Mathematical Poetry

by Sonja Dengler

Below are some examples of the maths poetry I write.

Please enjoy.

You can find more in the Newcastle University Creative Writing Society Anthologies here and here.

Note: I had some slight difficulty formatting the equations for the internet, so some of them don't look as intelegable as they should. Contact me if you want to see a properly formeted version.

Copying Right Sonja Dengler 2017. All Rights Reserved.


4 + 4 = 8

Arithmetric [1]

Arithmetic is the feeling

in your fingers as you use them

to count, the numbers running up

your sleeve to find space in your head.

Arithmetic is when patterns

start to make no sense even though

you can see them right in front of

your eyes because you are trying

too hard. Arithmetic is what

you’re tested on when you are young.

Arithmetic is how people

choose if you’re going to be good

at Maths. But really, it is

the reason calculators were

invented. Arithmetic is

not the preoccupation of

proper mathematicians like

you and me. What we deal with is

everything else. Things that would crack

the screen of your calculator

and make the buttons stick. What will

happen when a ball’s hurled into

the air? When’ll the next rain shower

fall on East London? How many

numbers can you add up before

a fissure splits reality?

What happens if you put a time

bomb inside a formula? How

to make a graph explode. And what

happens when arithmetic won’t

behave: when information flits

across the internet and when

four plus four does not equal eight.

[1] The sum in the title: 4 + 4 = 8 is the number of syllables per line in the poem.


2x^2 - 32x + 128 = 0

Equations [2]

They flap in the wind, equations

snagged on trees, all discarded

like old plastic bags, full of holes.

They blow and bump across the road,

are lifted into the air for

a moment, turn before they are

stepped into a muddy puddle

with the iridescent twists of

petrol swirling about on top.

They will take an eternity

to be decomposed, forgotten.

Who needs equations anymore?

They do not alter anything,

just sum up a fraction of the

universe in a few symbols.

They flap in the wind, equations

snagged on trees, all discarded.

[2] 2x^2 - 32x + 128 = 0 is a quadratic equation, meaning the highest power of  is two. An equation of this form can be solved either by factorization or using the quadratic formula. The solution x = 8 is the number of syllables per line in the poem


Phi = lim_n->infinity f_n+1/f_n

Phi [3]



take mathematics by


hand, watch the candlelight play in


her pupils.

Smile. She pulls

away and stands up. Dumbfounded you

see the tears trickling down her face.

“Wait…” you try to call out to her.

She is walking away. “Wait!”

She is outside

her hair trying to escape into

the wind. Smiling back at you, she

is speaking: “You know a human could

not possibly

understand all mathematics.

You did well, but

you were always going to fail.”

And she


walks straight through you

into the wind. Gone.

Someone you loved. For a moment

you forget who you are.

Forget the foundation of the


Forget that four

plus four is

always eight. And your head

spins and you stagger

and know you will not see

her again.

Such blasphemy. You know you should



there, leave mathematics well

alone. But the feeling that

ran down


from you head


when you first saw her will not leave your


the discovery filling

your chest. The laughter and tears you shared

exploring her world. Reaching for


a pen you choose to

fight once more. Poring over

maths textbooks, used paper


round your feet as you examine,

calculate and prove things

you had



before. Reaching for

another book:


to Number Theory. You stare in

disbelief. But the proof

is clear,

sound and

rigorous. Looking up you


see mathematics


at you. Looking down you


see that four plus

four is not always eight.

[3] The golden ratio is an irrational number (that is a number that cannot be expressed as a fraction, so has an infinite non-repeating decimal expansion) which appears throughout mathematics and the real world including classical architecture and art. It is the ratio between the sides of a regular pentagon and the length of a line drawn inside to make a five-pointed star, that is a/b = phi in the diagram.

It also has many other mathematical properties, including the regularity of its other representations as well as being the ratio between two Fibonacci numbers as  gets very big (tends to infinity). The digits of phi = 1.61803... are the number of syllables per line in this poem, although not going on forever.


Copyright Sonja Dengler 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed those.

Again you can find more in the Newcastle University Creative Writing Society Anthology 2016/17 here.

And do not hesitate to contact me if you'd like to read even more. Or just with questions and stuff.

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