Poetry Inspired by Mathematics

Sarah Glaz
Proceedings of Bridges 2010: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2010)
Pages 35–42


This article explores one of the many manifestations of the mysterious link between mathematics and poetry–the phenomenon of poetry inspired by mathematics. Such poetry responds to the mathematical concerns and accomplishments of the day, be it a ground breaking definition or technique, a long standing unsolved conjecture, or a celebrated theorem. The motivation for writing the poems, their mathematical subjects, and their poetic styles, vary through history and from culture to culture. We bring a selection of poems from a variety of time periods and mathematical subjects: from a Sumerian temple hymn–where an anonymous priest counts the number of cattle in the herds of the moon god, Nanna, to contemporary poetry celebrating the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem, the still unsolved Riemann Conjecture, or the creation of fractal geometry. We also include references to additional sources of poetry inspired by mathematic, and a brief discussion on the use of such poetry in the mathematics classroom.