Friday, January 04, 2008

Poetry Friday - Sandburg and Math (More Than Just Arithmetic)

I know some readers saw math in the title and ran. What do math and poetry have in common? Since I've been working on a sonnet, I'm counting syllables and looking at rhyme patterns. If that isn't math, I don't know what is. I suppose I see connections between math and poetry the way I see connections between math and music, math and art, math and science and on and on. Math is simply everywhere.

Since I'm still planning my math class for spring (classes start in just 10 days), I do have math on the brain. So today I'm sharing some mathematically oriented poetry by Carl Sandburg.
How Much?
How much do you love me, a million bushels?
Oh, a lot more than that, Oh, a lot more.

And to-morrow maybe only half a bushel?
To-morrow maybe not even a half a bushel.

And is this your heart arithmetic?
This is the way the wind measures the weather.

Child Margaret
The child Margaret begins to write numbers on a Saturday morn-
    ing, the first numbers formed under her wishing child fin-
All the numbers come well-born, shaped in figures assertive for a
    frieze in a child’s room.
Both 1 and 7 are straightforward, military, filled with lunge and
    attack, erect in shoulder-straps.
The 6 and 9 salute as dancing sisters, elder and younger, and 2 is
    a trapeze actor swinging to handclaps.
All the numbers are well-born, only 3 has a hump on its back and
    8 is knock-kneed.
The child Margaret kisses all once and gives two kisses to 3 and
(Each number is a bran-new rag doll … O in the wishing fingers
     … millions of rag dolls, millions and millions of new rag
I'm also quite fond of Sandburg's Arithmetic. It begins this way.
Arithmetic is where numbers fly like pigeons in and out of your head.

Arithmetic tell you how many you lose or win if you know how many you had before you lost or won.

Arithmetic is seven eleven all good children go to heaven -- or five six bundle of sticks.

Arithmetic is numbers you squeeze from your head to your hand to your pencil to your paper till you get the answer.
Alkelda the Gleeful highlighted this poem quite a while ago. You should read it in its entirety. (Sadly, the video link is no longer working.)

If you want to learn more about math and poetry, read this entry.

The round-up today is at A Year of Reading. Do head on over and check out the great poetry this week. Happy poetry Friday, all!


  1. I know you're going to rock that sonnet!

    What I love about Carl Sandburg best is his range -- his poems just span all topics and they're all styles.

  2. Keep us thinking about math in ALL KINDS of ways!

  3. I saw math in your title and hyperventilated... but I didn't run. :-)Thanks for these poems.

  4. Love these! Leave it to a poet to show me how to understand math.

  5. This is the kind of stuff I love to share with my kids about math-poetry-math-and-poetry. And, thanks for sending me to that past post, too, which I had missed the first time around. A few new titles for me there! Thank you!

  6. I love the Child Margaret poem (my mom's name is Margaret). Thanks for making math a little less intimidating!!

  7. Oh, mercy mercy mercy, do I LOVE How Much...
    I have to go read it again.
    I might have to commit that puppy to memory...


    Poetry can be math, for sure. And poetry is like music. And music is math. As in, I got math credit for studying music theory in college (we needed one theoretical math and one applied - music theory, which is based on chord progressions, which have been assigned numbers - counted as theoretical math. No wonder math scores are usually higher in kids who study music.)

  9. I read an interesting question once: was mathematics discovered or invented? I wonder if the same's true of poetry.

    Love the measured bits of Sandburg today.

    Thanks for the link to the earlier post...what a fantastic list. Your students, I hope, know how lucky they are to have you.

  10. Thanks for the heads-up about my goof! I trust that you'll also let me know when I have spinach in my teeth, or a stray hair on my shoulder?!?!


    Thanks, friend!