Magic Math: Felino A. Soriano’s “Mathematics”
by Alison Ross
As an academic subject, mathematics both intrigues and terrifies me. In school I was beyond awful in it, and most likely suffered from dyscalculia. I am still math illiterate, but the difference now is that I appreciate math – its multi-foliate mysteries are no longer anathema to me so much as a beautiful enigma that slips through the fingers of my feeble faculties.
As I grew older, I came to understand that it’s math, not poetry, which runs the world. Or, rather, that math IS poetry. They are one in the same. Visual poets such as MC Escher intertwine math and art, or, rather, clarify for us the inherent fusion of the two, thought wrongly by some to be dissociated elements. But how could they be? Art/poetry/math – these are just different manifestations of the same thing.
The body of verse by Felino A. Soriano is the linguistic kin of MC Escher’s art – his twisting, labyrinthian lines spiraling out into the cosmos and eluding our grasp, until finally we solve his grand riddles INTUITIVELY, because there is no concrete explanation of a Felino poem – it’s all in our subterranean consciousness, and Felino is just teasing it out of us in his sly, magician-like way. Like Escher, Felino discerns the algebra in art, and writes lyrical musings with mathematical precision. He proves to us that math is also intuitive, and organic, despite a widely-held perception to the contrary among “arithme-phobe” and equation fanatics alike.
Felino’s poems in his collection, “Mathematics” take ekphrastic poetry to new heights and depths. They are meditations on artistic pieces whose mathematical properties are obvious to those who have given even superficial thought to art or math. As Felino says in his introduction: “[The pieces’] mood, tone, varied aggregations, and many angular syntaxes created a deepened desire to converse with…each experiential possibility.” The pieces exhibit a cosmic psychedelia and are therefore rife with physical and metaphysical implications. They bear a commonality of repetition, symmetry and a sense of contained chaos. These are hallucinatory images that could only emerge from an Einstein-like mind whose dreams burst into colorful explosions of equations.
Felino Soriano, a veritable Houdini of poetry, is able to truthfully transcribe these cosmic pieces into verse. I say truthfully because it’s one thing to write ekphrastic poetry, it’s another write it authentically, inhabiting a piece so completely that the boundary between the piece and the poem is blurred. And yet, these poems also harbor secrets about the images that are revealed to us through careful reading.
Take, for example, these lines from “Of cylinders’ fantastic holding|s” whose phrasing captures the accompanying art piece in a way that does not merely mimic it, but that elucidates those elements that are “hidden” from a less attuned eye and mind:
vertical tunnel opens as does a mirror’s
range and ideology of immanent
arithmetic arguing into
phases of understanding’s role
as photogenic premise
In the lines from “application of absolute curvatures,” the lines exhort
us to see not just the movement, but the stasis in the accompanying piece:
exhibition of fibers fulfill
arc and undulating display, disallowing
cataract of confusing methods of culture’s
reward of static occupations
In “no torment within the leaving of physical space,” we are invited to discern the accompanying piece’s karmic possibilities:
encircles purpose of plain’s eyeing version of visible
watching what disappears into
gray and the undulating gradations of
The poem, “As the wave’s undulation, causational glide of subsequent behavior” shows us how the accompanying art piece jolts us into apprehending how its exuberant existence is tempered by a balanced composition:
this body elevates
inward clarity the body portends temporal quietude of
Felino’s iconic use of concrete poetry, idiosyncratic phrasing and spacing, inverted grammar and other unorthodox elements create a cumulative effect that can be exhausting but never exasperating.
Math is art, and art is math – art’s equation encompasses composition and color and style and any number of other elements. Math’s art is in the solving of the equation, in the complex composition of the components, and in the outcome of the solution, which propagates new ideas and possibilities.
The poems in Felino A. Soriano’s collection are meticulous like math: they precisely versify the art pieces, contain an intuitive inner logic, and create cosmic implications.
Mathematics is published by Nostrovia! Poetry, & available free digitally.
Alison Ross venerates verse. She has published poesie in Full of Crow, Sugar Mule, Of/with, Mad Hatter’s Review, Word Riot, and Up The Staircase. Alison’s first chapbook, Clockwise Cats, was released with the venerable Fowlpox Press in August, 2014.