Maths and poetry have a special relationship's image

Maths and poetry have a special relationship

One, two, buckle my shoe,

Three, four, knock on the door...

Our first, toddling relationship to poetry often goes hand-in-hand with our first fascination with numbers. In learning to count and learning to rhyme, we begin to make sense of the world through patterns, making numbers run in sequence, connecting words with each other in all sorts of ways. And that's before we even get started with Lewis Carroll's recitation of the first 71 digits of pi using nonsense couplets as an aide-mémoire.

Despite the seeming opposition between poetry and mathematics - airy-fairy ethereal verse versus hard-headed number-crunching – poetry and maths have always gone together like, well, a partial derivative and a unit vector. From the Sulba sutras to the 0/1 binary rhythm of the iambic pentameter, there is an affinity between maths and poetry. And poets have had long love affairs with mathematics – be they paid-up mathematicians like Carroll or Omar Khayyám, or writers simply enchanted by the magic of maths like Edna St Vincent Millay or Emily Dickinson.

Contemporary poets have recently swamped the London Word festival site following a challenge to write the Golden Fib. The Fib is a poetic form (six lines, 20 syllables) cooked up by Gregory K Pincus and based on the Fibonacci sequence. So the syllables for each line run 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8.

Pincus's original Fib sums up (no pun intended) the mutual attraction of poetry and maths.





Spiraling mixture:

Math plus poetry yields the Fib.

Mathematics, like poetry, is not simply a matter of adding and subtracting and – hey, presto! – getting the right answer all the time. The eleg

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