June 12: 1-4: Seasonal mathematics

orders of magnitude
oak saplings among
the lettuce

acute angles
the sun glares at
the swimmer’s white legs

set theory
crows mob in
bare branches

long division
hearts pasted on
a frosty window

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9 thoughts on “June 12: 1-4: Seasonal mathematics

    • Well, if you count teaching my homeschooled son through algebra 2/trig, then yes. 🙂

      But basically, I just like math a lot and I live with a couple of big math geeks who talk about it all the time. They are better at big exciting abstract math concepts. I am better at arithmetic. 🙂

      I freely admit to being inspired by a ku Scott Metz posted on his site a couple of weeks ago, something about “pink mathematics” which I didn’t really get, but it made me think about ways to incorporate math concepts into haiku … this was a lot of fun.

  1. Impressive, and very intelligent. Mathematics is of course, in its essence a way of looking at and framing the world. So this poem(s), to me, feels like nature strung out on a frame, a webbing; makes me think of how Audubon pressed a grid of wires over the birds he captured (but also killed) to better paint them onto his gridded sketch sheets.

    • Thanks, Lawrence — and what a great analogy. Though it does rather sadly remind me of a fantastic but disturbing poem by Henry Reed called “Naming of Parts” — do you know it? Its subject matter strikes me as very haiku-like, actually — the surprising juxtaposition part, I mean — though of course the form is wide of the mark…

      NAMING OF PARTS
      To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
      We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
      We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
      To-day we have naming of parts. Japonica
      Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
      And to-day we have naming of parts.

      This is the lower sling swivel. And this
      Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
      When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
      Which in your case you have not got. The branches
      Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
      Which in our case we have not got.

      This is the safety-catch, which is always released
      With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
      See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
      If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
      Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
      Any of them using their finger.

      And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
      Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
      Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
      Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
      The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
      They call it easing the Spring.

      They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
      If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
      And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
      Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom
      Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
      For to-day we have naming of parts.

      — Henry Reed

  2. Yes, great poem, and wild, in its way. I looked it up online to get its background (was assuming Vietnam and not WWII). Came across this – at the bottom of the page is a audio of it being read by a voice actor (I assume) and Henry Reed reading the nature parts
    http://www.solearabiantree.net/namingofparts/namingofparts.html

    I also wrote a mash-up, as it were, also mixing war images, but my intent was a bit softer, comical
    http://novaheart.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/poem-41210-morning-armistice/

    • Yeah, that page you found was the one I copy-pasted the poem off of 🙂 though I haven’t listened to the audio yet, I should.

      I like your poem a lot too. I really like poetry in general — not just haiku — that combines things in unexpected ways.

      I thought of another poem that is even more disturbing than “Naming of Parts” but also reminds me of your Audubon analogy — “Formal Application” by Donald W. Baker:

      Formal Application
      “The poets apparently want to rejoin the human race.” — Time Magazine

      I shall begin by learning to throw
      the knife, first at trees, until it sticks
      in the trunk and quivers every time;

      next from a chair, using only wrist
      and fingers, at a thing on the ground,
      a fresh ant hill or a fallen leaf;

      then at a moving object, perhaps
      a pine cone swinging on twine, until
      I pot it at least twice in three tries.

      Meanwhile, I shall be teaching the birds
      that the skinny fellow in sneakers
      is a source of suet and bread crumbs,

      first putting them on a shingle nailed
      to a pine tree, next scattering them
      on the needles, closer and closer

      to my seat, until the proper bird,
      a towhee, I think, in black and rust
      and gray, takes tossed crumbs six feet away.

      Finally, I shall coordinate
      conditioned reflex and functional
      form and qualify as Modern Man.

      You see the splash of blood and feathers
      and the blade pinning it to the tree?
      It’s called an “Audubon Crucifix.”

      The phrase has pleasing (even pious)
      connotations, like Arbeit Macht Frie,
      “Molotov Cocktail,” and Enola Gay.

      — Donald W. Baker

      • William Logan says:

        This poem was not by Donald Justice. It has been misattributed on a web site. The poem is by Donald W. Baker, born 1923.

        I am writing as one of Donald Justice’s literary executors. Please remove this misinformation.

        • That’ll teach me to trust what I read on the Internet. I should know better. Yes, I see now that in the poetry anthology I first read this in, the author is listed as Donald Baker.

          Thanks for the heads-up, I’ve changed the attribution in my comment.

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