Sunday, May 30, 2010

Scott Helmes Earliest Work

There have been a few approaches by a few people to Mathematical Poetry. One of the earliest of living artists that has made that approach is Scott Helmes. I asked Scott to send me his two earliest poems and his two favorite. Scott earliest mathematical poetry started in the spring of 1972 with the following poems. L(&@ or 1972 and Time Seeies

Scott’s approach is much more whimsical than mine with many nonsensical variables within his equations. It reminds me somewhat of a Jaberwocky for mathematical poetry. Furthermore, there is some that I just don’t get however that is not to say there is nothing there! I keep thinking that I am looking at an equational poem and using the same rules that I would use in that particular case, yet, those rules doesn’t work. A good example of one that I did not get was his “Second Order Programming” Once he gave me a hint I could see what he was getting at. His hint: line 3 is “Statistics” once you see ‘statistics’ then you can find the other words.

My view is that his intention is to show how a math equation can say something else through a ‘poetic overlay’ (my term) I think most of Scott’s work is not trying to say anything in particular at least not through the mathematical equation. In fact it seems to me following that path really leads to nowhere. To me there is more meaning reading the words of the equation as a sentence ‘overlaid ’ or ‘blended’ into the equation which provides a mathematical flavor to the lexical formation. His meaning seems to be derived from the ‘blended’ interplay between the lexical ‘poetic overlay’ and the equation which serves as nothing more than a real mathematical equation that could be used for something had all of the variables been defined beforehand.
Here is one of Scott favorites: "Non Additive Postulations"

The closest thing of his work that I have seen to what I call equational poetry is the piece titled “Real” yet still there are variables and constants that have no definitions. This poem can also be found on the wonderful website “light and dust


Anonymous said...

Dear kaz
It always annoys me when people use words like "whimsical" it seems so demeaning to me. I looked it up and it said, 1. full of or characterized by whims or whimsy 2. oddly out of the ordinary; fanciful; freakish 3. subject to sudden change; unpredictable. Is the implication that other "mathematical" poetries are the opposite of "whimsical" i.e. the antonym "nonarbitrary"???? I think it unkind. In Scott Helmes's "Second Order Programming" the churning up of the linguistic elements with the mathematical elements is a powerful poem in the "imagist" style. I can sense the aeroplane's engines, the timetables, schedules etc and the sense of urgency in them --- that is, if I read the poem as a whole and not separate it into "five" singular equations. I can sense the pilot going thru their routines etc. You say the equation "serves as nothing more than a real mathematical equation that could be used for something had all of the variables been defined beforehand" --- I don't see why the variables should have to be defined beforehand. The sense of "alienation" from those variables are very much my (your?) experience of aviation. There is a sense of anticipated hope and faith every flyer has that those equations are correct and will work. And whose to say that those "equations" are NOT correct, i.e. REAL equations used in AVIATION? Equations as metaphor are perfectly acceptable "mathematical poetry" I would assume. Further to that, the "sequencing" of equations (i.e. one equation leading on from the one before and so on), builds a "model" i.e. an "object", it "manifests"; takes it out of the realm of the non-substantive, even "spiritual" (say). You say "it seems to me following that path really leads to nowhere"; hypothesizing dead-ends seems to me to be a dangerous art-practice, or at least not wise. It might be asserted (I dare suggest) that the World (or the emotions contained therein) cannot bare or endure the myth of a single equation. It would seem to me that reality or emotions only exist or can be interpreted as a "cluster" of equations, and that each and every equation may be "trivial" on its own, but collectively creates a simulacrum of sorts, an "evocation" of sorts. I find Helmes's poems extremely liberating and full of potential AND mathematical poetry to boot! That is not to exclude other kinds, but the "family" is growing! I'll send you a small offering of mine via attachment on an email. Thanxxxxs for the continued talking.
Love + anarchy

Kaz Maslanka said...

Dear Pioh,
I think I will address this comment in a new blog post.

Kaz Maslanka said...

Blog entry on June 4, 2010 addresses this comment.

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