I. Asparagus X Plus Y
[An Arithmetic and Poetic Error]

Ken Stange




First Poem: "987"

.

123-45
615-43
21-11-1
0-12-12
34-5-56
012-345
6-5432-1
0

.

Second Poem:  "123"

.

1
12
123
1-32
1-21
1-10
2
21
21-31
2131
21-31-231
121
1

.

Third Poem:  "645"

.

6
3-3
5-5-5
546
654
456
123-123
987-987
12-34-56-78-9
8765432
1
12
123
456
46
5
4
6

.

.

Idea Behind Asparagus: All art is predominantly formal, and the more formal the art form, the more likely that it will be emotionally moving. Music, of course, is the obvious example of this. Of all the art forms it is the most purely formal, the most abstract, and yet it is the most emotional in effect, at least for most people. Mathematics also is a field which, for the initiated, offers extremely subtle but exquisite emotional pleasures. It would seem, thus, that by removing the concrete image form a poem and replacing it with the atom of mathematical abstraction (ie. the number), one might be able to create very emotional musical/mathematical "poems". The poems would naturally be predominately aural and best appreciated when heard read aloud. (In reading Asparagus one should enunciate each number clearly, pause for the "-" the same way one would in reading a telephone number, and give the line-breaks their natural due.) Of course this is na´ve and doesn't work. But thinking about exactly why it doesn't work is very fruitful. Also, it should be noted that some of the poems generated this way (or "number sequences" if the term "poem" offends anyone's sensibility) do offer considerable intellectual (if not emotional) stimulation. The three poems of Asparagus do have a logic, both a mathematical logic and an aesthetic logic; the numbers are not by any means random. This suggests that something constructed like the pieces of Asparagus is really a form of purer-than-pure mathematics: a work raising the supposedly pure mathematics of numerical sequence to the truly pure (ie. useless) level of abstract art. However this garden could easily be overworked. Asparagus is best in spring, most tender and delectable.



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