Monday, December 10, 2007

I sing the verses eclectic

I've just been granted leave to share a number of my students' poems with my readership! Much thanks to the students who have gotten back to me and let me put their work on display, both those of you who'd rather remain anonymous, and those who'd like their names plastered proudly on their work!

In no particular order, then, I give you...

Mathematical Poetry, volume 1

The first I pulled from the stack at random, a little ditty by Sam, features a hidden message (read every seventh letter starting in the right position, and you'll find it...I cheated and typed the text into Mathematica to get it to paste together every seven letters):

Though It's Early, I'll Be There Surely!, by Sam

My, the amazed small one
At hardish attention will surmount
A test ahead
By reading a bunch, in easy bed stead

At this you can be delighted
As we, farsighted
Show our faces
In our favorite old "Man, is it eight?" places

A math class adored
I named thy award
It's found in my 4th
My paper explains


This next one is a stroke of parodical genius...I hope Lisette didn't spend too much time working on this send-up. I have a hunch her background includes a measure or two of Shakespeare (and her nights a good deal of euphoria-inducing caffeine):

Mathbeth, by Lisette

Act lim_(x -> 1+) 2x + 2, Scene lim_(x -> infinity) x^(1/x)

Student: By the scratching of my pencil
The answer slowly this way comes.
Open, mind,
the catacombs
Of transcendental sums.
But hark! Look you how the utensil moves!
(Enter Pencil Stage Right)
Pencil: How now, caffeine-riddled youth
What is it you do?
Student: A quest without an end.
Pencil: Horrors! Not another, fiend!
Student: Yet by your yellow wood I swear
'Twas not by my own choice!
Pencil: However the task was first derived,
To a veteran of your caravans,
Make good this oath with eye and voice:
Look to the ink of stalwart pens
In your aimless waste if parchment.
For never will your proofs amend
Those errors in your quotient.
Day upon day you dulled my lead
As ere you chased the numbers 'round.
So many times I thought, perhaps
You'd finally reached your limit,
Then watched my world shake upside-down
To briskly hide your mishaps.
I grew quite bald from misadventures
With wild domains and vicious powers
No more! I say again, No more!
My lead is soft, my wood is fragile.
Find some youth with a liquid core
And a shiny plastic shell.
We of wooden constitution
Have failed our last equation.
(Exeunt Pencil)
Student: So I, alone
But for my mug of coffee black,
Must weary waste the night away
With a knavish rogue called BIC.
(Flourish, Exeunt)


Farrah's oeuvre was one of the finest of the pi-based poems I received. The imagery (as much olfactory as visual) that it conjures up is magnificent, and the ironical twist at the end is superb. In her words, "I chose the topic of this poem because I was extremely hungry...then my thoughts on food and frustration led me to think about Pi which is delicious food that make my apartment smell like pastry and fruit and it is a pretty neat number...My favorite thing about the poem is the shape the poem made when centered on the page."

I hope the Blogger's pagination will render a similar effect, Farrah!:

Motivation for a Sweet Tooth, by Farrah

Broccoli carrots kale
Garlic onion ginger tamari
Cooked in a hot wok
Delicious food fast from my two burner hot plate
Aroma fills
My tiny apartment for many days
One room living makes for
A constant smell
Garlic permeating the whole place
Maybe I should have made some delicious Pi


This next one is one of a handful of personal professions of mathematical affinity that I received. (I'm happy that some of my students are willing to own up to a love for mathematics!) Carrie's not the only one to speak of a certain "balance" or beauty in math, as you'll see below.

For Me, by Carrie

Some see it as confusion
Something messy, some ugly
Something they are forced to do.
I am not these
I see patterns everywhere
A balance here that is seldom elsewhere
There are answers, solutions
And it's not hard
For me

But I talk to different people
They avoid it
Keep it at a distance,
Far far away
Higher levels
Fewer people
People think that you are crazy
It's still not that hard
For me

Everyone has things they are good at
Some have writing
Some have art and music
Some will go on to speak to the masses
These are the things that I find hard
These are what I avoid
Just give me a math problem
Because it's not hard
For me


Our next piece is another deeply personal one, a reflection on the author's feelings about not only mathematics but the way in which it is encountered. After it was written, I talked with the author about the fact that every line begins with an 'I': this pattern was accidental at first, but once noticed became an intentional goal that was harder and harder to achieve with each line. I find that pattern interesting, given the self-focus of the poem:

Imperfect, by Anonymous

I am ready to be challenged
Ironically this is the first thing which has been problematic
It is difficult for me to be patient and understanding with others
Irritation seems to be my main state of emotion
Intricate concepts are something I crave
Implicit differentiation as surprisingly stimulating
I fear my arrogance will be my downfall
I am ready to be challenged with others who feel the same way


I've selected a few of my favorite haikus by this next author, who turned in no fewer than ten of them! The slightly humorous, yet still insightful, tone I found in these poems was delightful. The author has asked to remain anonymous.


A tall ladder falls
At twenty feet per second
Why would it do this?

The Number "Pi"

Three point one four one
five nine two six five three five
eight nine seven nine...

Math in Daily Life

Patterns on my bunks,
They resemble the graphs of
cosine and sine curves.

The Inventors

Did Leibniz invent
calculus or did he steal
the work of Newton?

My thoughts about math

Sometimes I like math
more than art; veggies and fruits
are boring to draw.


Here's another admission of fondness for mathematics; I have to admit that I feel much as the anonymous author does.

Math, by Anonymous

To put into poetic verse
Seems quite contradictory
Free form verse
Clashes the firm ways of
To put into words
Seems rather absurd
Verbs and nouns
Make no substitution
For the numbers and functions of
Does not need words to explain
It stands on its own
Its equations speak their own verses of poetry
Numbers create their own images
In forms of graphs and shapes
Ideas are not conveyed through rhymes,
Or rhythms,
But through logic
And reason
Poetry is not needed to show the beauty of math
Its charm is found beneath its theories, proofs and functions.


Mark's pi-based piece, below, involves not only mathematics but biology as well, giving a brief natural history, and perhaps a glimpse of the future. His work was heavily informed by his view of the universality of mathematics:

The Universe to 44 decimal places, by Mark

Hydrogen and oxygen,
Create habitat for life.
Orderless masses become perfect spheres
These fragments yield amino acids within fermenting, fruitful seas,
Beneath a
Young light and even younger sky.
Molecules converge as RNA grows,
Followed by DNA.
Double helixes entwined with data,
Data that unleashes its complexity upon every duplication.
Cells are born, and form intricate relationships of survival,
Synergies of molecules endure harsh primordial seas.
Mitochondria and bacteria converge, becoming what both couldn't alone.
Fins dominate waves,
Eyes guiding,
Gills supporting all,
Including gaping jaws, merciless to those who're obsolete.
But the sun touches
Not only the sea, but the land
As well.
The sun reaches leaves, creating new opportunities,
As a toughened foot blemishes
The smooth sand.
Tethered to water,
A bind that only the amniotic egg cuts.
A fiery rock flies,
Bringing chaos.
An instant unravels an eternity of adaptation.
Hairy hands grasp wooden clubs, utilizing new-found digits.
Musket drawn, soldiers hunt shadows.

The moon:
A pearl-white foot disturbs dust, an eternal footprint.
Generations later, another foot climbs a sanguine summit,
Its owner re-imagining humanity.
Ice-cold, alien, yet sharing same miraculous elements:
Hydrogen and oxygen, yet yielding entirely different organisms.
Keeps all of this life alive.
Precious, yet inconsequential, a speck in a milky-white galaxy,
Itself very insignificant,
One galaxy amongst countless, but all under one universe.


My final poem for this post (I've got a bunch more for which I'm waiting for permission to post) was one of the strongest of those submitted verses that worked off of the Fibonacci sequence. I love the way John makes use of the sequence's exponential growth to allow each line to elaborate further on the previous ones, until the final line is reached, where it seems a thematic turnaround is made. (I apologize for the decreasing font size in the final line; I've done this to try to accommodate the line on a single line of the screen...I think it's gonna fail anyway!)

Math, by John

Math is...
Math is everything;
The nature of everything is math.
The dynamics of today still follow original patterns.
And all the patterns in life and nature are based upon a formula.
But I wonder: do the laws of nature dictate these math formulas, or does nature follow universal laws created by math?


That's all for now, folks! I'm glad that I've been able to fulfill one of my promises. Later this week I'll post some more poems, and I'll get around to dissecting that Newton v. Leibniz thingamajobber.

For now, please have a pleasant eve.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a concept! Math becomes literature. Unbelieveable. Beth