Moving to the mountainous desert of west Texas in 2004, two decades after an upper-division poetry seminar course from Susan Wood, inspired Lesser to resume writing poetry, publishing in venues such as Talking Writing, BorderSenses Literary Magazine, Rio Grande Review, Poetica Magazine, and Drash: Northwest Mosaic. Most of his published poems distinctively draw from the teaching and learning of math/statistics, and some were anthologized, won national contest awards, appeared in STEM journals (The Mathematical Intelligencer, Radical Statistics, Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics, Amstat News, Teaching Statistics, or Journal of Mexican American Educators), or read at a conference (e.g., this, this or this), local and non-local readings/talks, a National Endowment for the Arts Big Read event, podcast, video zine, gallery opening, radio interview, etc. He organized (with Gizem Karaali and Douglas Norton) evenings of mathematical poetry/art at national Joint Mathematics Meetings (e.g., 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020, with printed programs) and judged (with Gizem Karaali and JoAnne Growney) the first AMS student math poetry contests in 2019 and 2020 (see contest page, which has useful math poetry resources at the end). His STEM poems/songs are part of his overall efforts (some funded by NSF) as a UTEP Distinguished Teaching Professor to humanize STEM, reduce anxiety, and support student learning.
peer-reviewed STEM education-related papers on poetry:
G. Karaali & L. Lesser (in print, 2021; online, 2020). Arts of the heart: Mathematics and poetry. In Bharath Sriraman (Ed.), Handbook of the Mathematics of the Arts and Sciences (13 pp.). NY: Springer.
L. Lesser (Aug. 2021). Presenting Mathematical Poetry Across Disciplinary Lines [refereed short paper]. In ____(Ed.), Proceedings of Bridges 2021: Mathematics, Art, Music, Architecture, Education, Culture (4 pp.). Phoenix, AZ: Tessellations Publishing.
L. Lesser (June 2021). “Stats Class ‘Stanza Part’ with Poetry!”, refereed poster, 9th United States Conference on Teaching Statistics. [a related poster is presented at the 2021 Joint Statistical Meetings]
L. Lesser (2014). Mathematical lyrics: Noteworthy endeavours in education. Journal of Mathematics and the Arts, 8(1-2), 46-53. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/17513472.2014.950833 (one of the journal’s most-viewed papers)
69 STEM/education poems
(July 2021). Mixed Messages About Pandemic Yield Conspiracy; (updated version of) The Point of Inflection. Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, 11(2),
(June 2021). 7 haiku poems 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), collection won 2nd-place in the poetry category of the 2021 A-mu-sing competition
(April 2, 2021; online version Oct. 21, 2020). Factor!al Countdown. The Mathematical Intelligencer, 43(1), 104. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00283-020-10024-y
(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 at Intersections: Poetry with Mathematics (math poetry blog edited by JoAnne Growney).
(Feb. 2021). Significance. Radical Statistics, no. 128, p. 4.
(Feb. 2021). Matched Pairs. https://www.causeweb.org/cause/resources/fun/poems/matched-pairs
(summer 2020). The Point of Inflection, Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics, 11(2), 16. (updating a slightly earlier version from the June 2020 Radical Statistics, no. 126, p. 74; excerpted 8/3/2020 on JoAnne Growney’s blog at https://poetrywithmathematics.blogspot.com/2020/08/point-of-inflection-and-coronavirus.html; 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), and in my part of the 2021 Bridges Poetry Reading.
(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” selected 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.
(December 2019). Vertical, The Mathematical Intelligencer, 41 (4), 60.
(summer 2019). Di/vision. Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics, 10 (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; 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/ )
(Jan. 2018). trio of haikus on p. 456 of “Math in Seventeen Syllables: A Folder of Mathematical Haiku”, Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, 8 (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.
(April 2017). Permutation. CAUSEweb
(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.
(2013; 2021). Very Able to Know Each Variable. CAUSEweb
(Jan. 2013). Poetic Reactions. Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, 3(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). Confounded. The Mathematical Intelligencer, 32 (4), 53. [republished p. 121 of fall 2019 Teaching Statistics]
(Nov. 2010). May the door of this classroom…. The Teaching Professor, 24 (9), 4. [republished 6/27/14 & 8/9/18 by Faculty Focus]
(2009). Denominator. Journal of the Association of Mexican American Educators, 3 (1), 60-61. https://amaejournal.utsa.edu/index.php/AMAE/article/view/32/27
visual mathematics poems:
(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)
(Nov. 20, 2017). Cantor’s Ternary Palindrome. Mathematical Poetry (blog edited by Kaz Maslanka): [anthologized on p. 59 of Sarah Glaz (Ed.), Bridges 2018 Poetry Anthology]
(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 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): https://poetrywithmathematics.blogspot.com/2018/07/what-does-mean-mean.html ; 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 2014 article on lyrics in a special poetry focus issue of Journal of Mathematics and the Arts]
17 non-STEM poems
(March 2021). One-Way Train. [selected by Albuquerque Poet Laureate Mary Oishi for inclusion in a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts ‘Big Read’ event hosted on March 15, 2021 by the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library; 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/; it’s also the lyric of a song on his 2020 album Sparks]
(December 2020). Passover Hangover. http://www.mywordwizard.com/passover-hangover.html
(December 2019). The Situation. In Michal Mahgerefteh & David King (Eds.), 2019 Mizmor Poetry Anthology, p. 34. Norfolk, VA: Poetica Publishing.
(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 Mosaic, 6, 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. third-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.