Poem of the Day: ‘How is it Different?’

The famed British mathematician, Sir Michael Atiyah (1919-2019) was also known for his encompassing view on the arts and sciences. This is what he said in a last interview in March 2019, a month before his death.

Our invention is to select from all the possible mathematical truths the ones that are really interesting. Now, how and why do we see that something is interesting? Because it is beautiful, it has a nice structure, it produces human emotions.” 

~ Interview with Sir Michael Atiyah, John Alexander Cruz Morales (Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogota), EMS Newletter, March 2019. 

As one who has worked in the sciences while cultivating a nascent interest in the arts, I can certainly identify with Sir Atiyah’s sentiments, and the following poem I wrote is informed by our kindred views.

How is it Different?

How is it different?
Your art and my science?
I’m an artist too,  
the boy on the beach
combing for seashells,
picking the ones that are
most interesting, the ones
that fill me with emotions
by their colors and shapeliness,
and move me like the poet
who recites a poem over and over
because it sounded so right,
so ineluctable is the sound of it.

I am that poet. 

© Wallace Fong, Oct 2022

“Little Boy Looking at the Sea” by the American artist, Edward Hopper (1882-1967) was drawn on the back of his 3rd grade report card at the age of nine.

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