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Mathematicians at Work -- Judith Saunders

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.
-- Judith Saunders
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.

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