Jealous Love: the coefficient of poetry

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The poetry of mathematics is slightly obscure, lurking in the shadows of expectation. It involves mathematical operations being performed on poetic concepts, which, purely from a visual perspective, creates a curious cocktail of combinations.

Leading this unique poetic approach is Laurent Derobert in Paris, with a stunningly inventive debut collection Fragments of Existential Mathematics. Derobert explores the correlation between romantic vestals, and the models and mazes of passion, occasionally, measuring the gap between our dreams and realities. A doctor of economics, he questions our relationship to the world, producing rigorous equations that are also sensitive poems.

As his analysis extends to asymmetrical relationships, the hydraulics of sentiments and their system of interdependence, the language is often overwhelming. However, with coefficients such as jealous love and the degree of pure egoism, it is peppered with poetic ideas that give us something to grasp onto. His dense mathematical formulae are always followed by expressive remarks: we are informed that the results are only "valid if the emotive volume of both lovers is fixed, that the size of their hearts is constant."

These remarks are always relative to somethingrelatable, such as "the quantum of attention and affection that is given, of which the lovers are the vectors". In other words, we can always position ourselves at the centre of his universe.

A restless energy ripples beneath the surface of his book Fragments of Existential Mathematics, its thematic thread carried by the ebb and flow of surprise and shifting instability. By examining the endless turmoil of the external world and our encounters within, the collection further examines the shifting tides within the self. This includes the twists and turns of passion, the vacillation of values and the inconstancy of our ideal being.

The poet describes his aim as to "re-conquer unexplored fields of consciousness… what evades us and what is concealed. To find a meditative density when it is summed up in a formula… reducing the internal maze within each individual, that labyrinthine distance that separates us from ourselves, from what we think we are, from what we dream of being."

Whilst combining these very different languages might seem absurd, poetry and maths do speak in similar tongues. Each stitch in the fabric of these two languages is a symbol bursting with significance beyond its physical self, with maximum meaning captured in minimal space. Moreover, the fragility and force of the human heart is examined with piercing precision in his work, an algebra of feelings.

If we dwell on the Arabic word origin for algebra, 'al djabr', we see that it signifies the restoration of that which is broken and fittingly, originally referred to the surgical procedure of setting broken or dislocated bones.

However, whilst mathematics dictates that reality be dissected with a sharp surgical detachment, stripped back to the flesh and bone of the moment itself, Derobert’s poetry speaks from the heart.

As a poet based in Paris, a city famous for its mind-bending contemporary art, his works have sometimes acquired an artistic dimension as in his exhibition at Palais de Tokyo (2015), where he
wrote equations using the tears of women who came to confess their deepest heartbreaks.

Nonetheless, his work does not pursue conclusions that cannot be caught, neither is it an examination into the emotional universe which is consequently shaken. Despite a sharp sense of self-awareness and the seemingly concrete structure of certainty, he admits that “there will never be a solution”. It is an exploration, and as he swiftly points out, these equations never explain, they simply express.


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