Math + Poetry = Fibs
Students follow the Fibonacci sequence to explore a new form of poetry.
Forget haiku. The hottest short-form poetry today is the Fib: a compact lyric with a syllable count derived from the Fibonacci sequence. Inspired by this trend, the Kenyon math department recently sponsored a Fib-writing contest with prizes offered for the top-rated entries.
The Fibonacci sequence is a numerical series in which each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. Adapting the sequence to the literary realm, a classic Fib is a six-line, twenty-syllable poem with a syllable count by line of 1/1/2/3/5/8. Its popularity spread rapidly when a single blogger began to feature the form in 2006; an article in the New York Times attracted even more attention to the new art form.
Submissions to the competition exhibited a genuine flair for poetry, unsurprising at an institution with Kenyon's long history of literary excellence yet noteworthy in that all the winners were math and/or physics majors. Professor Carol Schumacher, chair of the math department, reports that one prize was awarded for best poem overall and one for the "geekiest math poem."
There was a tie for the best poem overall. One of the two winners, Julia Rowny, a junior from Chevy Chase, Maryland, gently spoofs a classic mathematical puzzle:
Fermat's Last Theorem!
(The proof's too long to fit here, though.)
Sharing the honors was Lee Kennard, a senior from Seville, Ohio, whose Fib ponders the origins of the universe:
spins, sparks --
all in tune.
Musician or sage?
I think God was a math major.
And in one final example, senior Matt Zaremsky of Yellow Springs, Ohio, seeks to simplify the mathematician's life:
Let's just set it equal to 3…
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