2006: Harvey L. Hix, “The Idea of a University”
Here is what I learned in school:
one can calculate the space
here to the unreachable;
no good is pure but good will;
ηως ροδοδάκτυλος. 1
I learned, but not always well.
Carbon is symmetrical;
ignōtum per ignōtius; 2
light speed is unreachable.
Ex nihilō fit nihil 3;
homō hominī lupus; 4
that is what I learned in school.
x, where 1 over x equals
x over 1 plus x: 5
abstract is empirical.
Space is four-dimensional.
Εν αρχη ην ο λόγος. 6
School taught me distrust of school
and gave the unreachable.
- “Rosy-fingered Dawn,” Homer, passim. [NOTE: Diacritical marks are omitted because of limitations with fonts.]
- “The unknown (explained) by means of the more unknown: an annoyingly obscure explanation.”
- “Nothing comes of nothing.” Lucretius.
- “Man is a wolf to men.” Plautus.
- The equation expresses a proportionality of line segments, which the Greeks found pleasing: take a segment of total length 1 + x and break it into pieces of lengths 1 and x. Then the ratio of the two pieces is the same as the ratio of the second to the total length. This is sometimes called Mean and Extreme Ratio in Euclidean geometry.
Now, this equation is equivalent to quadratic equation: start with 1/x = x/(1 + x) and cross multiply to obtain x2 = x + 1, which by the quadratic formula has solutions [1 +/- squareroot(5)] / 2. The positive solution [1 + squareroot(5)] / 2 is a famous number in mathematics. It is the golden ratio, sometimes denoted phi. It occurs in all kinds of applications and is related to the Fibonacci sequence. The Greeks, for instance, thought that the most esthetic rectangle was one in which the side ratio is phi to 1. There is a recent popular book about it. So the equation that the poet names has a good pedigree. (Jeff Nunemacher)
- John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word.”
About Harvey Hix
Harvey L. Hix teaches in and directs the creative writing MFA at the University of Wyoming. From 2002 to 2005 he was Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Cleveland Institute of Art. He received a B.A. (1982) from Belmont University, and an M.A. (1985) and Ph.D. (1987) in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin. His recent books include his fourth poetry collection, Shadows of Houses, a collection of essays on poetry entitled As Easy As Lying, and an anthology, Wild and Whirling Words.
Hix also has written about postmodern theory and translated City of Ash, a collection of poems by Lithuanian poet, Eugenijus Ali’anka, who was born in Barnaula, Siberia, to parents exiled during the Stalinist purges. Hix’s poetry has been described as “interweav[ing] the language of science, philosophy, and scripture into a voice singular in its complexity and urgency.” His essays “delve into the workings of the poetic mind and offer incisive assessments of contemporary American poets and poetics.”