“Albert Einstein once said pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas. The elegant poems in Willingly Would I Burn possess such purity, such poetic expressions of logical ideas. These poems blend math and science, presenting poems as word problems for the complicated mes we live in. The grace and strength of Laura LeHew's voice vibrate from every single page."
—Roxane Gay, Co-Editor, PANK
In Willingly Will I Burn, Laura LeHew reveals the emotion and humor that threads through the details of everyday life. She achieves this partly through her brave honesty, and partly by inserting poetry into forms that no one else has ever attempted, from math word problems to org charts to airplane reservation emails to retirement account statements. In Laura LeHew's world, poetry appears foremost in the most surprising places.
—Zack Rogow, author of My Mother and the Ceiling Dancers
In this exciting new collection, Laura LeHew gives us poems of the most adventurous kind. Re-purposing the skeletal language and visual constructs of science and math, of computers and banking and even of standardized testing—utilizing, as well, both conventional and invented poetic forms—LeHew's philosophical algorithms are at once both personal and universal: poems of witness and social awareness, of love and loss, of happiness and its limits, of family dysfunction, health care, and a wide range of social ills that stem from the “arrogant discourse” of those in charge. Willingly Will I Burn expands my horizons and gives me heart.
—Ingrid Wendt, author of Evensong
A Word Problem
Four daughters race around me in opposite directions, at a constant rate. They start at the same point and meet every 30 seconds. If they move in the same direction, they meet every 120 seconds. They stay in St. Luke’s seven thousand two hundred minutes; approximately long enough for closure. If a standard vinyl covered innerspring mattress for a hospital bed is 36” x 80,” what is on the mind of each daughter?
1) Let w = the rate of daughter 1
Let x = the rate of daughter 2
Let y = the rate of daughter 3
Let z = the rate of daughter 4
Let a = the rate of the missing son
2) Use substitution or elimination
Answer (round each answer individually):
Solve for daughter 1: (1)≠(2)
Divert unwanted questions, attempt conversion
Solve for daughter 2: (2)≠(3)
Substitute for a thinner daughter
Solve for daughter 3: (3)≠(4)
Substitute for a smarter daughter
Solve for daughter 4: (4)≠(a)
Substitute for chicken fingers and a loaf of bread
Solve for missing son: (a)≠(1)
Substitute for a new family (see daughters x, y, and z)
I am in a hospital headed toward home hospice. Its route is circular.