Math Haiku and Limericks

November 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm 5 comments

Haiku have 17 syllables, right? Nope. They actually have 17 morae. Don’t know what a mora is? Don’t worry; neither do most linguists.

I find the 5-7-5 structure of haiku too restrictive, and apparently Roger McGough does, too.

The only problem
with haiku is you just get
started and then
~ Roger McGough

And Daniel Mathews thinks the structure is problematic for writing math haiku.

Maths haikus are hard
All the words are much too big
Like homeomorphic.
~ Daniel Mathews

Limericks are a little more forgiving. With five lines in an AABBA pattern, you have a little more time to develop a story. Or not.

There was a young man from Peru
Whose limericks stopped at line two.

If you’re at a cocktail party, and you want to deliver the following one-liner, you better set it up with the two-liner above.

There was a young man from Verdun.

“Then there’s the one about the Emperor Nero,” quipped poets Elliott Moreton and Carl Muckenhoupt.

Personally, I think it’s pretty fun to turn traditional poetry rules on their ear. Here is a tradition-busting limerick for you.

A poet through efforts concerted
Ignored all the rules
He learned in the schools
Tradition he oft times skirted
And wrote all his limericks inverted.

And lest haiku feel neglected as a poetic form, here’s an abomination of that type, too.

The last line goes here.
It’s still 5-7-5, but…
Haiku inverted.

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Binarily We Roll Along… Gobble Up Some Math Fun

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. xhenderson  |  November 14, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    A couple of years ago, I tried to write a couple of proofs in sonnet form. These are the (likely terrible) results:

    The Square Root of 2 is Irrational

    Suppose, for a while, that there are in Z
    An a and b without a factor shared,
    With square root 2 equals a over b.
    Thus 2 times b squared must equal a squared.
    Then, it seems, as the squares of odds are odd,
    And squares of evens even, we can say
    That a must be of an even facade.
    There is in Z: k, where a is 2k.
    Thus 2 times b squared is a squared times 4,
    Or b squared and 2 a squared are the same.
    Then b is even! And, for there is more,
    A common factor: 2 shall be its name.
    And here, a contradiction we must see.
    Square root 2: irrational. Q.E.D.

    There Are Infinitely Many Primes

    If primes be but finite, list them, bar none!
    Take the product of the primes on the list;
    Call it N, and add 1. Then N plus 1,
    From the set of primes, may be dismissed.
    As N plus 1 is certainly not prime,
    Among all the many primes there must be
    A prime factor. In order to save time,
    We shall call this prime by the letter p.
    p is prime and divides N, you’ll agree,
    Thus it divides N plus one, minus N,
    So p divides one quite naturally.
    Nonsensical! This is beyond all ken!
    Therefore, by contradiction we have shown:
    The greatest of primes can never be known.

    • 2. venneblock  |  November 15, 2012 at 10:17 am

      Proofs in sonnet form?
      No tests to grade? Kid asleep?
      Too much time on hands.

      • 3. xhenderson  |  November 17, 2012 at 9:06 pm

        In my defense I wrote those before the kid was born. 😛

  • […] Math Haiku and Limericks ( […]

  • 5. Mo’ Math Limericks | Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks  |  August 4, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    […] Math Haiku and Limericks […]


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The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

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