February 2015 and published online here in One Throne Magazine.  To illustrate the style (with some mathematical symbols) and the power of the poem I offer the first couple of stanzas below -- and invite you to go to the One Throne website for all seven stanzas.

from   Terror/Mathematics     by Zeina Hashem Beck

                   After the beheading of 21 Christian Egyptians in Libya, February 2015

Try calculated, think math.
Capture and + the numbers,
- the Muslims.  21 is what you are

left with, which is 3 x 7.  Any multiple of 3
is blasphemous, is  √all evil,
and we will / its neck open. 

Islam is an X
in an equation we never    . . .                  (You may go here for the rest . . . )

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Celebrating Ada Lovelace

Recently I have purchased the anthology, Raising Lilly Ledbetter:  Women Poets Occupying the Workplace (edited by Caroline Wright, M.L. Lyons & Eugenia Toledo, Lost Horse Press, 2015), and have found in it dozens of wonderful poems, including several that celebrate women of science.  Below I offer a poem by New York poet Jo Pitkin that honors Ada Lovelace (1815-1852).  

Bird, Moon, Engine     by Jo Pitkin

Like a fence or a wall to keep me from harm,
tutors circled me with logic, facts, theorems.
But I hid the weeds growing wild in my mind.

By age five, I could plot the arc of a rainbow.
I could explain perpendicular and parallel.
In my mind, I heard the wind in wild weeds. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Visual-mathematical poetry

      The poems that I write and most of the poems that I include in this blog use mathematical patterns to structure their lines and stanzas or mathematical terminology in their content -- but blogger Kaz Maslanka is a mathematical poet who does something different:  his creations involve mathematical operations and symbols as well as words.  For example, the following visual poem -- involving symbols for "equals" and "divided by" -- comes from a recent posting (in his blog, "Mathematical Poetry") of what Maslanka calls an orthogonal space poem.

"Winning" -- a visual poem by Kaz Maslanka in a form related to the formula for the area of a rectangle,  A = lw or, alternatively, w = A/l.  (Double-click on the image to enlarge it.)

During July 29-August 1, 2015, Kaz Maslanka and I both plan to participate 
in the BRIDGES Math-and-the-Arts Conference at the University of Baltimore -- 
sharing our poetry and enjoying the work of others.  
Join us if you can; no registration fee is required for Friday "Family Day" events 
which include a poetry reading.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Math fun with song lyrics

Song-writer Bill Calhoun is a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics, Computer Science and Statistics at Pennsylvania's Bloomsburg University (where I also hung out for many years). He belongs, along with colleagues Erik Wynters and Kevin Ferland, to a band called "The Derivatives."  And Bill has granted permission for me to include several of his math lyrics (parodies) here. (In this previous post, we consider the connection between song parodies and mathematical isomorphism.)  My first Calhoun selection deals with difficult mathematical questions concerning classification of infinite sets and decidability.  Following that, later lyrics consider proving theorems and finding derivatives.

Questions You Can’t Ever Decide*      by Bill Calhoun

(These lyrics match the tune of  "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by Lennon and McCartney.)

Picture yourself in  a world filled with numbers,
But the numbers are really just words in disguise.
Gödel says “How can you prove you’re consistent,
If you can’t tell that this is a lie?”    

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Things to Count On

Tomorrow is my mother's birthday.  Born in 1912, she has been gone for several years now -- and tomorrow my sons and I will travel to Indiana, Pennsylvania to visit her grave and the farmhouse where I grew up.  In honor of my mother, I post this poem (also posted on October 1, 2010) that enumerates ways that numbers were vital in my early life.

Things to Count On            by JoAnne Growney  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Counting Years -- in p'Bitek's Song of Lawino

Okot p'Bitek (1931-1982) was a Ugandan poet; one of his central concerns was that African literature should be built on African rather than European foundations.  His epic poem Song of Lawino (East African Publishing House, 1966) is a narrative poem written in the voice of Lawino who appeals to her husband Ocol to stay true to his own customs, and to abandon his desire to be white.  Here is a section of that poem that addresses a system for counting years.

from   Song of Lawino      by Okot p'Bitek

       Ocol tells me
       Things I cannot understand,      

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Voice Meant to be Spoken

     Last month the Library of Congress named a new poet laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, a Californian and Mexican-American whose work often involves oral performance  - as in “187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border,” (City Lights, 2007).  As I have learned about this poet I have found that I identify with his process,  "I write while I’m walking, on little scraps of paper,” he said.  (Wasn't walking also a writing strategy for William Wordsworth?)
     When I am introduced to the work of a new poet it has become my custom not only to enjoy her or his work but also to look for the ways that she or he uses mathematics.  The following poem is found, along with others by Herrera, at   

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sex, Maths, and the Brain

I found this poetry in an abstract (with a link posted at "Women in Maths" on Facebook) for a lecture by Professor Gina Rippon entitled "Sex, Maths, and the Brain" at Aston University in Birmingham, England, on 30 June 2015.  Enjoy!

Is there such a thing as a maths 
brain? Are mathematicians born 
or made?  Is the lack of girls 
in maths subjects 
a 'brain' problem?

June 2015 (and prior) -- titles, dates of posts

Scroll down to find titles and dates of posts so far in 2015.  
And follow these links for each year to to go to lists of posts through 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 -- and all the way back to March 2010 when this blog was begun. This link leads to a SEARCH BOX for the blog and this link leads to a PDF file that lists searchable topics and names of poets and mathematicians presented herein.

Jun 29  Celebrating angles and rainbows . . .
Jun 27  The power of eleven
Jun 24  Found poetry -- Mary Cartwright
Jun 22  Uncertainty . . .
Jun 21  Seeing the NEWS in square stanzas

Monday, June 29, 2015

Celebrating angles and rainbows . . .

 M A R R I A G E
       A     A
       T     Y  

And let me add a bit of mathematics -- for my friends (both gay and straight) who love to play with language:
           A recent New Yorker article  ("Go Ask Alice" by Anthony Lane, 6-8-15,48-54) 
          on Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) offered this quote -- this "found" poem:

            Obtuse anger
            is that which is greater
            than right anger.

This year, 2015, marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The power of eleven

One of my recent poetry acquisition treasures is Measure for Measure:  An Anthology of Poetic Meters, edited by Annie Finch and Alexandra Oliver (Everyman's Lbrary, 2015).  From a DC poet and friend, Paul Hopper, a few weeks ago I received comments about one of the sections of this collection  -- a section containing stanzas in hendecasyllabics, that is, in 11-syllable lines  Hopper has sent a sample quatrain of hendecasyllabics that points to "Into Melody" by Lewis Turco.  A bit of mathematical terminology is found in the opening lines of Peter Kline's "Hendecasyllabics for Robert Frost" -- and I offer these samples below.

Hopper's quatrain:

Someone should build a large dodecahedron,
with a poem in hendecasyllabics
on each pentagonal face except the base.
I'd start with this poem by Lewis Turco. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Found poetry -- Mary Cartwright

Recently I have been reading about mathematician Mary Cartwright (1900-1998) and working to develop a poem about her -- relying on a fine article/interview by my friend Jim Tattersall published in the The College Mathematics Journal (September 2001).  Her work on the foundations of chaos theory was prominently presented in a 2013 BBC News article.   A couple of days ago my acquisition of Rachel Swaby's book -- Headstrong Women:  52 Women Who Changed Science and the World  (Broadway Books, 2015) -- added to my information about Cartwright.  Here, from quotations offered by Tattersall and Swaby, are some of Cartwright's poetic words (reflecting on the ages and genders of mathematicians). First, speaking of her employment at Cambridge:

I regret to say that my impression 
when I began research was that, in general,
less qualified men were employed quite a lot, 

which eliminated some quite good women.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Uncertainty . . .

     Sometimes we find things of great value when we are looking for something else -- in fact, Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges has said, The best way to find a good thing is to go looking for something else . . .
     One of my recent stumbles (while looking for work by Borges) was onto the website of Robert Ronnow -- and I have found it a fun place to browse.  Here is a sample, a poem from his recent collection, The Scientific Way to Do Mathematics:

Uncertainty       by Robert Ronnow

                                                       --with a line by Pico Iyer

There cannot be two identical things in the world. Two
hydrogen atoms
offer infinite locations within their shells for electrons.
Thus, nothing can be definitely eventually known. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Seeing the NEWS in square stanzas

Reading today's Washington Post, a surprising statistic:

               Sharks don't kill
               as   many
               as cows do.
In the years 2001 to 2013 in the US an average of 20 deaths annually were caused by cows, 
compared with 1 during each of those years from sharks.

Also, Pope Francis has spoken out, expressing his concerns for our environment:

               Pope Francis,
               like me, sees
               climate change--

               a real

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Judith Grabiner and Howard Nemerov

     Last evening at the Distinguished Lecture Series sponsored by the MAA it was my privilege to hear an outstanding presentation by Judith Grabiner entitled "Space: Where Sufficient Reason Isn't Enough."  (I invite you to go to the MAA website to learn more about Grabiner and her talk.)
     Grabiner is a math-woman I have long admired and, after the lecture, while I was shaking her hand and thanking her for the excellent presentation, I took a moment to ask her if she had any favorite mathy poems.  Although surprised by my question she was able to cite Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnet XLIII  that counts the ways of love -- a few lines of which are found here -- and the name Howard Nemerov, whom readers of this blog know is one of my favorite poets.
     You may scroll down to find Nemerov's "Magnitudes" (found also at and along with other work by this fine poet).  Poet Laureate of the United States during 1988-1990, Howard Nemerov  (1920-1991) served as a combat pilot during World War II and maintained a continuing interest in the stars and navigation.  Here are links to my earlier postings of poems by this favorite poet.

"Two Pair"      "Grace to Be Said at the Super Market"
"Lion and Honeycomb"     "Creation Myth on a Mobius Band"
"To David, About His Education"     "Found Poem"    "Figures of Thought"

And here, expressing concerns about our planet, is Nemerov's "Magnitudes":

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Imagine a Fractal

California poet Carol Dorf is also a math teacher and is poetry editor of the online journal TalkingWriting.  In the most recent issue of Talking-Writing is this fascinating poem by Brooklyn poet, Nicole Callihan, "How to Imagine a Fractal."  Enjoy Callihan's poetic play with recursion and infinite nesting -- be lulled by the back and forth of forever.

Carol Dorf's work has appeared in this blog:
and a poem about fear of math is posted here.

How to Imagine a Fractal     by Nicole Callihan 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Square stanzas for Women in Maths

in Maths --

it all
adds up.

     Go here for "It All Adds Up" -- a story in plus Magazine by Rachel Thomas about the recent Women in Maths conference sponsored by the London Mathematical Society.
     And if you know of POEMS that celebrate women in mathematics, please contact me (email address at bottom of blog) or post a link in the comments to this post.

Friday, June 5, 2015

A portrait of TB in numbers

Poet Sarah Browning recently directed me to "Tuberculosis in Numbers," a fine poem by M. Brett Gaffney that appears in the latest issue of Rogue Agent.  The poem opens this way:

Tuberculosis in Numbers     by M. Brett Gaffney

        “In the past, we have been unable to get a true picture of the TB situation
        in Louisville due to the method of keeping statistics.” – Dr. Oscar O. Miller

Two weeks coughing when the mother’s only son
finds three bloody tissues—thinks of maple leaves.

Ten days at the sanatorium, four ribs taken. One father teaches
his boy how to wait by filling in crossword puzzles—
twelve across, seven letters: to eat or devour.  

The boy’s mother dies four months after his thirteenth birthday.
Tuesday morning at nine, it rains. His father smokes one cigarette, two.
Men come and take her body away. Under the sheet, ten toes.

One priest. Four lines of scripture. . . .

Gaffney's complete poem is available here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

17 syllables -- and other art

What is he talking about?  What does he mean?
The thought-provoking riddle posed by these 17 syllables (presented here as 3 square stanzas) from Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)  is something I found on the the wall of the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome, not far from a replica of "Fountain" by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968).  Photos of both are shown below.

What you are
as a gift 

is a 

for you 
to solve.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Add and subtract to get . . . a minimalist poem

Thinking today of poet Bob Grumman (1941-2015) with special gratitude for the way he expanded my poetic horizons.  For example, he introduced me to this addition-subtraction minimalist poem by LeRoy Gorman -- called "the day":

                          un + s = up;
                          up - s = un.

More information about Gorman and several more poetry samples are available here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Galileo in Florence

Poetry found in the words of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642):

"Philosophy is written in this grand book,
the universe, which stands continually
open to our gaze. 

But the book cannot be understood unless one first 

learns to comprehend the language and read the letters
in which it is composed.

It is written in the language of mathematics,

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

In the Tuscan sun

in Pisa
of Fibonacci,
mathematician in the sun.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sonnets from The Voyage of the Beagle

 The sonnet is a song of the body as well as of the mind:
14 breaths    
5 heartbeats each breath

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to be part of a poetry reading that also featured Rick Mullin -- who serves science as an editor of the Chemical and Engineering News -- and whose latest poetry book is a collection of sonnets that offer a magical and musical retelling of  Darwin's voyage -- in Sonnets from The Voyage of the Beagle (Dos Madres Press, 2014). Here are two selections from that collection -- the opening sonnet (first of a triptych) and a later one that features geometry of birds.

     After Uranus     by Rick Mullin
      On reading Richard Holmes 


     There was an age when poetry and science
     shared the province of discovery,
     when Coleridge wished he's studied chemistry
     and Humphry Davy, in exact defiance
     of the Royal Society, blew things up.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Folk music -- counting syllables

Learn about and support Women in Mathematics.  
One place to do that is here

Using 4x4 and 2x2 syllable-squares, I emphasize the counting that lies behind folk music in the following selection from "Some Walls" (lyrics by Mary Ann Kennedy, Pamela Rose, Randy Sharp -- but line breaks are mine), recorded by Peter, Paul, and Mary:

          Some walls

          Some walls are made
          of stone.  Sometimes
          we build our own.
          Some walls can stand 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Stars and men revolve in a cycle . . .

In a book-discussion group in which I participate, we are reading some of the short fiction of Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) and that reading has provoked me to dive again into my copy of his Selected Poems (Ed. Alexander Coleman, Penguin, 1999).  Here is one of Borges' poems that uses terminology from mathematics:

The Cyclical Night     by Jorge Luis Borges
                                             tr. Alistair Reid (1926-2014)
          to Sylvina Bullrich

 They knew it, the fervent pupils of Pythagoras:
 That stars and men revolve in a cycle,
 That fateful atoms will bring back the vital
 Gold Aphrodite, Thebans, and agoras. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Include Arts in STEM -- and have STEAM !

Welcome to this blog where we support STEAM !

 math-student, performance-poet Harry Baker's 
"A love poem for lonely prime numbers"

A bit more about Harry Baker can be found in this May 23, 2014 posting
In May 2015 visit Takoma Park Community Center Galleries for a STEAM exhibit organized by visual artist and poetry-lover Shanthi Chandrasekar.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Balancing Opposites -- Tagore's Epigrams

Many important mathematical ideas occur as pairs of opposites:
         -2 and +2 (additive inverses), 5 and 1/5 (multiplicative inverses),  
         bounded and unbounded, rational and irrational, 
         convergent and divergent, finite and infinite
Some other familiar mathematical notions occur often in contrasting pairs but are not fully opposites:
         horizontal and vertical, positive and negative, 
         open and closed, perpendicular and parallel

Recently I have returned to reading work by Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1931; Bengal, India;  winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature) and I enjoy reflecting on contrasts posed by this reflective poet in a series of "Epigrams":

Epigrams      by Rabindranath Tagore

I will close my door to shut out all possible errors.
"But how am I to enter in?" cried Truth.  

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Lines of breathless length

Brief reflections on definitions of LINE . . .

          Breathless length     by JoAnne Growney

          A LINE, said Euclid, lies evenly
          with the points on itself
          that is, it’s straight –-
          and Euclid did (as do my friends)
          named points as its two ends.

          The LINE of modern geometry

          escapes these limits
          and stretches to infinity.
          Just as unbounded lines
          of poetry.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A poem for your pocket

Years ago, when "Poem in Your Pocket Day" (April 30) was first celebrated, we did not have cellphones to carry poems with us easily.  Here is a tiny but memorable poem for you to carry with you tomorrow -- on your phone or in your pocket -- a poem to open and read, again and again.

     Addition     by Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

     7 x 7 + love =
     An amount
     Infinitely above:
     7 x 7 − love.

Hughes' poem "Addition" is found in Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics (A K Peters, 2008) and was first posted in this blog, along with other poems linked to Black History Month on February 20, 2011.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Geometry of baseball

Many poems are written of baseball; a few of them involve mathematics --  see the posting for April 9, 2010 for math-related baseball poems by Marianne Moore (1877-1972) and Jerry Wemple; see the posting for September 18, 2011 for one by Jonathan Holden.
     Today I feature the opening stanza from a baseball poem by Pennsylvania poet, Le Hinton.

from   Our Ballpark    by Le Hinton

       This is the place where my father educated us:
       an open-air school of tutelage and transformation.
       This is where we first learned
       to count to three, then later to calculate the angle
       of a line drive bouncing off the left field wall.
       We studied the geometry and appreciated the ballet
       of third to second to first, a triple play.
              . . .

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day -- April 22, 2015

Consider today the thoughtful words of this sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950):

     Read history: so learn your place in Time
     And go to sleep: all this was done before;
     We do it better, fouling every shore;
     We disinfect, we do not probe, the crime.
     Our engines plunge into the seas, they climb
     Above our atmosphere: we grow not more
     Profound as we approach the ocean's floor;
     Our flight is lofty, it is not sublime.
     Yet long ago this Earth by struggling men
     Was scuffed, was scraped by mouths that bubbled mud;
     And will be so again, and yet again;
     Until we trace our poison to its bud
     And root, and there uproot it: until then,
     Earth will be warmed each winter by man's blood.

These lines are found on my shelf in Collected Sonnets (Revised and Expanded Edition) by Edna St. Vincent Millay (Harper & Row, 1988).  AND, recall the arithmetic of a sonnet:  14 lines (or breaths) and 5 iambs (or heartbeats) per line. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

April celebrates Math and Poetry

     April is National Poetry Month and Mathematics Awareness Month. Yesterday I was able to attend several of the popular and crowded events at the National Math Festival (Here's a link to "A Field Guide to Math on the National Mall" where you can see photos of items pointed out to yesterday's visitors.) and tomorrow evening (April 20) I will be part of a reading that features poetry of math and science at the DC Science Cafe (at Busboys & Poets, 5th &K Streets, 6:30 PM).  
     For tomorrow evening's reading I intend to wear my red-peppers earrings; one of the poems I will offer will be "A Taste of Mathematics" (from my collection Red Has No Reason and posted in its entirety at this link). Here is the poem's final stanza:

            She said, "Hot peppers
            are like mathematics —
            with strong flavor
            that takes over
            what they enter." 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Remembering Abraham Lincoln

Today -- April 14, 2015 -- marks the 150th birthday of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865) and April 15 is the date on which he died. Lincoln loved poetry and trained his reasoning with Euclid's geometry.  Here is a brief sample of his own poetry (found -- along with other samples -- at

       Abraham Lincoln     by Abraham Lincoln

       Abraham Lincoln
       his hand and pen
       he will be good but
       god knows When

From my copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (Signet Classics, 1955), from the section "Memories of Lincoln," I have copied these well-known and thoughtful (and non-mathematical) lines:

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Time is no straight line . . .

Swedish poet and Nobel Laureate Tomas Transtromer (1931-2015) died last month. At his website I found this poem that reflects on the arithmetic and geometry of life:

Reply to a Letter    by Tomas Transtromer

In the bottom drawer I find a letter which arrived for the first time twenty- six years ago. A letter written in panic, which continues to breathe when it arrives for the second time.

A house has five windows; through four of them daylight shines clear and still. The fifth window faces a dark sky, thunder and storm. I stand by the fifth window. The letter.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Man Ray's "Human Equations"

     Art lovers in Washington, DC have the opportunity (until 5/10/15) to see, on exhibit at The Phillips Collection, "Man Ray -- Human Equations: A Journey from Mathematics to Shakespeare." I visited the exhibit on February 19 on the occasion of a poetry reading by Rae Armantrout -- she presented work of hers that she felt captured the spirit of Man Ray's work.  (Bucknell poet Karl Patten, whom I had as a poetry teacher years ago, insisted that "Every Thing Connects" and, indeed, this is the title of one of the poems in Patten's collection The Impossible Reaches.  Both of these phrases that became titles for Patten seem also to describe Man Ray's and Armantrout's work:  they have taken seemingly disparate objects and reached across seemingly impossible gaps to relate them.  As often happens in mathematics.)   

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mathematics and poetry -- are the same ! ! !

Last week the Art Works Blog posted an interview with mathematician, poet, and translator, Enriqueta Carrington.  You will want to follow the link and read the whole thing.  Here is a paragraph:

quoting Enriqueta Carrington:
Mathematics and poetry are the same thing,
 or one is a translation of the other.

Well, perhaps that is an overstatement; 
but both math and poetry are about beautiful patterns, 
about creating, gazing at, and sharing them, 
and about appreciating those created by others.
It is not necessary to be a great mathematician or a great poet 
to enjoy this beauty, as I can tell you from my own experience.

Several years ago, at a time near the beginning of this poetry-math blog, in the posting for April 8, 2010, is a pantoum by Carrington.  And here is another of hers, this time a Fibonacci poem -- whose lines increase in word-count that matches the first eight Fibonacci numbers:  1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

April is . . . a time for math and poetry . . .

     Once upon a time
     I counted to the tenth prime
     and found a word to rhyme.

Tomorrow is not only April Fool's Day -- it also begins "National Poetry Month" and "National Mathematics Awareness Month."  I hope you will scroll down through this blog for math-poetry intersections -- and that you will like what you find and return for more.

(If you are near Washington, DC, consider a visit to MathFest on Saturday, April 18.)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Science Verse

Recently coincidence has brought to me two collections of poems about  science -- first, the 2014 issue of The Nassau Review, a gift from editor and poet Christina M. Rau. The second collection is a "used" children's book, Science Verse (by John Scieszka and Lane Smith) found at the wonderful Kensington Row Bookshop (scroll down their webpage to find out about their monthly poetry readings).  I include below two rhyming stanzas from Science Verse, followed two selections from The Nassau Review 2014 -- a poem by Diane Giardi which is a parody (or isomorphic image) of a nursery rhyme and a poem  by Katherine Hauswirth which may or may not consider infinity.
Hey Diddle Diddle

Hey diddle diddle, what kind of riddle
Is this nature of light?
Sometimes it's a wave,
Other times a particle . . .
But which answer will be marked right?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The problem of time

Californian Brenda Hillman is a poet whose work I like and admire.  In "Time Problem" she weaves prime numbers into a deft description of the dilemma of not enough time.

       Time Problem     by Brenda Hillman

       The problem
       of time.      Of there not being 
       enough of it.

       My girl came to the study
       and said Help me;
       I told her I had a time problem 
       which meant:
       I would die for you but I don’t have ten minutes. 
       Numbers hung in the math book 
       like motel coathangers. The Lean 
       Cuisine was burning