Maths Poems

Is it possible to write a maths poem? How can researchers break down poetry's reputation for being inaccessible, and obscure?

Mathematics and linguistics are often pitted in opposition. Conventionally, mathematics is synonymous with rational, logical thought, whereas language inhabits communicative and expressive forms. This research aims to disassemble this dichotomy and explore the common ground held by the two disciplines.

What did the project involve? 

This research project wants to break down poetry’s reputation for being inaccessible, and obscure. The team wants to find new ways of creating and publishing poems through their innovative collaboration.

The research team facilitated a series of workshops where poets and mathematicians collaboratively explored various poetic forms, weaving in mathematical concepts and language throughout. Under the expert guidance of Dr Mimi Thebo, the Maths Poets workshopped each other’s poems in a creative writing context. After a process of editing, the poems were collated and published by Johanna Darque at Small Press. The anthology was launched in November 2019.

Who are the team and what do they bring?

  • Mimi Thebo (English) is a Carnegie-nominated children’s author. Her research interests include writing trauma and writing nature in the Anthropocene.
  • Richard Pettigrew‘s (Philosophy) research interests include the knowledge and justification of uncertain beliefs and the philosophy of mathematics.
  • Rebecca Kosick (Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies) researches hybrid creative-critical ways of learning and communicating. She is interested in how poetry intersects with visual art and media.
  • Johanna Darque has a background in interdisciplinary research and is publisher at Small Press Books.
  • Also involved are Poets; Holly Corfield Carr, Jack Thacker, Rowan Evans, Miranda Barnes and Mathematicians; Dr Florian Bouyer, Dominic Verdon, Dr Mauro Fazion Filho and Dr Tyler Helmuth

What were the results?

In November 2019 Maths Poems held a fantastic poetry reading to launch their Maths Poems Anthology. It was a wonderful evening of pantoums, haikus and beautiful verses on topics such as dendrochronology, fractals and pigeons. The anthology is packed full of curious and delightful poetry combining the expressive and symbolic.

A major outcome of the project was the development of the website Poetrishy, an ambitious laboratory for radical experiments with poetry, language modelling, and computation. It is a multilingual and multidisciplinary online space where experimental poetry drives new methods, ideas, and approaches in areas such as natural language processing and artificial intelligence.

The research group have formed an exciting new research cluster at the University of Bristol focusing on Interdisciplinary Poetics.
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