Today, April 30, is the final day of Mathematics Awareness Month 2014; this year's theme has been "Mathematics, Magic and Mystery" and it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the most interesting men of mathematics; educated as a philosopher, Martin Gardner wrote often about mathematics and sometimes about poetry. Gardner described his relationship to poetry as that of "occasional versifier" -- he is the author, for example, of:

π goes on and on

And e is just as cursed

I wonder, how does π begin

When its digits are reversed?

## Wednesday, April 30, 2014

## Monday, April 28, 2014

### Words that warn

Somewhere in a high school English class was a small topic that intrigues me still -- "questions that expect the answer 'yes'." A door opened. Letting me see that what we say has expectations as well as information. In graduate school math classes we considered the warning word "obviously" -- in a proof, it was likely to mean "I'm sure it's true but am not able to explain."

As I muse today about language I am wondering how

As I muse today about language I am wondering how

*words affect the population of women in mathematics, affect the numbers (too small) of women publishing mathematics. Thinking about this in the light of a wonderful time on Saturday greeting visitors to an AWM (Association for Woman in Mathematics) booth at the biennial USA Science and Engineering Festival. Temple University professor and AWM member Irina Mitrea did an amazing job planning and coordinating the AWM booth where hundreds of young people got some hands-on experience with secret codes and ciphers.***unsaid**
Labels:
AWM,
cipher,
code,
elliptical,
Harryette Mullen,
Irina Mitrea,
mathematics,
poem,
Poetry Foundation

## Friday, April 25, 2014

### Too many selves

In my childhood home, numbers were used with care and precision. There would be teasing when I would use the adverb "too" --- as if when I said "I had to walk

Alone among the superheroes,

He failed to keep his life in balance.

Power Man, The Human Shark--they knew

To hold their days and nights in counterpoise,

Their twin selves divided together,

As a coin bears with ease its two faces.

*too*far" I had tried to describe an unbounded distance, greater than any possible span. Now as an adult I continue to be cautious (and intrigued) with use of that word. And I am drawn to the uses of "too many" and "count" in the following poem from David Orr, poetry columnist for the*New York Times Book Review*.**The Chameleon**by David OrrAlone among the superheroes,

He failed to keep his life in balance.

Power Man, The Human Shark--they knew

To hold their days and nights in counterpoise,

Their twin selves divided together,

As a coin bears with ease its two faces.

## Monday, April 21, 2014

### A Cento from Arcadia

Last week I had the enjoyable privilege of visiting with mathematician-poet Marion Cohen's math-lit class, "Truth and Beauty" at Arcadia University -- and the class members helped me to compose a Cento (given below), a poem to which each of us contributed a line or two of poetry-with-mathematics. Participants, in addition to Dr. Cohen and me, included these students:

Theresa, Deanna, Ian, Collin, Mary, Grace, Zahra, Jen, Jenna,

Nataliya, Adeline, Quincy, Van, Alyssa, Samantha, Alexis, Austin.

Big thanks to all!

Theresa, Deanna, Ian, Collin, Mary, Grace, Zahra, Jen, Jenna,

Nataliya, Adeline, Quincy, Van, Alyssa, Samantha, Alexis, Austin.

Big thanks to all!

## Sunday, April 20, 2014

### Remembering Nina Cassian

Exiled Romanian poet Nina Cassian (1924-2014) died last week in Manhattan. Cassian was an outspoken poet whom I admired for her political views; she also was connected to mathematics -- in her subject matter and her friends. (See, for example, this posting from January 31, 2011.)

If I dress up like a peacock,

you dress like a kangaroo.

If I make myself into a triangle,

you acquire the shape of an egg.

If I were to climb on water,

you'd climb on mirrors.

All our gestures

Belong to the solar system.

"Equality" is in

**Equality**by Nina CassianIf I dress up like a peacock,

you dress like a kangaroo.

If I make myself into a triangle,

you acquire the shape of an egg.

If I were to climb on water,

you'd climb on mirrors.

All our gestures

Belong to the solar system.

"Equality" is in

*Cheerleaders for a Funeral*(Forrest Books, 1992), translated by the author and Brenda Walker.
Labels:
Brenda Walker,
equality,
mathematics,
Nina Cassian,
poetry,
Romania,
triangle

## Friday, April 18, 2014

### Poetry of Romania - Nora School, Apr 24

During several summers teaching conversational English to middle-school students in Deva, Romania, I became acquainted with the work of Romanian poets. These included: Mikhail Eminescu (1850-1889, a Romantic poet, much loved and esteemed, honored with a portrait on Romanian currency), George Bakovia (1881-1957, a Symbolist poet, and a favorite poet of Doru Radu, an English teacher in Deva with whom I worked on some translations of Bacovia into English), Nichita Stanescu (1933-1983, an important post-war poet, a Nobel Prize nominee -- and a poet who often used mathematical concepts and images in his verse).

On April 24, 2014 at the Nora School here in Silver Spring I will be reading (sharing the stage with Martin Dickinson and Michele Wolf) some poems of Romania -- reading both my own writing of my Romania experiences and some translations of work by Romanian poets. Here is a sample (translated by Gabriel Praitura and me) of a poem by Nichita Stanescu:

On April 24, 2014 at the Nora School here in Silver Spring I will be reading (sharing the stage with Martin Dickinson and Michele Wolf) some poems of Romania -- reading both my own writing of my Romania experiences and some translations of work by Romanian poets. Here is a sample (translated by Gabriel Praitura and me) of a poem by Nichita Stanescu:

## Tuesday, April 15, 2014

### Dimensions of a soul

In the poem below, Young Smith uses carefully precise terms of Euclidean geometry to create a vivid interior portrait.

The shape of her soul is a square.

She knows this to be the case

because she often feels its corners

pressing sharp against the bone

just under her shoulder blades

and across the wings of her hips.

**She Considers the Dimensions of Her Soul**by Young SmithThe shape of her soul is a square.

She knows this to be the case

because she often feels its corners

pressing sharp against the bone

just under her shoulder blades

and across the wings of her hips.

## Saturday, April 12, 2014

### A Vector Space Poem

As a Columbia undergraduate, media artist Millie Niss (1973-2009) majored in mathematics and was enrolled in a math PhD program at Brown University when she decided to make writing her full-time career. Before her untimely death in 2009 Niss was well-established in Electronic Literature. Here is a link to "Morningside Vector Space," one of the poems at Niss's website Sporkworld (at Sporkworld, click on the the E-poetry link).

Niss's electronic poem retells a story (inspired by the Oulipian Raymond Queneau's

Niss's electronic poem retells a story (inspired by the Oulipian Raymond Queneau's

*Exercises de Style*) in many different styles and following many different constraints. The computer is central to the retelling as the text varies almost smoothly along two dimensions, controlled by the position of the mouse pointer in a colored square (to the right in the screen-shot below). Behind this poetry is the mathematical concept of a two-dimensional vector space, in which each point (or text) has a coordinate with respect to each basis vector (version of the text, or dimension along which the text can change).## Thursday, April 10, 2014

### Fractal Geometry

Lee Felice Pinkas is one of the founding editors of

Father of fractals, we were foolish

to expect a light-show from you,

hoping your speech would fold upon itself

and mimic patterns too complex for Euclid.

*cellpoems --*a poetry journal distributed via text message. I found her poem,"The Fractal Geometry of Nature" in the Winter/Spring 2009 Issue (vol.14, no 1) of*Crab Orchard Review*.**The Fractal Geometry of Nature**by Lee Felice Pinkas*Most emphatically, I do not consider**the fractal point of view as a panacea. . .**--Benoit Mandelbrot (1924-2010)*

Father of fractals, we were foolish

to expect a light-show from you,

hoping your speech would fold upon itself

and mimic patterns too complex for Euclid.

Labels:
Benoit Mandelbrot,
complex,
dimension,
Euclid,
fractal,
geometry,
Lee Felice Pinkas,
pattern,
repeated,
roughness,
self-similarity,
simple,
snowflake

## Monday, April 7, 2014

### April Celebrates Poetry and Mathematics

On April 1 (the first day of National

In her comment on "Can an Equation be a Poem?"

*Month and***Poetry***Awareness Month) Science writer Stephen Ornes offered a guest post at***Mathematics***The Last Word on Nothing*entitled "Can an Equation be a Poem?" and on April 2 the Ornes posting appeared again, this time in the blog*Future Tense*at Slate.com with the title "April Should Be*Mathematical Poetry*Month."In her comment on "Can an Equation be a Poem?"

*Scientific American*blogger Evelyn Lamb (*Roots of Unity*)*mentioned her math-poetry post on March 21 entitled "What T S Eliot Told Me About the Chain Rule." Lamb quotes lines from the final stanza "Little Gidding," the last of Eliot's**Four Quartets*. Here is the entire stanza with its emphasis on the mysteries of time and perspective, the circular nature of things, the difficulty of discovering a beginning.## Saturday, April 5, 2014

### Logic in limericks

In these lines, Sandra DeLozier Coleman (who participated in the math-poetry reading at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Baltimore in January) speaks as a professor reasoning in rhyme, explaining truth-value technicalities of the logical implication, "If p then q" (or, in notation,

That

Doesn’t say very much about

For if

Then there’s really no loss

In assuming that

**p -- > q ).****The Implications of Logic**by Sandra DeLozier ColemanThat

*p --> q*is true,Doesn’t say very much about

*q*.For if

*p*should be false,Then there’s really no loss

In assuming that

*q*could be, too.
Labels:
conditional,
false,
implication,
limerick,
logic,
professor,
Sandra DeLozier Coleman,
true

## Wednesday, April 2, 2014

### Can you SEE the monument?

**Links to non-intersecting celebrations of April**

**as National Poetry Month and Mathematics Awareness Month**

Recently I revisited my copy of

*Elizabeth Bishop: The Compete Poems, 1927-1979*(FSG, 1999) and turned to "The Monument" -- a poem mathematically interesting for its geometry. Here are the opening lines; the complete text and many other Bishop poems are available online here:

from

**The Monument**by Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)

Now can you see the monument? It is of wood

built somewhat like a box. No. Built

like several boxes in descending sizes

one above the other.

Each is turned half-way round so that

its corners point toward the sides

of the one below and the angles alternate.

Labels:
angle,
box,
Carol Frost,
cube,
Elizabeth Bishop,
half-way,
line,
monument,
parallel,
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