At a poetry reading

Music is not poetry, tunes are not ideas,
nor are you, Alice Oswald,
Chopin or Mahler,
but this they have in common,
that I, of limited capacity,
wishing oh wishing I knew these sounds,
get next to nothing from hearing them cold
and write notes like this one as your voice fills the room,
looking earnestly up from my index cards
from time to time
to admire the performance.

[13 February 2015]

If scientists were in charge of literature

Almost all the novels ever written fall in one of four categories:

1st person singular, present tense (The Hunger Games)
1st person singular, past tense (Huckleberry Finn)
3rd person singular, present tense (One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
3rd person singular, past tense (For Whom the Bell Tolls)

Approximately what fractions fall in each?

This is just the kind of question a scientist embarking on a study of literature might begin with. The funny thing is, most literary scholars wouldn’t go near it. How unimaginative, how mechanical!

I confess I’d be glad to know the answer. So might some literary scholars, I imagine, though they might not confess it.

[2 July 2014]

The golden triangle inequality

Oxford, Cambridge and London, they say, form the golden triangle.

Now every mathematician knows the triangle inequality: the distance from A to C is no greater than the distance from A to B plus the distance from B to C.

The golden triangle, however, violates this principle. From Oxford to London takes an hour, and from Cambridge to London takes an hour, but from Oxford to Cambridge it’s three hours!

[28 February 2015]