Friday, July 30, 2010


Here is one of my new proportional poems titled "Iteration"

Thursday, July 29, 2010

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. -click here for more-

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.”)

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Thought For Today:

Nothing which does not transport is poetry. The lyre is a winged instrument. -Joseph Joubert, essayist (1754-1824)

taken from

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.

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.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Top 40 Poetry Blogs (we are third)

I am excited to announce that this blog is rated third in the top 40 poetry blogs at “Guide to art” check it out here.

The Ancient Dual

There exists an ancient battle of polarities within the human psyche – They were once symbolized as the Sun/Moon; Lion/bull ; eagle/snake The equation shown is a dance of the total. The structure used for this mathematical poem is the expanded similar triangles form.
Flavor three A= (D(B+H)/E)-G

Here is the detail of it.

Toni Prat

Here is one visual mathematical poem and some mathematical number poems from Toni Prat there are some other very interesting work at his blog:

At the Bowery Poetry Club NYC

I got back from NYC last week after being invited by John Sims to participate in the “Mathematical Graffiti Wall” at the Bowery Poetry Club. I scrawled out my proportional poem titled “Afghanistan” on the wall as well as giving a short lecture intended to impart the necessary tools to access the piece. Below is an (poor quality)image of me delivering my lecture -- you can see Poet/Historian Richard Kostelanetz underneath me and mathematical / visual poet Bob Grumman to his right. I am not sure who was wearing the white hat.
After the gig myself, Richard Kostelanetz, Geof Huth, Bob Grumman, JoAnne Growney, and others went for coffee and discussion – I think we all had a great time - I certainly did.

Here is a photo of the wall taken from the stage.

Here is my poem Afghanistan

And you can see it here inked onto the wall.

Speaking of graffiti – here is a photo I shot in the men’s room at the bowery poetry club.

On another note the day before I gave my lecture I went to MOMA to see my old friends (The Tanguy, Magritte, Ernst, Dali, and De Chirico paintings) - I went up to pay my twenty dollars when the man behind the counter told me if I waited twenty minutes I could get in free. He said that I just need to wait in line outside. It was quite a long line and as we were coming in I noticed Bob Grumman about seven people up in front of me. So as fate turned out, I ended up hanging out with him as we viewed the art work. I had a nice chat with him as we covered a lot of territory in our discussions. Below is a photo of him and me in front of the De Chirico Painting “Gare Montparnasse” (The Melancholy of Departure).

Visit the National Gallery of Writing