Poet

Poetry is the shortest distance between two humans.’  — Lawrence Ferlinghetti

overall poetry BIO:  Moving to the mountainous west Texas desert inspired Lawrence (Larry) Lesser to resume writing poetry (almost 2 decades after a poetry course from Guggenheim Fellowship winner Susan Wood), publishing in Poets & Writers Directory venues such as Talking Writing and BorderSenses Literary Magazine. Lesser is an award-winning UTEP professor who has given talks/readings, written peer-reviewed papers on poetry with educational context, and published roughly 100 poems in over a dozen journals or anthologies. He’s also a former teaching center director, textbook author, and award-winning songwriter who lives in El Paso with his even more hairless rescue dog Kelev and his soulmate Laurie.

STEM poetry BIO:  Lawrence (Larry) Lesser often writes poems with a math/statistics lens, and some have been anthologized, won national contest prizes, appeared in journals (Consilience, The Mathematical Intelligencer, Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics, Amstat News, Journal of Mexican American Educators, etc.), local and non-local readings/talks, a National Endowment for the Arts Big Read event here, podcast, video zine, gallery exhibits (#1#2), conferences (e.g., this, this or this, and a plenary for a regional MAA/NMMATYC conference) or an NPR-station interview. He gave an archived talk for the National Museum of Mathematics and workshop for the Electronic Conference on Teaching Statistics, organized (with Gizem Karaali and Douglas Nortonevenings of mathematical poetry at the Joint Mathematics Meetings (e.g., 2015201620172019, 2020, 2022; see programs), judged (with Karaali and JoAnne Growney) all AMS student math poetry contests to date (2018-19, 2019-20, 2022-23, 2023-24), and founded a math poetry FB group. His STEM poems/songs are part of overall efforts (some funded by NSF) to humanize STEM, reduce anxiety, and support student learning. He’s grateful the arts help him reach his students and also bring meaning, comfort, and joy to stressful times.

contact Larry

peer-reviewed papers on STEM/education poetry:

G. Karaali & L. Lesser (2021). “Arts of the heart: Mathematics and poetry.” In Bharath Sriraman (Ed.), Handbook of the Mathematics of the Arts and Sciences (pp. 967-979). NY: Springer.

L. Lesser (2021). “Presenting Mathematical Poetry Across Disciplinary Lines“. In David Swart, Frank Farris, Eve Torrence, & Craig S. Kaplan (Eds.), Proceedings of Bridges 2021: Mathematics, Art, Music, Architecture, Education, Culture (pp. 371-374). Phoenix, AZ: Tessellations Publishing. ISBN: 978-1-938664-39-7. [from associated talk]

L. Lesser (2021). “Stats Class ‘Stanza Part’ with Poetry!”, poster, 9th United States Conference on Teaching Statistics. [a subsequent related poster yielded a 2021 Joint Statistical Meetings proceedings paper (or here)]

L. Lesser (2014). “Mathematical lyrics: Noteworthy endeavours in education. Journal of Mathematics and the Arts, 8(1-2), 46-53. (appearing in a focus issue on mathematical poetry, it’s one of the journal’s all-time most-read papers)

90+ STEM/education poems (other types are listed at the end of this page):

(accepted). “B∈longing”. Journal of Humanistic Mathematics,

(expected July 2024). “Florence Nightingale”, “Sir Francis Galton”, in Emily Lutken (curator), “Mathematical Graffiti: Bridges 2023 Clerihew Collection”.  Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, 14(2),

(April 2024). Balderdash, Claptrap, Clerihew: Lesser Takes Another Turn for the Verse [5 clerihew poems: “William Sealy Gosset”, “Sir Ronald Fisher”, “Reverend Thomas Bayes”, “William Playfair”, and “Jerome Cornfield”]. Amstat News, no. 562, p. 7. (also on ASA blogpost)

(Winter 2024; 2/14/24). “E(X)”. Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics, 15(1), 30.

(Autumn 2023). “With statistical means, she writes.” Consilience [world’s first peer-reviewed science poetry and art journal], no. 14

(July 2023). “COOKIE(X) = 1/2.” Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, 13(2), 513-514.

(June 19, 2023).  “Unexpected Expected Value Haiku” (p. 71), “Matched Pairs” (p. 72), “Permutation” (p. 72), “Convergence” (p. 72).  In Sarah Glaz (Ed.), Bridges 2023 Poetry Anthology, Tessellations Publishing, Phoenix, Arizona.

(May 2023). “Type Two”, Honorable Mention in 2023 biennial A-mu-sing competition sponsored by the Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education.

(Jan. 2023). “won over” [in “Poetry Folder: Mathematical Constants Beyond the Half-Circle“]. Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, 13(1), 295. (republished at CAUSEweb)

(winter 2023). “The Ellipse”. Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics, 14(1), 27.

(Jan. 2022).  “Fib(ula)” and “The Big Fib,” p. 487 of “Poetry in the Glade: Bridges 2021 Fib Collection,” Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, 12(1), 467-500.

(July 2021). “The Point of Inflection“, Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, 11(2), 490-491. Earlier versions in the summer 2020 Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics, 11(2), 16  and on p. 74 of June 2020 Radical Statistics, no. 126; excerpted 8/3/2020 on JoAnne Growney’s blog; opened episode 7 (10/2/2020) of State of Texas Beat Poet Laureate (2023-2025) Belinda Subraman’s poetry/art/music video zine GAS, https://youtu.be/ZGwadh-NKxs), and in my part of the 2021 Bridges Poetry Reading  and selected for the June-July 2022 “Reflections of 2020: A UTEP Community Art Exhibition” curated by Daisy Márquez for UTEP’s Student Engagement & Leadership Center.

(June 2021).  haiku septet on expected value (Deal or No Deal; 62% Shooter’s 1-and-1; Exchange Paradox; Negative Expected Value; Expectation in the Balance; Unbiased; The Point), won 2nd-place in poetry category of the 2021 A-mu-sing Contest (also anthologized on pp. 71-72 of Sarah Glaz (Ed.), Bridges 2023 Poetry Anthology: https://www2.math.uconn.edu/~glaz/Bridges_2023_Poetry_Anthology/Bridges2023-PoetryAnthology.pdf#page=81 )

(June 1, 2021). “Lottery Strategy”, “Simpson’s Paradox,” “Significance” [limericks]; Amstat News, no. 528, p. 2 [also on blogpost].

(May 12, 2021). “Limaçon Limerick” and “MoMath”, two of the winners in the National Limerick Day contest and reading sponsored by the National Museum of Mathematics

(March 2021). “Factor!al Countdown.” The Mathematical Intelligencer, 43(1), 104. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00283-020-10024-y 

(April 2021). “Adjusted R Square” and “99.73%” [haiku], Amstat News, no. 526, p. 2 [also on blogpost].  The former was in my part of the 2021 Bridges Poetry Reading.

(Feb. 2021). “Cancel.” Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics, 12(1), 16-17. https://larrylesser.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/CANCEL.pdf.  In my part of the 2021 Bridges Poetry Reading. Excerpted on 5/24/2021 in math poetry blog edited by JoAnne Growney.

(Feb. 2021). “Matched Pairs”. CAUSEweb (Anthologized on pp. 71-72 of Sarah Glaz (Ed.), Bridges 2023 Poetry Anthology, here )

(Feb. 24, 2020). 2019. Intersections: Poetry with Mathematics (math poetry blog edited by JoAnne Growney), https://poetrywithmathematics.blogspot.com/2020/02/counting-syllables-considering.html

(Jan. 2020). “Statistical Poetry”. Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, 10(1), 533-539. https://scholarship.claremont.edu/jhm/vol10/iss1/29/. Introductory remarks and these 8 poems:  Systematic Sample from a Children’s Song. By Design. Stochastic Terrorism. Fail to Reject. Fast Facts. This Function Dysfunction. Multivariate. Worry Lines. [all 8 poems republished at CAUSEweb.org; the first and last of these poems are anthologized on p. 72 of Sarah Glaz (Ed.), Bridges 2020 Poetry Anthology; “Multivariate” republished at https://mathhaikuproject.com/  and in my part of the 2021 Bridges Poetry Reading;” Stochastic Terrorism” picked for August 2020 exhibits “One Year Stronger: Remembering August 3” (UTEP) and “El Paso Even Stronger: One Year Later” (EPCC) and in my part of the 2021 Bridges Poetry Reading. “Worry Lines” was part of the 2020 Bridges Poetry Reading (and 2020 Joint Mathematics Meetings reading), as was “Systematic Sample from a Children’s Song“.

(Jan. 2020). “ASA Day”. 1st place (non-student category) in ASA Day Haiku Contest (see p. 2 of Jan. 2020 Amstat News no. 511 or associated blogpost); republished at https://mathhaikuproject.com/

(Dec. 2019). Vertical”, The Mathematical Intelligencer, 41(4), 60. part of a reading at 2020 Joint Mathematics Meetings and Bridges 2020 poetry reading

(summer 2019). “Di/vision“, Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics10(1), 16. [anthologized on p. 71 of Sarah Glaz (Ed.), Bridges 2020 Poetry Anthology; included in the opening minutes of episode 7 (10/2/2020) of Belinda Subraman’s poetry/art/music video zine GAS, https://youtu.be/ZGwadh-NKxs; part of a reading at the 2020 Joint Mathematics Meetings and the Bridges 2020 poetry reading; selected by Albuquerque Poet Laureate Mary Oishi for inclusion in the 2021 National Endowment for the Arts ‘Big Read’ event hosted March 15, 2021 by the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library: https://www.las-cruces.org/2417/Big-Read-2021, (go to the 3:20 mark of the March 15 event at https://www.las-cruces.org/2425/Week-4-Healing-Remembrance-and-Return or https://www.facebook.com/BraniganLibrary/videos/915809659168987/ ).  Poem was a Finalist in the 2018 Desert Exposure Writing Contest.

(June 2018). “Snowflake“, The Mathematical Intelligencer, 40(2), 81. Republished 2/24/2020 at Intersections: Poetry with Mathematics (math poetry blog edited by JoAnne Growney).

(April 2018). “Mindful Means”Amstat News, no. 490, p. 2. Republished 5/8/18 in math poetry blog edited by JoAnne Growney.

(Jan. 2018).  haiku trio on p. 456 of “Math in Seventeen Syllables: A Folder of Mathematical Haiku”, Journal of Humanistic Mathematics8(1), 441-472:  “3/14/15” [announced 4/8/15 on Math Matters at Taylor and Francis social media as a winner of the 2015 Pi Day (of the Century) haiku contest],” 17″, and “Transformed”. republished at https://mathhaikuproject.com/  and the latter was in my part of the 2021 Bridges Poetry Reading.

(Dec. 2017). “A Fallacy Not Assessed by Kahneman and Tversky.” The Mathematical Intelligencer, 39(4), 66.

(Nov. 2017). “Test for Normality”. Radical Statistics, no. 118, pp. 34-35.

(Oct. 2017). “Di(a)meter”Texas Mathematics Teacher63(2), 14, 31 [poem and accompanying classroom Q&A].  [anthologized on p. 60 of Sarah Glaz (Ed.), Bridges 2018 Poetry Anthology]

(April 2017). “Permutation”. CAUSEweb. (also anthologized on pp. 71-72 of Sarah Glaz (Ed.), Bridges 2023 Poetry Anthology, here )

(April 2017). “Rhyming without replacement”. CAUSEweb

(Jan. 2017). “Moving Between Inner and Outer Worlds”. J. of Humanistic Mathematics, 7(1), 275-284. https://scholarship.claremont.edu/jhm/vol7/iss1/21/  Introductory remarks and these 10 poems:  Discovery.   Business Statistics.   Julia [republished 3/16/17 at Intersections: Poetry with Mathematics (math poetry blog edited by JoAnne Growney].  L’Hospital.  The Zero. Availability Heuristic [republished Feb. 2017 by CAUSE]. Polymath Aftermath. P(A|A) = 1 [adapted and republished Feb. 2017 for CAUSEweb]. The Algebra Teacher Writes In Verse. Triangle.

(Dec. 2016). “Chi-ku“, published on CAUSEweb and at https://mathhaikuproject.com/

(Spring 2016). “Margins”Talking Writing. [anthologized in Sarah Glaz (Ed.), Bridges 2016 Poetry Anthology (p. 62). Phoenix, AZ: Tessellations Publishing.]

(2013; 2021). “Very Able to Know Each Variable”. CAUSEweb

(Jan. 2013). “Poetic Reactions”. Journal of Humanistic Mathematics3(1), 156-161.  http://scholarship.claremont.edu/jhm/vol3/iss1/13/ Postscript and these 3 poems:  Dogs Know [read near the end of 4/13/13 interview on regional NPR station; anthologized in Sarah Glaz (Ed.), Bridges 2016 Poetry Anthology (p. 61). Phoenix, AZ: Tessellations Publishing, noted in a 2017 JMA review of this anthology, reprised in a 2019 blogpost, and cited in a 2020 blogpost];  50-50; (A student comes to terms with) the ‘M word’ [republished 3/31/18 on Samuel Hansen’s podcast Relatively Prime (Diegetic Plots, Chapter 3)]

(Winter 2010). “ConfoundedThe Mathematical Intelligencer, 32(4), 53. [republished p. 121 of fall 2019 Teaching Statistics]

(Nov. 2010). “Opening Intentions” [“May the door of this classroom….”], The Teaching Professor24(9), 4. [republished by Faculty Focus 6/27/14, 8/9/18, etc.]

(2009). “Denominator.” Journal of the Association of Mexican American Educators3(1), 60-61.

(2008). “Statistic Acrostic” [co-written with Dennis Pearl]; republished in 2014 in Intersections: Poetry with Mathematics (math poetry blog edited by JoAnne Growney)

10 visual mathematics poems:

(2024). “Levels of MEANing”. In Bruce Torrence and Robert Fathauer (Eds.), BRIDGES Richmond 2024 Art Exhibition Catalog. https://gallery.bridgesmathart.org/exhibitions/2024-bridges-conference

(2021). “Cantor’s Ternary Palindrome”, pp. 42-43 of Poetrishy #1 published by Small Press and SuSy Research. [also appeared Nov. 20, 2017 entry in the Mathematical Poetry blog edited by Kaz Maslanka, and anthologized on p. 59 of Sarah Glaz (Ed.), Bridges 2018 Poetry Anthology]

(July 2021). “Mixed Messages About Pandemic Yield Conspiracy.” Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, 11(2), 490-491. https://scholarship.claremont.edu/jhm/vol11/iss2/30/

(spring/summer 2021). “You Are Overdoin’ If You Cancel Everything“. Texas Mathematics Teacher, 67(1), 20.

(fall/winter 2020). “Cardinality”. Texas Mathematics Teacher, 66(2), 30.

(fall/winter 2019). Unit Circle Words Lesson. Visual poem (with questions and answers). Texas Mathematics Teacher, 65(2), 15, 22. [extended from Lesser’s Mathematical Poetry post]

(May 1, 2018). “Variation”. Mathematical Poetry (blog edited by Kaz Maslanka)

(Feb. 8, 2018). “Gender Identity”. Mathematical Poetry (blog edited by Kaz Maslanka)

​(Sept. 2017). “New Normal”Radical Statisticsno. 117, poem on the cover [accompanied by the reflection “New Normal?” on pp. 31-33]; poem reprised on cover of issue 118 as well

(Sept. 17, 2017). “Forebear Square” Mathematical Poetry (blog edited by Kaz Maslanka): [anthologized on p. 59 of Sarah Glaz (Ed.), Bridges 2018 Poetry Anthology]. On October 23, 2020, “Number Trapezoid” was added to the blog page.

(Aug. 4, 2017). “MEANings”. Mathematical Poetry (blog edited by Kaz Maslanka): [republished 7/9/18 on Intersections: Poetry with Mathematics (math poetry blog edited by JoAnne Growney); republished in summer 2019 CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly, 66 (3), 242.]

[note :  Lesser’s poetry has also informed his published, award-winning songwriting and some of his 100+ published math/statistics lyrics have poetic features (such as http://scholarship.claremont.edu/hmnj/vol1/iss19/13/ or http://scholarship.claremont.edu/hmnj/vol1/iss19/9/ or https://scholarship.claremont.edu/jhm/vol2/iss1/9/) and he has a widely-read 2014 article on lyrics in the special poetry focus issue of Journal of Mathematics and the Arts]

20 non-STEM poems

(2023, Nov. 2). “I can’t believe you didn’t know”. In Alex Ureño (Ed.), Chrysalis (p. 41). El Paso Community College.

(2023, Sept. 14). “Break”. In Belinda Subraman (Ed.), Border Beats: Writing Across Boundaries (pp. 127-128). Border Beat Books. ISBN 979-8861436410. [this poem is also the lyric of a song that has been performed at the Fox Fine Arts Recital Hall and at a book release event organized by Subraman (the reigning Texas Beat Poet Laureate).]

(2021, Dec.). “Hanukiah Haiku”. 3rd-place in contest sponsored by The Mussar Institute.

(2021, March). “One-Way Train”. [selected by Albuquerque Poet Laureate Mary Oishi for 2021 National Endowment for the Arts ‘Big Read’ event hosted 3/15/2021 by Thomas Branigan Memorial Library; go to the 3:20 mark of https://www.las-cruces.org/2425/Week-4-Healing-Remembrance-and-Return or https://www.facebook.com/BraniganLibrary/videos/915809659168987/;  it’s also the lyric of a song on the 2020 album Sparks]

(2020, Dec.). “Passover Hangover.” http://www.mywordwizard.com/passover-hangover.html

(2019, Dec.). “The Situation.” In Michal Mahgerefteh & David King (Eds.), 2019 Mizmor Poetry Anthology, p. 34. Norfolk, VA: Poetica Publishing. https://www.instagram.com/p/Cd9tk_jDf0n/

(Summer 2014). “Sweet”. Poetica Magazine: Contemporary Jewish Writing, pp. 42-43.

(Fall 2013). “Hypothesis”. BorderSenses Literary Magazine, No. 19, pp. 66-67.

(Summer 2012). “Last Supper.” BorderSenses Literary Magazine, No. 18, p. 38.

(May 2012).  “Learning”. Drash: Northwest Mosaic6, pp. 64-65.

(Fall 2010). “Test.” Río Grande Review: A Bilingual Journal of Contemporary Literature and Arts, No. 36, 89-90.

(July 2010). “Logic”. BorderSenses Literary Magazine, No. 16, p. 21

(Summer 2008). “Arrangement”. BorderSenses Literary Magazine, No. 14, pp. 103-104.

(Summer 2007). “Leaving White’s City”. BorderSenses Literary Magazine, No. 13, pp. 80-81.

(Spring 2006). “Wheel”. BorderSenses Literary Magazine, No. 11, pp. 34-35.

(Fall 2005). “Burp”. BorderSenses Literary Magazine [a 2-nation, 11-state journal], No. 10, 81-82.

(2005). “Shrink Rap”. The Ink Spot: Highlights of the Ink Poetry Contest 2005, p. 18. Las Cruces, NM: The Ink. 3rd-place award.

(2005). “Something to Remember”. The Ink Spot: Highlights of the Ink Poetry Contest 2005, p. 26. Las Cruces, NM: The Ink.

(April 1986). “When in Rome”. University Blue, vol. 3 (p. 29). Houston: Rice University.