Mathematical Poetry

What does mathematics have to do with poetry. Not much, at one level, but a lot at another. Though their goals may be different, both mathematicians and poets play with structure and form, seek elegance and parsimony in their work. And in their own way they strive for truth and beauty—defined within the rules and structures of their discipline of course.

All this is very fancy, of course but of little relevance to my games with these tools. I have loved both mathematics and poetry – with little or no success in each. But over the years I have played little games with both and some of these explorations are presented here.

  • A tangent, a line and a circle
    • A poem about one of the most intriguing proofs in geometry, that any tangent to a circle is always at right angles to the radius drawn from the point at which the tangent meets the circle.
  • The Goldbach Variations
    • The first of two poems on Goldbach’s conjecture (this one gets the history wrong – which is fixed in the next one)
  • Goldbach’s Conjecture
    • The second of two poems on Goldbach’s conjecture. This one gets the history right.
  • The infinity of primes
    • An attempt at writing a mathematical proof (that of Euclid’s proof for the infinity of primes) in verse.
  • The Mathematical “i”
    • Some thoughts on imaginary numbers, how they came to be and what their “value” is. This may be my favorite poem of the lot. This was published in the mathematics educators’s journal At Right Angles
  • Mathematical Beauty: A limerick
    • Just what it says…