Poetry Friday: Fractals, Fibonacci, and Beyond

It’s the first Friday of the month, so it’s time for another Inkling challenge. This month I challenged my fellow Inklings to “Write a mathematical poem, such as a fib, pi poem, nonet, etc. Feel free to interpret this challenge in any way that feels right for you. Have fun!”

There are a seemingly infinite number of types of mathematical poems, and an argument could be made that every poem that has a regular meter, rhyme scheme, or line count is a mathematical poem. I had every intention of stretching myself and trying a new form, but as January unfolded, it became clear that my mental capacity was limited to using a familiar form. Fib (short for Fibonacci) poems are my favorite math form to write, so I decided to stick with that form.

Still, wanting to push past the familiar, I searched for a math-related topic. I wasn’t having much luck until earlier this week when my son’s girlfriend posted images of sound waves. This sparked a memory of seeing a demonstration of a Chladni plate. Rather than try to explain this, here’s a demonstration.

This all took me down a rabbit hole of how the patterns created on the Chladni plate are related to fractals, and how both are related to the Fibonacci sequence. There are cool images of Chladni plate creations and similar images generated from sound waves all over the web. (Visit Resonantia to view just one of these amazing projects.) After just scratching the surface of all this math and science, this fib poem draft emerged. The second half of the poem is a reverse fib, working back to one syllable.

time and space
ripples radiate
expand in every direction
then shift, create a kaleidoscope of infinite
shapes, each small segment an echo
of the whole, repeating
on and on

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Find out how the other Inklings responded to this challenge by visiting them:

Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche
Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone

Then be sure to stop by Elisabeth Norton’s blog, Unexpected Intersections, for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

11 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Fractals, Fibonacci, and Beyond

  1. Hi Catherine,
    I was intrigued by your “rabbit hole” learning about math poems especially fractals. A good thing all this poetic searching! And wave music, reminds me of the sound of whales. I looked a bit further and found this link that I am adding to my “fib direction” file, along with your post. I have not tried one too often, but you (and your Inkling friends) have given me an idea to try! My dad, a musician, would tell me that music is really mathematics. I understood what he meant but never explored it deeply. In grad school at Cornell my husband lived with this guy who was a physicist/engineer type and brilliant. He connected his stereo to lights and hung aluminum foil over the wrought iron railing/divider in the living room. It was intriguing nd beautiful how he was able to get the intensity of the light to change with the strength of the sound, all the hues would do the same , etc. I always wished he could market it. We would watch and be amazed and were absolutely stone cold sober, I might add. I love “rabbit holes” sometimes!!
    Here’s the link with more of the sequence if anyone is interested. Your poems works for me and I love ” ripples radiate/expand in every direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The “double” fib is perfect for this exploration of sound waves. Watching one of these videos really is like watching a shifting kaleidoscope. I used to share videos like this with my students when studying sound. Fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I do love a little fib…you found a brilliant and fascinating subject and whorled it out and back neatly. I love “each small segment an echo/of the whole, repeats”. Thanks for a challenge that was indeed fun, Catherine!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You say you “scratch[ed] the surface of all this math and science” but I actually think you bowed it, like Chladni bowed the edges of the plates to reveal new patterns and new thinking. How I love that the theory of sound as waves was born of music, of art!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love reading about the Chiadni plate, Catherine & your poem capturing the ‘drifts’ of sound & then another view, the ‘kaleidoscope’ – wonderful to fit that in. I cannot find the real story but read somewhere that a man was exploring art through the vibrations of his piano, placing paper over the keys as he played, producing a piece of art from the waves. Yes, it is fascinating to learn about math in all its permutations!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a wonderful fib – I like how you’ve explored two aspects of patterns in math through both the poetic form and the subject. Thanks for sharing this with us and being a part of the Poetry Friday party this week!

    Liked by 1 person

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