Mathematical Pattern Poetry

Sarah Glaz
Proceedings of Bridges 2012: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2012)
Pages 65–72


Pattern poetry is an art form that combines literary and visual elements to produce poems in which the text and the shape of the poem work together as an aesthetic whole. To fully appreciate a pattern poem one needs to see it as well as hear it. Although varied forms of this art existed throughout history and across cultures, it is only in the 19th century that pattern poetry became a recognized genre of poetry. This genre is further enriched by the increasing graphing capabilities of modern computers that add a new dimension to the hand-drawn or typewriter-produced pattern poems of the past. Mathematical pattern poetry—pattern poetry possessing a substantial mathematical component—includes poems whose shape or content involve geometric figures, mathematical curves, or other mathematical notions and symbols. This article provides a brief overview of modern mathematical pattern poetry, including selected references for the use of such poetry in the mathematics classroom. The concluding remarks touch lightly on the poetry forms that sprang from this genre: visual poetry and electronic poetry.