Monday, August 21, 2006

Poem of the Week 8/21/2006: Geometry


I prove a theorem and the house expands;
the windows jerk free to hover near the ceiling,
the ceiling floats away with a sigh.

As the walls clear themselves of everything
but transparency, the scent of carnations
leaves with them. I am out in the open

and above the windows have hinged into butterflies,
sunlight glinting where they've intersected.
They are going to some point true and unproven.

Rita Dove 1980

I take my friend Mark's point; this poem does deal specifically with the instant revelation of

More than a poem about strictly mathematic revelation, this poem is an incredible illustration of any kind of expansion of knowledge. Expansion by itself is a thin term, but say expansion with an exhale, sigh it and open your eyes; this kind of revelation is what Dove is talking about.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've had a lot of my math teachers hand out essays or poems on the beauty of math, and I've always thought they were corny or stupid or fell short of fully describing what a mathematician felt when he accomplished something. But I think this poem does an excellent job of describing how it feels to discover something or finally understand something mathematical, and I am impressed. It may well also accurately describe the feeling of discovery in other fields, but in my personal experience no other subject gives the sudden bursts of clarity that math does. In other subjects its a gradual gaining of understanding, but in math, one second a thought isn't there, and the next second it just appears in your head out of nowhere. And everytime it happens its like an expansion of your world, which I think is something I've always felt but have never been able to say.