The Algebra of Poetry

Algebra has a poetry of its own.

Poetry has an algebra of its own.

1) How is poetry like an algebra equation?
2) What is the ration and proportion of poetry?
3) What is your definition of “earned abstraction”? How does a poem earn the use of abstract concepts and words?

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  1. The balance between art and science can be elusive.

    Here is my definition, applicable to this post:

    Physics: The truth that is matter.

    Art: The matter that is truth.

  2. Yes, Janet, when it comes to any form of dogma (art or science), the following observation pretty much tells us the whole story.

    “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer,
    to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

    —from The Psychology of Science by Abraham H. Maslow

    The indelible memories of our lives are felt, not thought.

  3. Eden,

    Your chapter in “An Artist Empowered” titled: Art & Physics: the upshot being this: you can’t measure God with a ruler” is a good reference in this discussion.


  4. When I told my son, the economist, that I’d always figured him for an artist (music, poetry) he said, “Mom when you get up high enough in math, it has a certain beauty and elegance.” We (being Western culture) have long mused about the music of the spheres, and Hesse’s brilliant discussions of music and math all make such an argument as well.

    Now for the algebra of poetry, what comes to mind is the solving for the unknown. An experience that resonates more than it should, an elusive motif, a pattern of words or sounds, are always central to poetry. If there is no unknown, you shouldn’t write a poem (and there is no algebra without an unknown to solve for).

    Earned abstraction, I’ll be interested to see more of what people say about this. I still generally tune out of abstraction in poetry, but I am now seeing some limited times when the abstraction is so unexpected, yet so inevitible that it seems almost as concrete as the thud of a door being broken into.

    Thanks for getting me into this discussion on an otherwise Monday, Monday.

  5. Thanks, Mary Ruth, for your perceptive response. It’s good to have an online discussion about things that matter to us as writers. I always love the boundary between things that often seem in different camps.

    Janet Riehl

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