Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Life is Short

     These recent days in the reign of the 45th US President have given new drama to the word survival.  Looking for wisdom I revisited this poem, a survival-poem with a couple of numbers -- by Maggie Smith -- found at one of my favorite sources for poetry, PoetryFoundation.org.

Good Bones       by Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Girls can do EVERYTHING!

     In a conversation years ago with one my math colleagues at Bloomsburg University,  each of us learned that the other had grown up on a farm.  My colleague credited the problem-solving requirements of farm-life with being good training for mathematics. In time, I came to agree with him.  Some environments EXPECT you to be a problem-solver and, in spite of yourself, you comply.  I have tried to write poetically about this.  My efforts so far include these 3x3 syllable-square poems.

Girls who change                              
light-bulbs change                             
everything!                             

     Girls who prove
     theorems can
     do it all!

     And, here is a link to a recent NPR story about the underestimates that girls make about how smart they are -- so little has changed since I was a girl.  Hoping I can help to change things for my granddaughters!


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ultimately, all mathematics is poetry . . .

     A popular vote on the truth of "all mathematics is poetry" might not lead to its affirmation. Because mathematics is a concise language, with emphasis on placing the best words in the best order, it often is described by mathematicians and scientists as poetry.  Alternatively, and more accessible to most readers than poetic mathematics, we find verses by poets who include the objects and terminology of mathematics in their lines.
     Perhaps due to aesthetic distance (featured in The Art of Mathematics by Jerry King), non-math poets like Christina M. Rau are able to be more playful in their uses of mathematical vocabulary than mathematicians dare to be.  Enjoy below several stanzas from Rau's collection, Liberating the Astronauts -- which also includes titles like "Chasing Zero" and "Kepler's Laws" -- soon to be released by Aqueduct Press.

   from:     Overnight Rain      by Christina M. Rau

                    Rain over Night
                    Equals
                    X over Autumn   

Monday, January 23, 2017

All Mathematicians are Equal!

     Last Saturday's Women's March in Washington was one the great events of my lifetime -- the feeling of community that bonded us participants was palpable.  We chatted and hugged and celebrated our differences and our common ideals. Here is a photo of the sign that I carried and, beneath the sign, are links to poems about women in mathematics who struggled to be considered equal.

This is the sign I carried at the Women's March on January 21, 2017.

This link leads to "Hanging Fire" by Audre Lorde.  This link leads to a few words of mine, "Square Attitudes."  A posting on girls and mathematics includes samples from Sharon Olds and Kyoko Mori and is available here.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Dickens, from A Tale of Two Cities

     Today I am facing tomorrow and the inauguration ceremony of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States.  With many uncertainties and little mathematics in mind (see, however, math-poem link below), I have looked back to the opening words of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1812-1870). Published in 1859, these words echo some of my thoughts today.

       It was the best of times, 
       it was the worst of times, 
       it was the age of wisdom, 
       it was the age of foolishness, 
       it was the epoch of belief, 
       it was the epoch of incredulity, 
       it was the season of Light, 
       it was the season of Darkness, 
       it was the spring of hope, 
       it was the winter of despair, 
       we had everything before us, 
       we had nothing before us . . .

     Here is a link to a poem posted in 2014 that also features the words of Dickens.  Written by Halifax mathematician and poet Robert Dawson, that 2014 poem was formed by applying a mathematical procedure to a passage from Dickens' Great Expectations

Monday, January 16, 2017

Celebrate Martin Luther King

     Today is our public celebration of the January 15 birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr (1929-1968) who was both preacher and poet in the "I have a dream" speech he delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. 

Dr King's speech began with:

     Five score years ago, a great American,
     in whose symbolic shadow we stand
     signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
     This momentous decree came as a
     great beacon light of hope
     to millions of Negro slaves who had been
     seared in the flames of withering injustice.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Poems starring mathematicians

      One of the challenges posed by a multi-year blog is locating interesting old posts.  One of  my frequent early topics was "poems starring mathematicians" and I offer links to several of these from 2011 below:
     December 8 "Monsieur Probability" by Brian McCabe
     November 13  My abecedarian poems, "I Know a Mathematician" and "Mathematician" 
     July 5  "Fixed Points" by Susan Case -- about mathematicians in Poland during WWII
     July 2  "To Myself" by Abba Kovner
     January 30  "Mr Glusenkamp," a sonnet to a geometry teacher by Ronald Wallace
     January 28  "Mathematician" by Sherman K Stein

     And, here is a link, via PoemHunter.com to "The Mathematician in Love," a poem by William John Macquorn Rankine, a poem that appears also in the multi-variable  anthology, Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (AK Peters, 2008), edited by Sarah Glaz and me.  Here is the first (of 8) stanza of Rankine's entertaining poem:

          A mathematician fell madly in love
          With a lady, young, handsome, and charming:
          By angles and ratios harmonic he strove
          Her curves and proportions all faultless to prove.
          As he scrawled hieroglyphics alarming.

Friday, January 6, 2017

2017 is prime!

     For her December 31 posting in Roots of Unity (Scientific American blog) mathematician Evelyn Lamb wrote about favorite primes -- and starring in her list is our new year-number, 2017.
     My own relationship with primes also is admiring-- here is an excerpt from my poem, "Fool's Gold," (found in full here) that suggests a prime as a suitable birthday gift:

          Select and give a number.  I like large primes—
          they check my tendency to subdivide
          myself among the dreams that tease
          like iron pyrites in declining light.

     "Fool's Gold" appears in my chapbook, My Dance is Mathematics (Paper Kite Press, 2006); the collection is now out-of-print but is available online here
     Several poems about primes have been included in earlier postings in this blog.  For example, here is a link to a 2013 posting of "The Sieve of Erastosthenes" by Robin Chapman.  And, for further exploration, here is a link to the results of searching the six years of postings using the term "prime." 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

December 2016 (and prior) -- titles, dates of posts

Here are the titles and dates of previous blog postings,
moving backward from the present.
For mathy poems related to a particular mathy topic -- such as women in math or climate or triangle or circle or teacher or . . . -- click on a selected title below or enter the desired term in the SEARCH box in the right-hand column.  For example, here is a link to a selection of poems found using the pair of search terms "women  equal."  For poems about calculus, follow this linkTo find a list of useful search terms, scroll down the right-hand column. 

     Dec 31  Happy New Year! -- Resolve to REWARD WOMEN!
     Dec 27  Celebrate Vera Rubin -- a WOMAN of science!
     Dec 26  Post-Christmas reflections from W. H. Auden
     Dec 19  Numbers for Christmas . . .
     Dec 15  Remembering Thomas Schelling (1921-2016)
     Dec 12  When one isn't enough ... words from a Cuban poet