Family Mathematics

And now for something completely different: poetry.

Last Year, the Evil Mathologre was contacted by Ros, an editor at Cordite, an Australian poetry magazine. Ros was searching for a mathematician to be part of a poetry-mathematics collaboration, with poet Tricia Dearborn. Well aware of our literary pretensions, EM handballed the gig to us. The strange fruit of this collaboration has now appeared.

In the end Tricia wrote three poems under the collective title Family Mathematics: Nest; The golden ratio, and Infinity. Our opinion matters approximately zero, but we really like the poems. It’s also far from clear that our chatting contributed much of anything to Tricia’s inspiration, but it was interesting and good fun, as such cross-cultural discussions almost always are. In any case, Tricia’s thoughts on her creative process are here, and our summary of the mathematics we threw at Tricia is here.

5 Replies to “Family Mathematics”

  1. I disagree that your “opinion matters approximately zero”. If you mean that your opinion is such that it will be published as literary criticism, and discussed by other literary critics, then you’re right. But poetry isn’t written for literary critics; it’s written for all of us. There’s a vast amount of poetry written, and for almost all of it you will find that it’s mere dross to you. But occasionally you’ll find something that makes you sit up, that almost gives you an “aha!’ moment; that increases the beauty of your world; that opens up a new way of looking at it. If Tricia Dearborn’s poems have had that effect, even in a small way, then your opinion does matter, because you’ve been touched by her poetry, and her way of looking at the world. I happen to like poetry very much, for the way that it seems to speak so directly, without all the “noise” that can get in the way of prose.

    I also like continued fractions, but strictly as a mathematical amateur.

    It’s also a great joy to get away from the multiple horrors of the modern world in the beauty of poetry. Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Alasdair. In principle I agree with you, and obviously I don’t have any automatic respect for formal authority. But, as it happens, I’m a pretty prosaic guy. Close to zero is a fair score.

  2. Hi Marty,

    I was chuffed that you liked the poems! The collaboration was fun – nice to be thinking about mathematics for the first time in a long time, relishing that particular beauty – then taking it off in my own directions.


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