Sunday, September 30, 2018

September Challenge - Math Poem Winners

Photo by Silvia Corradin

The September Poetry Challenge was for poems related to mathematics and/or arithmetic. There were a number of clever entries. Congratulations to the first place winner, Marina Manoukian, and to the second place winners, Deetje J. Wildes and Kristin Procter. The three poems are very different. The  judge was Linda Wallin, whose poem was used in the previous post.

We will start with the second place poems.

Measuring Marigolds

I recall the inchworm song.
Sang it with a friend years ago.
Two and two are four,
Four and four are eight, 
Eight and eight are sixteen .  .  .

I measure time.
The year I graduated.
The year I met my husband.
Our fiftieth anniversary.
The day he died.

by Deetje J. Wildes

The judge liked the turn in this poem, which gave it emotional punch.

Love and Arithmetic
(a Fibonacci Poem)

teach a poet’s heart?
What good is eleven in love?

- Kristin Procter

The judge felt that this poem made good use of the form, in which the number of syllables per line is determined by the Fibonacci sequence.

The winning poem is presented as a series of equations which, as Linda Wallin says, do a good job of describing an important aspect of the human condition. Here it is:

How to stop asking about variables and instead notice function

1. If x = the earth
1a. x² = the earth spinning on its own axis

2. And y = the sun
2a. xy = the earth orbiting the sun

3. And x² + xy = the seasons

4. Then f (x² + xy) = how we change with the seasons.

~ Marina Manoukian

Each poet whose work is published on this blog retains rights to his or her own poem.

Marina Manoukian is a reader and writer living in Berlin. Working towards a Master of English Philology, she likes bees and loves honey. Find more of her work at

Kristin Procter lives in Massachusetts, where she collaborates on workshops and open mics for motherwriters. Her writing has been published in Mom Egg Review3Elements, and Understory, as well as in anthologies.

Deetje J. Wildes is an enthusiastic member of Western Wisconsin Christian Writers Guild. She enjoys making music and experimenting with visual arts.

Check back tomorrow afternoon or evening for the October Challenge.

© Wilda Morris

Saturday, September 1, 2018

September Poetry Challenge - Poetry and Math??

Here in Illinois, children and youth are headed back to school after their summer vacations. Back to readin’ 'n writin’ 'n ‘rithmetic, as the old ditty put it. For high school or college students, it is back to history, literature, science, social studies, algebra, calculus. . . .

I don’t often think of arithmetic or mathematics and poetry at the same time, but Victorian poet, Robert Fuller Murray (1863–1894), did. His persona poem is in the voice of a woman in the University of St. Andrews, L.L.A. The L.L.A. was a special certification provided for women, Lady Literate in Arts, before women were admitted to University degree programs in Scotland. At first the poem seems to suggest that Vivien is rather careless in her  study or use of algebra (maybe a typical suspicion of men at that time?). But wait! The last stanza shows us that she is serious about it after all!

Vivien's Song
At the L.L.A. Examination

In Algebra, if Algebra be ours,
x and x^2 can ne'er be equal powers,
Unless x=1, or none at all.

It is the little error in the sum,
That by and by will make the answer come
To something queer, or else not come at all.

The little error in the easy sum,
The little slit across the kettle-drum,
That makes the instrument not play at all.

It is not worth correcting: let it go:
But shall I?  Answer, Prudence, answer, no.
And bid me do it right or not at all.

~ Robert Fuller Murray

This poem is in the public domain.

Linda Wallin, an Illinois poet, teacher and specialist in education for the gifted, wrote this poem:

In Praise of Math

Praise the vigesimal Mayan numerals, used for thousands of years by their complex civilization.

Praise binary code, which created out of nothing a vast system of communication, an industry of chips and processors, and a social movement to include everyone.

Praise honey bees, who wax together hexagons in rhombic sections to store honey, and dance the location of nectar, water and pollen.

Praise Pythagoras, who discovered the relationship of ratios between notes and the vibrations of strings, and the parabola focus of directed sound waves.

Praise x- and y-intercepts that show us the increase or decrease in a child’s reading fluency or emigration from a war zone.

Praise Alan Turing, whose Bome helped break the Enigma codes of the Nazis.

Praise farmers, who calculate ratios of soy to corn in feed and percentage of moisture in crops still in the field, as well as estimating quantities of seed to plant.

Praise elliptic geometry, where pseudosphere parallel lines intersect.

Praise algorithms that control traffic flow, track our spending and analyze it, and recognize damaging weather conditions.

Praise symmetry of butterflies, Fibonacci sequence of sunflowers and fractals of a snowflake.

Praise acoustic ceiling tiles with many holes for giving children something to count during unchallenging math lessons.

~ Linda Wallin

This poem was first published at Used by permission of the author. Linda blogs at

You can find other math poems on the Internet, including these:
·         “Geometry,” by Rita Dove -
·         “Philip Larkin’s Koan,” by Paisley Rekdal -
·         “Math is Beautiful and So Are You,” by Becky Dennison Sakellariou -
·         “American Arithmetic,” by Natali Diaz -
·         “Calculations,” by Brenda Cรกrdenas -
·         Poems by Robin Chapman, Daniel Steward, Arthus Size, and Michael G. Smith related to fractals can be found at
·         “Zero Plus Anything is a World,” by Jane Hirshfield -
·         See Fibonacci poems at

The September Challenge:

The September Challenge is to submit a poem inspired by arithmetic or mathematics. You may use the vocabulary of math metaphorically. Your poem could, like Murray's, be about the student studying math. Alternately, Linda Wallin's poem could be your prompt; she shows us some of the breadth of the influence of mathematics. Your poem may be humorous or serious.

Your piece may be free verse or formal. If you use a form, please identify the form when you submit your poem.

Title your poem unless it is a form that does not use titles. Single-space and don’t use lines that are overly long (because the blog format doesn’t accommodate long lines). Read previous poems on the blog to see what line lengths can be accommodated.

You may submit a published poem if you retain copyright, but please include publication data. This applies to poems published in books, journals, newspapers, or on the Internet.

The deadline is September 15. Poems submitted after the deadline will not be considered. There is no charge to enter, so there are no monetary rewards; however winners are published on this blog. Please don’t stray too far from “family-friendly” language (some children read this blog). No simultaneous submissions, please. You should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published on this blog. Decision of the judge or judges is final.

The poet retains copyright on each poem. If a previously unpublished poem wins and is published elsewhere later, please give credit to this blog. I do not register copyright with the US copyright office, but by US law, the copyright belongs to the writer unless the writer assigns it to someone else.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send one poem only to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Put “September Poetry Challenge Submission” in the subject line of your email. Include a brief bio that can be printed with your poem if you are a winner this month. Please put your name and bio UNDER the poem in your email.

Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name (exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win) at the end of the poem.

Poems may be pasted into an email or sent as an attachment (no pdf files, please). Please do not indent the poem or center it on the page. It helps if you submit the poem in the format used on the blog (Title and poem left-justified; title in bold (not all in capital letters); your name at the bottom of the poem). Also, please do not use multiple spaces instead of commas in the middle of lines. I have no problem with poets using that technique (I sometimes do it myself). However I have difficulty getting the blog to accept and maintain extra spaces.

Poems shorter than 40 lines are generally preferred but longer poems will be considered.

© Wilda Morris