November 02, 2007

Poetry Friday: Painfully Bad Math

I blame this Bad Poetry episode of Poetry Friday quite thoroughly on Read, Write, Believe, who started digging out her high school poetry.

I didn't actually write much in terms of poetry that was for public consumption in high school, but my journals show the bizarre span of my influences. Quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer nestle against the poetry of Dorothy Parker, Judith Viorst, William Penn (Really? When did I read Fruits of Solitude?), George Herbert and Roberts Herrick and Hayden. My own bits of derivative drivel have such exalted company as Shakespeare (Hamlet, Price of Denmark, Act I: Scene ii), Longfellow's Psalm of Life, and random song lyrics, pieces of articles taped in from magazines, and polite thank-you notes from boys with illegible handwriting (notes I obviously read tons into, since for the life of me I can't figure out why I kept them!).

I've chosen two poems from a particular moment in my life, written a few months apart (And dear readers, I beg you remember I grew up to be an humanities major. I like math -- I just didn't actually know it until year past high school, when I remembered how much I'd loved long division in fourth grade. It really is very soothing...). Thanks, Sara, for giving me a reason to actually look back at all of my poetry. All I can do is shake my head and say, like one of my high school male friends once said in complete bewilderment, "Man. Girls."


I. x≥+1+1=3

x is greater than or equal to
the sum of one plus

(one, two?)

me plus you

equals three



is the equation balanced?

is the sum of the quotient
greater than - (us?)
is the end result
always three:


(You will be amused to find another of my poems in this vein [there are, in fact, three, astonishingly bad poems in the equation series] has the equation [# of ♂ in a room is ∝ 1/I.Q], that is, the number of boys (in a room) is inversely / proportionate to their average I.Q.! Somebody was feeling bent out of shape and rejected! [And crushing on their math tutor?])

II. ∅ Null
an empty set

as void of life
as an urn of
(ashes, ashes
we all fall down)

as empty as a silent desert
As dark and
(the earth was without form &)
And he breathed.
Into his mouth, the breath of
Life and I
began to live.

Yes, do go ahead and vomit.

Fortunately, accomplished poets have written, and are being read elsewhere. Find them at Mentor Texts this week. Not all of you may have your high school scribblings -- but the person still exists under a delicate patina of age. Go forth and write more.


Vivian Mahoney said...

Math like this makes alot of sense! Thanks for sharing.

I'm impressed you kept your high school poems. I think I threw away alot of my writing from way back. Thus...

High School You + Bravery = High School Me - Courage

divatobe said...

very TSE! Ashes, ashes.....lovely.

jama said...

I didn't like math either. But I wasn't clever enough to play with it through poems.

Vivian Mahoney said...

Wait a second, I think I should've used the > sign instead of the = sign...

I think I'll leave the math poems in your care.

Anonymous said...

I spied Eliot in that second one, too. And the first was was great until the pain part, which didn't really seem to fit. But obviously, you were a tortured soul at the time. Stupid boys.

I love the math equation about boys and their IQs. Just don't let John Green get hold of it (have you seen the equation in An Abundance of Katherines?)

tanita✿davis said...

Geez, guys, my high school self just came out all in hives.

I do adore the gloomy old man, too. Which is why I also signed all my poems T.S.. HUBRIS!!!

Sarah Stevenson said...

Wow, you were really well read in high school...

I had (and have) an Eliot thing, too, I have to admit. But I don't know if I have the something-or-other required to reprint my high school poetry online...

Becky said...

You've inspired me to post one of my own.

Gina Ruiz said...

Never in a million years would I match up math and poetry! Wow. Too much for this exhausted brain to process but WOW!

Beautiful cactus

Sara said...

I fully accept the blame, if this is the reward!

I like the idea that you had a whole Equation Series. How ambitious. And really, math IS a language. I think that was why I loved algebra...yes, I did, I'll admit it.

tanita✿davis said...

Aquafortis - I think the word you want is "tastelessness." The tastelessness required to reprint your high school poetry...

Sara - have you read Wendy Lichtman's Secrets, Lies & Algebra? I had a great idea writing poetry in equations; she does a book and uses them and I think it's amazing.

Sara said...

That one's on my TBR list at goodreads. I'm a sucker for math + literature.

David T. Macknet said...

These poems are frighteningly reminiscent of my current investigation into the roots of the Philosophy of Language. See this article, down just before the Bibliography, and you'll get an idea.

Somehow, it appears that somebody got hold of some formal logic somewhere & applied it to relationships between people!