Sunday, July 25, 2010

Does Mathematical Poetry Do Math?

The comment Below was originally posted as a comment on Bob Grumman's blog but it did not show up on his comments so I will post it here.
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Does mathematical poetry ‘do’ math?

This is an excerpt from Bob Grumman’s blog where he and Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino are debating mathematical poetry. I have taken a small yet important few lines from the discussion to add my own thoughts. Gregory is green text Bob is Blue and I am white.

Gregory says: And I would offer, for starters:
1) It is a fallacy to think mathematical poetry is “doing math.”
Bob says: What is it doing?
Gregory says: The “sum” of a mathematical poem need not be the same for everyone.
Bob says: As in pure mathematics, it has to have the same value for everyone although it need not be “the same” for everyone. Just as in pure math, two plus two can be eight minus two as well as four.

Here is where I have inserted my responses:
Gregory says: And I would offer, for starters:
1) It is a fallacy to think mathematical poetry is “doing math.”
Bob says: What is it doing?
Kaz says: I feel very strong that Gregory’s viewpoint on this is too narrow. Mathematical poetry does do math the same as any applied mathematical problem does math. It just requires more math operations than pure math problems of the same size.
Gregory says: The “sum” of a mathematical poem need not be the same for everyone.
Kaz says: This is not what I would consider the correct verbiage for Gregory’s expression yet the essence of what he said is very true. Let me refine it a bit: “The answer of a mathematical poem is never the same for any two or more people.” In fact it is never the same for one person. There are different levels of answers for the reader if the mathematical poem is of any poetic value.
Bob says: As in pure mathematics, it has to have the same value for everyone although it need not be “the same” for everyone. Just as in pure math, two plus two can be eight minus two as well as four.
Kaz says: I have a question for you Bob. Would you say the value of a poem has to be the same for everyone that reads it? Of course not – everyone gleans different meaning from the metaphors among other things based on their own past and personal experience. It is no different for equational poetry/mathematical poetry. Not only are there different values for each reader of the mathematical poem there are also a multitude of different values for a single reader of a mathematical poem. (If it is read correctly) However, to Bob’s credit, I believe that he is using the right word to describe the terms in a mathematical poem. That very important word is “value”. Value is what makes it mathematical. A year ago, I erroneously thought that we were using words as if they were numbers and stated so in the introduction on my blog even though my intuition told me they were numbers, I could feel the numbers, yet, I didn’t push my mind to the realization that they were indeed numbers. I have now made the connections to realized it. I have realized that Value is quantity. In other words quality is really a cluster of quantities, however, all of the quantities have not been defined, and in addition, they don’t have to be. As long as you realize that each element in the cluster can be defined as quantities. For example in Gregory’s mathematical poem “ to+to= too” the poem has values in it yet you have to ‘see’ it that way. In other words you have to assign it value if you want to literally ‘do’ the math. In this example “to” and “too” both have value. One example is that the poem reads “2 + 2 = 4” it also can be read as “great + great = greater” and we can assign “great” to equal 100 so his poem can also mean 100 + 100 > 100 ; I can go on and on assigning new values - The bottom line is that the math is embedded in the poem but one must realize there are many answers – of course! This is why mathematical poetry is poetry (or art) instead of science. If poems had only one answer they would be science not poetry. One brings value and meaning to any poem that one reads and one brings value and meaning to mathematical poems the same way. The numbers are there you just have to assign them or just feel them the way you would a physics problem.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

a rare event. i will support bob's statement, if i read it to be containing a reference to the archetypal: "has to have the same value for everyone although it need not be “the same” for everyone."

i may be wrong, but he seems to be writing in terms of an archetypal 'same value for everyone' hence his 'need not be "the same" for everyone".

bob does have a tendency by trying to be overly clear (sometimes clever) to obfuscate.

karl kempton

Kaz Maslanka said...

Hi Karl,
This archetypical quest should be the quest of all art however, we are not talking about quest; we are talking about the mechanics of mathematical poetry.

Thanks,
Kaz

JoAnne said...

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."
Through the Looking Glass.

Kaz Maslanka said...

Humpty obviously does not understand poetics.

Kaz Maslanka said...

In all seriousness, I hope this makes sense to those who question whether mathematical poetry 'does math'.

K

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