Kelly Krumrie’s figuring

Figuring is a monthly column that puzzles over (to figure) and gives shape to (a figure) writing, art, and environments that integrate or concern mathematics and the sciences.  This month’s column provides writing prompts for winter & a dark hemisphere. 

Kelly Krumrie’s figuring

Figuring is a monthly column that puzzles over (to figure) and gives shape to (a figure) writing, art, and environments that integrate or concern mathematics and the sciences.  This month’s column provides writing prompts for winter & a dark hemisphere.

1. TRACK

Here are a few images of sundials, or schematics for sundials, or other ways to document their functions: 

⟶Invent another use for one of the images (unrelated to the sun). Describe its system. 

Create a concrete poem, story, or essay using the shape of one of the images.

Change the labels to other letters. Or make word or image labels. Or use the order of the letter labels to make a poem or story. 

Imagine a history for the image. Where is it from? When? Who?

How can the sun make such clean lines? 

Make a sundial, trace the sun’s path, document time or space. 

What else could a sundial track? How would you graph it? 

What if there’s more than one sun?

Rotate the image. Does it tell you something different?

[Images from Sundials: Their Theory and Construction by Albert E. Waugh]

2. COUNT

The first numbers were objects, then knots and notches, then parts of the body, gesture— followed by words, representational figures, linguistic mappings, arbitrary figures. 

Or, let’s say in nouns: pebble, shell, bone, rope, hand, hand, word, drawing, letter, numeral (number-as-figure). 

What is counting for? To keep track of something, and then figures used to record, to communicate. 

Create a number or a system of counting. 

Is the number or system made of words? How do you say it? 

Can it be drawn? Or is it an object? An idea?

Who uses it and why? 

Does it work on this planet, in this dimension?

To what in the world could it map (e.g., sheep, rocks, crops, rain, temperature, fingers, measurement, feeling, family members, vehicles)—if expressible, if at all?

3. TRANSFORM

A geometric transformation describes how a figure (like a two-dimensional shape) moves on a coordinate plane. It can expand and contract, slide and turn. The original location of the figure is called the object. When it relocates, its second form is called the image. An image is sometimes labeled with an apostrophe. 

A translation is when the object slides to a new location on the plane. The image is the same figure, but somewhere else. This is sometimes called a glide

A rotation is when the object turns over a point or axis. The image is the same figure but tilted or turned around. 

A reflection is when the object is reprinted across a mirror line. The image appears on the other side of this as the object’s opposite. 

A dilation is when the object, as it moves across the plane, shrinks or expands while holding its shape and proportions. 

Create a concrete essay, poem, or story that translates, rotates, reflects, and/or dilates. 

Beyond the concrete or literal, how might a piece of writing rotate? Dilate? Which is the object and which the image? 

A translated text glides from one quadrant to another.

These can also be combined: a reflected dilation, a translated rotation. 

This is the simplest description and form of transformations. Advanced: Transform these further into symbol, equation, more abstract information, a different shape on the page. 

How might a character transform? Or you?

[Images by Kelly Krumrie]

About the Author

Kelly Krumrie‘s prose, poetry, and reviews are forthcoming from or appear in EntropyLa Vague, Black Warrior ReviewFull Stop, and elsewhere. She is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Denver where she serves as the prose editor for Denver Quarterly.