How Poetry and Math Intersect

Evelyn Lamb in Smithsonian:

PoetryApril is both National Poetry Month and Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month, so a few years ago science writer Stephen Ornes dubbed it Math Poetry Month. If the words “math” and “poetry” don’t intuitively make sense to you as a pair, poet and mathematician JoAnne Growney’s blog Intersections—Poetry with Mathematics is a perfect place to start expanding your math-poetic horizons. The blog includes a broad range of poems with mathematical themes or built using mathematical rules. Take “Geometry,” by former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove:

I prove a theorem and the house expands:
the windows jerk free to hover near the ceiling,
the ceiling floats away with a sigh.

—from “Geometry” by Rita Dove

…Growney grew up wanting to be a writer. “I read Little Women as a girl, and maybe it was partly the name connection, but I thought that I wanted to be a writer like Jo.” She was also good at math, though, and ended up with a scholarship to study it in college. She stuck with it and earned her Ph.D. in 1970 at the University of Oklahoma. During her career as a math professor, her interest in writing continued. She took poetry classes at a nearby college when she could, discovered the math poetry anthology Against Infinity while doing a sabbatical project about mathematics and the arts, and started to see her feelings about mathematics echoed in poetry. Mathematics and poetry, Growney says, are both “formats that can convey multiple meanings.” In mathematics, a single object or idea might take different forms. A quadratic equation, for example, can be understood in terms of its algebraic expression, perhaps y=x2+3x-7, or in terms of its graph, a parabola. Henri Poincaré, a French polymath who laid the foundations of two different fields of mathematics in the early 1900s, described mathematics as “the art of giving the same name to different things.”

More here.