### What is Mathematical Poetry?

Lately, there has been a bit of passionate yet conflicting talk debating the definition of Mathematical Poetry among those who care. I will present six definitions. You pick what you like best or come up with your own.

Here is Bob Grumman’s:

A mathematical poem is a poem some or all of whose verbal elements undergo a mathematical operation centrally important to the poem that is simultaneously both significantly mathematical and significantly verbal–in the opinion of those capable of appreciating the poem.

Here is Karl Kempton’s:

A visual poem must contain a visual element consciously composed so that the poem must be seen to fully grasp meaning and experience, a mathematical poem must contain a mathematical operation, such as a addition, to fully grasp meaning and experience. a mathematical poem can or not be a visual poem.

Here is Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino’s ‘working’ definition:

The “mathematical poem,” if it is to be, or to contain, poetry, must have some poetic elements, as well as some formal symbols and operations of math.

I want to emphasize that by “operations of math” I do not mean that the poem will be “doing math.” What I mean is that the poem will be, in some way or in some sense — be that metaphorical, allegorical, but for the most part figurative — mimicking or imitating or finding a trope in that operation (whichever that operation may be). (I emphasize: I do not mean that the poem is “doing math.” Math does math. The poem is representational.)

Here is Kaz Maslanka’s: Mathematical Poetry is a umbrella term that covers any poetic expression involving Mathematics. Maslanka has broken mathematical poetry into five categories – they can be viewed here

Here is Sarah Glaz's: Mathematical poetry is an umbrella term for poetry with a strong link to mathematics in either imagery, content, or structure.

Here is JoAnne Growney's: Years ago when I first began to bring poetry into my mathematics classrooms, I used the term “mathematical poetry” to refer to poems in which some of the imagery involves mathematics; it was a sort of “applied mathematics.” Now, after lots of reading and exploring, the possibilities for math-related poetry seem nearly endless--including shaped poems, functional poems, permutation poems, various Oulipian structures, and then--on the Internet--a myriad of possibilities including animated poems, interactive poems (including linked hypertext), and so on. These days, I mostly avoid the term “mathematical poetry” (since I can’t formulate a definition that satisfies me). Instead, I think of the multiple possibilities as intersections of mathematics and poetry. (See, for example my blog: “Intersections -– Poetry with Mathematics.”)

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