Mathematical Poetry

The poem that is most beautiful to me is, unsurprisingly, a mathematical poem.  It can be found in the first pages of my book, before I start my own words.  I’ve been experimenting with some of my own mathematical poetry recently (standing on the shoulders of Mary Cornish and her poem!). Every once in a while I may include one here. Watch for one coming soon!


I like the generosity of numbers.

The way, for example,

they are willing to count

anything or anyone:

two pickles, one door to the room,

eight dancers dressed as swans.


I like the domesticity of addition—

add two cups of milk and stir—

the sense of plenty: six plums

on the ground, three more

falling from the tree.


And multiplication’s school

of fish times fish,

whose silver bodies breed

beneath the shadow of a boat.


Even subtraction is never a loss,

just addition somewhere else;

five sparrows take away two,

the two in someone else’s garden now


There’s an amplitude to long division,

as  it opens Chinese take-out

box by paper box,

inside every folded cookie

a new fortune.


And never fail to be surprised

by the gift of the odd remainder,

footloose at the end:

forty-seven divided by eleven equals four,

with three remaining.


Three boys beyond their mother’s call,

two Italians off to sea,

one sock that isn’t anywhere you look.


–Mary Cornish, Poetry magazine, Volume CLXXVI, Number 2, June 2010



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