Mathematical forms in poetry: the Fibonacci poem

The house in Aberdeen where we used to live had a large garden surrounded by woodland and fields. My initial enthusiasm for filling the borders with pretty flowering plants was soon tempered by the fact that the garden was a happy feeding ground for rabbits. They bred like their proverbial namesakes – in a matter of months, one or two fluffy little bunnies gambolling sweetly at the bottom of the lawn became a dozen or more, brazenly nibbling my roses and petunias.

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Review: Learning to be Very Soft by Callan Waldron-Hall

Callon Waldron-Hall was one of the recipients of last year’s New Poet’s Prize, an annual competition organised by The Poetry Business. His debut pamphlet, Learning to be Very Soft, was published in June and is a worthy prize-winner.    Written in clear, unadorned language with gentle, fluid rhythms, the poems use everyday experiences – a car journey, a visit to the doctor, winding in the lane ropes at a swimming pool – as windows into the inner world of boyhood with all its vulnerability, awkwardness and shame. 

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Review: Science Poems – an Anthology from Penteract Press

Penteract Press has a reputation for focussing on formal, constrained and experimental poetry, for exploring the interface between poetry and visual art, with careful attention to detail in their publications. Science Poems, an anthology edited by Anthony Etherin and Clara Daneri and featuring work by Christian Bök, Gary Barwin, M D Kerr, Kyle Flemmer and Pedro Poitevin among others, is no exception. 

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Review: Ode to Numbers by Sarah Glaz.

In her poem ‘A Woman in Love’, the mathematician and poet Sarah Glaz describes herself as seeing ‘a streak of mathematics/ in almost everything’. The title of her collection of mathematical poetry, Ode to Numbers, is taken from a poem by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda which invokes the passion of mathematical curiosity, the urge to understand the mysteries of the universe in quantified terms, the desire ‘to know/ how many/ stars in the sky’(Neruda, 1999).  

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Review: Smoke that Thunders by Eveline Pye

Mosi-oa-Tunya – the Smoke that Thunders, also known as the Victoria Falls – straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. From its broad, smooth-flowing course across a flat basalt plain the Zambezi river suddenly plummets down a fissure in the rock, foaming and churning into the narrow gorge over a hundred metres below. I remember visiting in my childhood: the roar of water, the arc of rainbows in the drenching spray, the smell of wet vegetation, the unprotected edge.

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Poetry and Mathematics

…the forces
that divergent guide my life
are like two teams of horses
straining at my heart.
Yet I contain no vacuum –
and am slowly torn apart.

This snippet of a poem, written when I was seventeen, expresses the conflict I felt between my passion for the arts and for the sciences, specifically between poetry and applied mathematics. To my teenage self, the two seemed inherently incompatible. Mathematics, as I understood it at the time, was logical and disciplined, whereas poetry required what Keats described as ‘Negative Capability, that is when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason’ (Keats, 1817).

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Beginnings

Was it like that for you as well, when you were at school? Words lived. They had histories, back-trails to ancient Greek rhetoric or Roman sensibility, to mediaeval French farms, soggy lowland water-meadows, absurd colonial rituals. They sang, they danced, with their own characteristic rhythm and energy. You could play with words, write stories, compose poems, tell jokes, formulate riddles, act them out, set them to music. And you could read them, voraciously.

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