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Bronx, NY – Karl Weierstrass once wrote, “A mathematician who is not somewhat of a poet, will never be a perfect mathematician.” Indeed, fine poetry is the music of mathematics.
Jamaican-born Cecil Thompson possesses a poet’s understanding of math and a mathematician’s understanding of poetry, having spent a lifetime as a student and educator in both disciplines.
“Math is not entirely objective as many people assume,” explains Thompson. “Math points to the fact that there is not an absolute answer to every question man may ask. There is too much uncertainty. It’s comparable to asking ‘What is love?’”
Though he retired from teaching in 2011, today, writing under the pseudonym “duCat,” Thompson’s poetry reflects his unique perspective. One such poem, Thanatos, named for the demon personification of death, examines the deadly confrontation between Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, the man accused and later acquitted of killing him amid much controversy. Thompson’s use of the word “stag” signifies that Trayvon was seen by Zimmerman as a kind of prey to be hunted.
“Who was the aggressor?” asks Thompson. “My perception as an artist is when Trayvon looked into Zimmerman’s eyes he saw Death and decided he was going to fight.”
Thompson believes anyone who calls themselves a poet or an artist “must have a definition of the art he’s practicing that is in alignment with what he produces.” In short, a poem must justify its existence to the poet as well as the audience.
Says Thompson: “Archibald MacLeish wrote, ‘A poem should be palpable and mute; a poem should be wordless as a flight of birds; a poem should be equal to: not true; a poem should not mean but be.’ Poetry is what prose is not.”
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