Poet’s Day, mathematically speaking

Today is Poet’s Day, a day to celebrate the sensitive souls who, through the ages, shared their deepest thoughts through verse and rhyme. I have to admit to being more of a ‘prose person’ than a ‘poetry person’, but that by no means implies that I don’t have the greatest respect and admiration for a good poem – it’s simply not my very favourite literary form.

Of course there’s a close relation between poetry and mathematics – a subject that is close to my heart. It was Einstein who said: “Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.”

Mathematics in general seem to play an important role in poetry. Not only is there mathematics in the structure and rhythm of poetry, but many poems have also been written that contain overt mathematical themes. In a 2010 article entitled Poetry Inspired by Mathematics, Sara Glaz from the University of Connecticut, discusses some examples of such poems. More examples can be found in an earlier article from 2006 by JoAnne Growney, Mathematics in Poetry. In the latter article, Growney elegantly states, “As mathematicians smile with delight at an elegant proof, others may be enchanted by the grace of a poem. An idea or an image expressed in just the right language–so that it could not be said better–is a treasure to which readers return.”

The wonderful Fibonacci number sequence not only pops out in nature, but now claims its place in the world of the poet as well.
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An interesting new poetic form which I’ve discovered while doing some background reading for today, is the so-called “Fibonacci poetry”, which is based on the Fibonacci number sequence. Fibonacci numbers are a sequence, starting with 0 and 1, where each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two, i.e. 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,…

Fibonacci numbers occur often in nature, as I’ve discussed in an earlier blog post.

In poetry, the number sequence can refer to the numbers of letters, syllables or words in successive lines of the poem. These poems, known as ‘Fibs’, are six lines long, typically starting with a single letter/syllable/word in the first line. They can, however, theoretically start with any number of letters/syllables/words in the Fibonacci sequence.

Even though this form, originally introduced by Gregory K in a blog post on the GottaBook blog, appears to still be more popular among mathematicians than among poets, it has managed to garner a mention in the New York Times Books section. Their example, based on syllables, neatly illustrate the concept:

and rumor 
But how about a 
Rare, geeky form of poetry?

I like the idea, I really do – very cool indeed! So, without further ado, herewith my own humble Fib for the day:

not just in nature
but warming the hearts of poets too.

(uhm, assuming ‘poets’ is a single syllable word, of course…)

Happy Poet’s Day, everyone!  And please do share some Fibs, if you’re that way inclined!

Get your rhyming caps on – it’s Clerihew Day!

In celebration of Clerihew Day, and in keeping with the science slant of this blog, herewith my clerihew for the day:

Isaac Newton was a Sir
whose theories caused quite a stir
problems that made others grapple
he solved by being hit by an apple!

Newton, putting the science into the apple!
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A clerihew? Say what?

Clerihew Day is the birthday of Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), writer and poet, and most famously, the inventor of the clerihew – a light and frivolous 4-line biographical poetic form. The rhyme scheme is AABB, with lines of irregular length and meter. The first line typically contains a personal name, while subsequent lines are biographical in nature, but with a fun, lighthearted touch.

So, anyone else wants to have a go?
Please comment if you have a science clerihew!

World Sauntering Day

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blindly, aiming only where I’m not
full heart, empty mind
thinking freely

guided by footprints in the sand
sandy path, path of light
light diffracted, fractured, structured
structure birthed in chaos
infinite possibilities
synapses firing infinitely

connecting with strangers, friends forgotten
fragments of conversations
focused, defocused, defined
concepts conjured

eagerly, aiming whence I came
animated by sparkling prospects
calculating courageously

(© 2012)