Sonnets Served With a Slice of Pi
A slightly backward, left handed forward.
Philosophical Mathematics, a $73 million hedge fund in New York, 3.14159, or Pi, and Sonnets. Strange bedfellows? Not in these days, I think…
This is a little late, and with the speed in which the economy shifts these days, it may be a touch dated. Mea culpa. For this I apologize. I’ve been used to writing my own pages, including the HTML and CSS and I came upon this article very early in the life of this…blog, site, information disseminator, bit of self indulgence…whatever it is other than a creel of trout pulled from a pleasant little time stream, with all its ‘all mod cons’, as the realtors are so fond of saying, and it seems it became lost among drafts, in somewhat the way socks disappear into washers and/or dryers or where ever they go.
I still think it’s a nifty bit of writing about a nifty bit of writing offering an interesting view of money, in all its various forms, so, if you’ll forgive me the tardiness of the piece, perhaps you’ll enjoy it. Of course, living as I do, as an anachronist, something I’ve begun an attempt to explain on the vanity…or, uhhmn, bio page, (you honestly didn’t think that little scrap of writing was the end of it, did you?), this is no more nor less dated than I am. [Insert clever comment here.] In any case, I offer it as something to divert your attention for a few moments from New Year’s Eve preparations, and hopefully to help you forgive my future tardiness in posting the Amnesty International Letter Writing Guidelines and Samples I promised to have ready and published before the end of the year. Just checking the time, I see I’m already too late for some of my friends, who might see this sometime when I feel it’s ready to be seen and publish the address…or have I done that already? Seen in that light, and knowing, as most of my friends do, my life long dance with procrastination, I might get away with the prevarication that the new year of which I spoke is 2011.
In any case, I hope you enjoy this, and perhaps look up Al Lewis’ column sometime,
and Bon Année to those of you who recognize tomorrow, (January 1), as the beginning of a new year.
PS: As Douglas Adams once said: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
Sonnets Served With a Slice of Pi
from al lewis | columnist
By Al Lewis
Denver Post Staff Columnist
Posted: 07/15/2007 01:00:00 AM MDT
Lee Slonimsky, who runs a $73 million hedge fund in New York, shows up at my office with a book of sonnets.
He’s a risk-adverse quant. A conservative investor who trades according to mathematical models and recurring trading patterns. He’s also a published poet.
His latest book, published in January by Orchises Press of Alexandria, Va., is called “Pythagoras in Love.”
“It’s about seeing the world through the eyes of a famous mathematician who thought almost continuously in terms of numbers,” Slonimsky said. “You can’t do quantitative trading for 15 years and not kind of get into that mindset.”
Most people I know hate math. Slonimsky, 56, writes poems about it. More specifically, he writes sonnets, which are typically associated with love.
They are also among the most classical forms of poetry, written by literary legends such as Milton, Shakespeare, Keats and Shelley. They traditionally have 14 lines and 10 beats per line.
“It’s kind of like doing crosswords,” Slonimsky said with only a slight smile.
His poems have appeared in The New York Times, The Carolina Quarterly, Connecticut Review, Poetry New York and other journals. They combine metaphors from nature with mathematical formulas, such as pi, or the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.
Pi – or 3.14159 – has been known since ancient times but never fully known. Modern computers have calculated its decimals back billions of digits, but they can’t get to the end because pi is infinite and at some point falls into the realm of philosophers and poets.
In “The Last Digit of Pi” Slonimsky writes:
“Bisected by a tree, the sun’s gold light
draws angles on the glass skin of the pond
dawn’s revelers, a pair of geese in flight
soar high above the wooded hill, beyond Pythagoras’s line of sight. And now
he’s all alone, high priest of water, sky,
intuiter of theorems, teller how
this world’s the weave of math, the art of Pi.”
All I know is that it’s amazing to see anyone get a book of poems published.
Poetry’s popularity has waned, perhaps since the photograph. With today’s media putting a premium on novelty, sound bites and shock value, poems seem so pensive, obtuse and esoteric.
These days they say there are more people trying to write poems than there are trying to read them. Not even a hedge-fund manager is in it for the money, or even a large audience.
“There are a lot of people who may have an interest in something – like arts and crafts – and they’re not going to have a lot of people watching them do it,” Slonimsky said. “That’s the way you’ve got to look at it.”
Slonimsky, however, has developed a strategy to expand his market share.
He married Carol Goodman, the award-winning author of “The Seduction of Water,” “The Ghost Orchid” and other novels. Goodman now creates characters based on her husband and slips some of his work into her tales. Her latest book is called “The Sonnet Lover” and contains six of Slonimsky’s poems, ensuring they’ll be read by thousands of readers.
Goodman will be reading at the Tattered Cover on Colfax Avenue at 7:30 p.m. Monday. Slonimsky will be there, too.
An understated and cerebral man with thinning black hair, Slonimsky grew up in Manhattan. His father was a bookkeeper who once worked for a firm that shorted stocks and infused his son with stock-market lore.
As a student, Slonimsky loved English, math and reading about the history of financial panics. He began trading stocks as a sophomore in high school. But don’t ask him if today’s heady Dow will crash or soar higher. He not only doesn’t know but would just as soon see it go flat.
He came of age as an investor at a time when the Dow only bounced between roughly 600 and 1,000. “I was weaned on the idea that the stock market is a place where you can make money when it doesn’t go anywhere,” Slonimsky said.
His hedge fund – Ocean Capital Partners LLC – targets stocks with small but predictable trading ranges, buying at the lows and selling at the highs.
“Some of our most profitable trading stocks have not changed price in several years,” he said. “I’m a great believer in ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.”‘
Leave it to a risk-adverse quant/poet to find an unchanging universe on Wall Street.
I asked Slonimsky if he’d ever written a poem about his business. He gave me this one, called “July 16, 2017,” which envisions a time when even America’s cities have held initial public stock offerings:
Cities themselves trade as stocks now;
Chicago opens higher,
Seattle’s flat while Boston’s soft,
and then news hits the wire:
Atlanta’s got a deficit,
Houston a major fire.
A pair of shorts to gamble on
amidst a dearth of buyers –
these trades are brief though – caution wins
out over greed, desire.
A two point move, cat-sudden in
a quick and profitable hour,
enough to sleep well on at night.
Cash never is a liar!
“It’s a sonnet in alternating iambic tetrameter and trimeter, with occasional irregularities, known in the poetry trade as ‘roughing up the rhythm,”‘ Slonimsky explained.
Oh. Yes. Of course. I knew that.
Al Lewis’ column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Respond to Lewis at denverpostbloghouse.com/lewis, 303-954-1967 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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