Emmy Noether was one of the great mathematicians of the early 20th century. Born in Bavaria in 1882, she loved dancing and initially trained to be a language teacher before opting, despite numerous obstacles, to study mathematics at university. She went on to make significant contributions in many areas of mathematics and mathematical physics, most notably in the field of abstract algebra.Continue reading
Sometime around 1550 BC an Egyptian scribe named Ahmes noted down a method for obtaining the area of a circle, in what is the earliest recorded attempt to evaluate the number we know as 𝜋.
The history of 𝜋 (its symbol is the Greek letter pi) is fascinating, as are its many applications in poetry. To 16 digits, the expansion of 𝜋 is
𝜋 = 3.141592653589793.Continue reading
The structure of this poem is based on Pascal’s Triangle.
Among vetch and dandelions, hollow shells, inhabitants gorged by blackbirds whose songs tremble in summer’s heat, you emerge - wrap around my calves, bind my arms, entwine my throat, caress my neck, my ears – insidious as haar that creeps in from the sea to steal the sun. Overhead, siren insistence of oystercatchers, while beneath the hawthorn bush a magpie tilts its head. Across years and continents, we cannot decohere.
This poem was first published in Dust Poetry in May 2021.
Permutations are a feature of many poetic forms: rhyme and metrical patterns, the arrangement of lines in a villanelle or pantoum, the rotation of end-words through the stanzas of a sestina. Ruth Holzer’s ‘For Dylan Thomas on His Hundredth Birthday’ is an example of a sestina by a contemporary poet, with end-words wild, sky, end, hills, wave, love.Continue reading
‘Poetry is the mathematics of writing,’ John Steinbeck observed, ‘and closely kin to music.’ If we accept Steinbeck’s analogy, then Anthony Etherin’s The Utu Sonnets is the poetic equivalent of the purest of pure mathematics. In previous publications such as his 2019 collection Stray Arts (and Other Inventions) Etherin has proved himself a master of constrained writing, pushing the boundaries of form in tightly crafted palindromes, exact anagrams and dazzlingly inventive sonnets. The seven sonnets presented here are his most constrained work to date.Continue reading
Sometime in the 4th century BC, a Chinese astronomer named Shi Shen took it upon himself to map the stars visible in the night sky. The resulting work, containing some 800 stars, is generally considered to be the earliest star catalogue. Shi Shen’s achievements did not stop there; he also observed sunspots and wrote a number of astronomical and astrological treatises. In recognition of his contributions to astronomy, a crater on the far side of the moon has been named after him.
With my Eurocentric education I hadn’t heard of Shi Shen before reading A Celestial Crown of Sonnets, written by Sam Illingworth and Stephen Paul Wren. Each poem in this slim, beautifully produced volume focuses on an astronomer who made significant contributions to the advancement of our understanding of the universe.Continue reading
This poem first appeared in the Fib Review in March 2021.
Chemistry is one of those subjects that largely passed me by at school. The chemistry labs had their own distinctive, slightly nausea-inducing smell, our lab coats were stained and shapeless, and the teaching was uninspired. While it was with relief that I abandoned the subject at the age of sixteen, I’ve always recognised that my limited knowledge of chemistry is a gaping hole in my scientific education.
I was therefore intrigued when I chanced across Mary Soon Lee’s collection Elemental Haiku, honouring ‘the periodic table/ three lines at a time’. Could I improve my understanding of chemistry through reading poetry? And how does one convey the essential attributes of an element in three lines totalling seventeen syllables? In her foreword, Lee explains her choice of form as well as her objectives:Continue reading