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My Mathematics For a Poem

If asked to name a book that includes both the words "mathematics" and "poetry," you perhaps would be stumped. At best, you might be able to pull out the name Scott Buchanan and his Poetry and Mathematics (1929)....but you probably have neither seen nor read the book.

Luckily, the world is becoming more populated with references akin to both poetry and mathematics...but in my opinion, the quality varies. That is, the range is from poems little more than trite ditties involving some math terms to poems that use abstract math concepts as key to the deep-level meaning of a poem.

For example, consider The Shape of Content: Creative Writing in Mathematics and Science, edited by Chandler Davis et al. In addition to poetry, it includes short stories, essays, and play excerpts.

The book is the result of a series of week-long workshops, designed to help authors "engage" mathematics and science in their works. But, the key was the growing collaborations between the authors...the poets helped the mathematicians, and vice versa.

The resulting content is "unusual" on my scale....and certainly not a regression towards the end of being a trite ditty. Good examples are Susan Elmslie's poem "Algebra" or Adam Dickinson's poem "The Ghosts of Departed Quantities."

The overall effect is positive...and it is a good book to show students a "human" side to mathematics. And, as reviewer Roald Hoffmann wrote: "In this wonderful book real people ride imaginary trajectories, poles and eigenvalues consort, and love has a way of coming to mathematicians..." Huh?...I missed those aspects?