You are on page 1of 8

Maths and Poetry

Ion Barbu - Dan Barbilian


For me, poetry is an extension of geometry, so by being a poet, I never left the divine world of geometry. He studied Algebra and Geometry- the so-called Barbilian spaces were named after him. His artistic debut was triggered by a bet with Tudor Vianu, later a famous literary critic. On a high school trip, Barbilian promised that he would write a poetry book, arguing that the artistic spirit exists in everyone. Thus, he discovered his talent and love for poetry.

Dan Barbilian (1895-1961) was a mathematician as well as a poet. His pen name was Ion Babu.

Ion Barbu - Dan Barbilian


The result was his best known volume: Joc secund (Second Game) The poems are difficult to understand, they use a lyrical encrypted abstract language, inspired by the poems of Stephane Mallarme. In some of them, mathematical concepts are used, such as the concept of group (a mathematical structure whose elements can be added according to specific laws). The basic idea of the main poem is that art as well as mathmatics is a second game, a more pure, sublimated reality, a second possible universe. Dan Barbilian said that poetry and geometry were complementary: where geometry is rigid, poetry is open to knowledge and imagination. Mathematics brings in spiritual powers that are not very much different from those required by poetry and arts.

Mihai Eminescu

So far it is athwart the blue To where yon star appears, That for its light to reach our view Has needed thousand years. Maybe that ages gone it shed Its glow, then languished in the skies, Yet only now its rays have sped Their journey to our eyes. The icon of the star that died Slowly the vault ascended; Time was ere it could first be spied, We see now what is ended.
English version by Corneliu M. Popescu

Our most important poet is Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889) whose poems often show influences from philosophy and science. Here is a poem called "La steaua" (To the Star) in which one can clearly see interesting ideas on the way light travels through space. Even more interesting since it was written at the end of the 19th century:

More Maths Poetry


A lecture on the circle By Nichita Stanescu You draw a circle in the sand and then halve the circle with the same hazelnut stick. Nichita Stanescu (1933-1983) was one of the most important, acclaimed and loved poets in our modern literature. Next you fall to your knees, then to all fours. Then you hit the sand with your forehead and apologize to the circle. Thats all. from the collection Imperfect Works, 1979

More Maths Poetry


Another kind of Mathematics By Nichita Stanescu We know that one times one is one, but an unicorn times a pear have no idea what it is. We know that five minus four is one but a cloud minus a sailboat have no idea what it is. We know that eight divided by eight is one, but a mountain divided by a goat have no idea what it is. We know that one plus one is two, but me and you, oh, we have no idea what it is. Oh, but a comforter times a rabbit is a red-headed one of course, a cabbage divided by a flag is a pig, a horse minus a street-car is an angel, a cauliflower plus an egg is an astragalus. Only you and me multiplied and divided added and substracted remain the same... Vanish from my mind! Come back in my heart!

More Maths Poetry


A lecture on the cube By Nichita Stanescu You take a piece of stone, chisel it with blood, grind it with Homers eye, burnish it with beams until the cube comes out perfect. Next you endlessly kiss the cube with your mouth, with others mouths, and, most important, with infantas mouth. . Then you take a hammer and suddenly knock a corner off. All, indeed absolutely all will say what a perfect cube this would have been if not for the broken corner! from the collection Works, 1979 Imperfect

More Maths Poetry


Marin Sorescu (1936-1996) was a poet, a novelist and a playwright. His poems are filled with a playful irony, bringing back the child in his reader. The Reckoning by Marin Sorescu There comes a time When we have to draw a line under us A black line To do the summing up. The few moments when you are about to be happy, The few moments when we were nearly beautiful, The few moments we were almost a genius, Occasionally we've met Mountains, trees, water (What happened to them? Do they still exist?) Each adds up to a brilliant future--which we've lived. A woman we've loved, Plus the same woman who didn't love us Equals zero. A quarter of year of studies Makes several million fodder words Whose wisdom we have gradually eliminated. And finally, a fate Plus another fate (Now where does that come from?) Equals two (write one, carry one, Perhaps, who knows, there is a life hereafter)