Looking into the Mathematics of Poetry

For MMPP Kim issued a prompt asking the question – “If math is a language, like music, can it be poem-ed? Math poem. Go.” So I was considering all the ways to approach this and though “What about a Fibonacci sequence poem?” Then Promisesunshine beat me to it. Not wanting to be a copy cat, I had to delve further and further into poetic forms and *gasp* mathematical theory. So there are rules and then there are theories about what is presumed to be the rules. In the world of science, mathematics, and (especially including) physics the rules are based on observation and deduction supported by calculations based on demonstrated laws. Over time these laws have been modified and sometimes radically changed. Are you still following? So the bottom line is that what is can become what was and replaced by a newer version of what we think (at the time) is truth.

I really do not want to open that can of worms and go spelunking through philosophy. So I’m going back to math. You see math and I have an uneasy truce. I won’t poke it and it promised not to poke me. Now the idea of a math poem brings me to the concept of an ekphrastic poem (another prompt). The strict interpretation of ekphrastic poetry is a descriptive poem of a physical work of art such as a Grecian urn (Thank you John Keats). But poets have never been ones to stick strictly to the rules. Which is why there are so few mathematician poets. So to bend the rules I will make the assumption that ekphrastic poetry can not only describe 2D and 3D arts (paintings and sculptures) but can include the feelings engendered by viewing said works. I would further theorize that the feelings can be transferred to the elegant and possibly the most artful of of mathematical fields – geometry and calculus.

Interval Exploration

The ends of my world
Are joined in a circle that is
Made of irrational values
Circular emotions spin in
An orbit making infinite
Revolutions within a
Circumscribed square
I am trying with all my
Strength to find the set
Of all numbers that are true
For my interval such that
The angles of my world
Are multiples of two
The solution for
My intersection
My circular soul
Which careens in a box
In the circle of reality
Is to multiply two by
Which gives me the only

For all of you who managed to get through that without having a mental collapse, I just want you to know how I’m feeling after finishing this prompt – yeah this

31 thoughts on “Looking into the Mathematics of Poetry

  1. Is to multiply two by
    Which gives me the only
    One. — I think this is probably genius. I haven’t had enough coffee yet to be sure. I actually love this poem. I’m going to need to read it more. Possibly again and again.
    The other link is hilarious. I might need to watch that again and again.


    1. Carrie, I’m thrilled you like this one so much (and it is a play on words if you can find it). Math is like skunk smell to me, I can do it but it is unpleasant. I avoid it if possible but when it comes down to the wire I can best the beast… The link made me laugh. Then feel guilty for laughing. Then I watched it over and over laughing and feeling guilty until I surrendered to mirth alone. Please enjoy…


  2. I think you just blew my mind, Muri. I’m sensing “square peg, round hole” vibes here, or maybe the search for a constantly shifting truth. I don’t know if 2 x infinity = 1. The ending made me feel like, despite our efforts at connectedness, we travel thru the Cosmos alone. That Coke and Mentos thing was hilarious. I knew it was going to fizz like crazy, but I’ve never seen anyone try to “contain” it with their mouth. 🙂


    1. The closest I have come to a “math” poem was this attempt at describing shapes and angles of sunlight moving through my office on winter solstice:


      Feeble mid-morning light
      pokes at the windowpane
      casting upon the west wall
      a tenuous parallelogram

      It creeps down the futon,
      brightening into a trapezoid
      that hovers over the seat
      warming the tartan fabric

      It diminishes into a triangle,
      that spills into a rhombus on
      the tile, squaring its corners
      as it nestles with the rear wall

      By degree, the waning beams
      push upward onto my desktop
      wide stripes that loiter briefly,
      then stretch infinitely thinner

      threads melting into a sunset
      beyond the window’s frame
      gleams that salute the horizon
      and disappear into the night


    2. Oh no! I thought I was the only one that was going to have a blown mind – or cerebral fizzing neti-pot cleanse! Thanks for letting me know that I made you ponder and question. As always the goal of poetry is to engage the mind and heart and to expand the soul…


  3. well I think you covered every angle, the triangle and the rectangle … which truly bamboozled me! Leaving me quite hypothesised in that quadrangle of equations and subtractions … 😉


    1. I’m tickled to see the word “bamboozled” in the same comment with triangle and rectangle! And it doesn’t end there! I’ve often felt that quadrangle is an apt substitution for “entangle in mathematical bramble”!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well my dear daughter I think you take after your father! I do remember the struggle in third grade (I think it was) sitting at the kitchen table going over the new math which really puzzled me too. As I remember we were both close to tears before giving up. Your dad would be proud of you too. This poem is very very cerebral!


    1. Nah. It was 2nd grade with new math – Mrs. Russell. It blew my mind and made me hate math. The 3rd grade problem was multiplication tables. I could memorize them but I didn’t understand. No one told me it was just addition. I found that out in HS but by then it was too late to make me like math. Of course in HS was that year in Southfield that just about made me want to drop out of school – Geometry/Trigonometry and I just couldn’t figure it out – it was one long story problem that didn’t make sense. Daddy and I sat at the kitchen table and I just cried in frustration… Glad you like this one!


  5. As another who is mathematically-challenged, I see everything as either multiples of two, three, five or seven. If I can’t break it down using those numbers-out comes the calculator, and you may forget square and cube roots!


    1. The calculator is my friend when doing complex functions. I can add pretty fast in my head from years of taking a census daily of the animals in my care – 5 cages/row, 5 rows/rack, 3 animals/cage. Then things changed and it was 7cages/row, 10 rows/rack, 2 sides/rack, and 5 animals/cage… It got pretty difficult until we went to barcodes….

      Liked by 1 person

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