Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Arithmetic is where numbers fly

Throughout my childhood, I had seen Carl Sandburg from time to time. He had white hair, a craggy face, and under his arm, he carried a book about Abraham Lincoln. He was a well-known eccentric poet. I didn't pay him much mind. We didn't become properly introduced until my first professional library stint in New York City. For my children's services speciality seminar, we watched the six minute film "Arithmetic," animated by Lynn Smith. Carl Sandburg narrated it. In six minutes, I was smitten.

I have mixed-feelings about sharing the link to the film "Arithmetic." It is a rare film and I'm surprised that the "clip" is actually the entire film (via RealPlayer, alas.) As a librarian, I want to share the film with everybody, but I am also a little bit shy about doing so. "Arithmetic" is the film that made me starry-eyed over Carl Sandburg. It may tickle your fancy, or it may do nothing at all for you. That's fine.

I love it.

If you can't see the film or listen to Carl Sandburg's voice, here at least is the poem for you to read:


Arithmetic is where numbers fly like pigeons in and out of your head.

Arithmetic tell you how many you lose or win if you know how many you had before you lost or won.

Arithmetic is seven eleven all good children go to heaven -- or five six bundle of sticks.

Arithmetic is numbers you squeeze from your head to your hand to your pencil to your paper till you get the answer.

Arithmetic is where the answer is right and everything is nice and you can look out of the window and see the blue sky -- or the answer is wrong and you have to start all over and try again and see how it comes out this time.

If you take a number and double it and double it again and then double it a few more times, the number gets bigger and bigger and goes higher and higher and only arithmetic can tell you what the number is when you decide to quit doubling.

Arithmetic is where you have to multiply -- and you carry the multiplication table in your head and hope you won't lose it.

If you have two animal crackers, one good and one bad, and you eat one and a striped zebra with streaks all over him eats the other, how many animal crackers will you have if somebody offers you five six seven and you say No no no and you say Nay nay nay and you say Nix nix nix?

If you ask your mother for one fried egg for breakfast and she gives you two fried eggs and you eat both of them, who is better in arithmetic, you or your mother?

--Carl Sandburg

01/04/08: The video link no longer works. Regrets.


John said...

I'm a bit of a science/math geek. Not so much a literary geek. Math is one of my strengths. I was doing arithmatic in my head as I read this. Thanks for sharing!


LB said...

I am absolutely the opposite of HitmanJ. Math confuses the hell out of me. Words on the other hand are constant and soothing. Yes, I know numbers are also constant but they are also infinite. Putting them together though is quite enjoyable.

Melangell said...

Your mother is better.

Lady K said...

YOU, my dear writer, are amazing. I hated math...good at it, but hated it...'til now. You go, girl.

Saints and Spinners said...

Thanks, all! (And yes, I know my mother is better at arithmetic than I am.)

I think I would have loved math had I gotten a good start and not allowed that blasted psychological block to hinder me. I could get the concepts, but it would take me 2-3 days for everyone else's day... and at a topic a day, I was floundering. Of course, I hope Lucia will do better. I will do my part to help.

Melangell said...

Well, I just viewed the little clip of Sandburg reading "Arithmetic." I loved it. I would never have heard this if you, Alkelda the Gleeful, had not pointed it out. I think you don't have nearly enough time on your hands. We need more!

LB said...

Alkelda, I humbly submit this question. I was informed that only "young" poke could be consumed. That now, at this advanced state, it was poisonous. Propaganda by the spinach growers association perhaps?

Tricia said...

Hi Alkelda,
I posted poems on Infinity last week because I was immersed in math. This was almost my selection. I'm so glad you posted it. It is one of my favorites.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

I adore Carl Sandburg. This is my kind of math!