Guest poem submitted by : Today's poem inspired me to dig out this poem by Judith Saunders.
(Poem #1315) Mathematicians at Work
hunker down on their hands and knees and sniff the problem poke it with ungentle fingers rub it raw with steel wool wad it up in a ball and cackle then pound it flat with little mallets watch it rise like dough (uh oh) resume its original shape screech, swing at it with hatchets spatter the walls with oozing fragments stare horrified at the shattered bits reassembling themselves, jump up attack the problem with icepicks gouge holes six inches deep and seven inches across (chew the mangled matter spit it out and belch) kick the thing into a corner, remove their belts and beat it senseless, walk off with the answer in their pockets.
I don't know if it meets your criteria with regard to Saunders being an established poet; I can find little out about her. However, this poem was professionally published; it appeared in the Mathematical Intelligencer, I believe in the early 90's. I still have the photocopy, which I've taped up near my desk at many places I've worked. I also found this poem: [broken link] http://braden.weblogs.com/poetry/euler which I'm sure is by her and also appeared in the Intelligencer; this: http://www.marist.edu/liberalarts/facviewer.html?uid=jzlt would appear to be her home page. So: up to you if it qualifies for the Minstrels. [yes -- t.] As for the poem itself, what I like about it is the way it captures the sheer joy of mathematical aggression. Tearing a problem into shreds is pure competition, between you and the Platonic world. If you don't know anything about mathematics, this poem tells you more about what it's like to do research mathematics than almost anything else could. Mike.