Happy Poetry Friday!  Please visit Karen Edmisten for some fall reflections and to hear from all of the Poetry Friday poets.

Today’s post mixes math and poetry.  First, I made a little origami star out of a book page (Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, if you were wondering what book).

THEN, I wanted to make a BIG origami star.  I started by gluing a bunch of book pages together.

Because the instructions for making this star start with a regular pentagon (regular meaning all sides are the same length), I had to do a quick high school geometry refresher to figure out how to draw a perfect pentagon.  I needed to know what size the interior angles of a pentagon should be:

             The sum of interior angles of a polygon = (n-2) x 180,
                     where n is the number of sides in the polygon (which, for a pentagon = 5), so
                     (5-2) x 180 = 3 x 180 = 540 degrees = the sum of all of the interior angles

             For a regular pentagon (where all sides are of equal length),
                      each interior angle = (the total number of degrees) divided by (the number of angles (or sides)).
                      So, for a pentagon:
                           540 / 5 = 108 degrees = the size of each interior angle.

OK!  Now, to find a protractor, which I have not used in … a while.  Surprisingly, I had three. 

BOOM!  Pentagon (1 foot per side).

(Please ignore the pencil marks from my initial incorrect angle measurement.)

About 25 folds later, VOILA!  Big star.

Now for the poetry!  Turns out, there are a lot of poems that reference origami or use it as a metaphor for life.  Interestingly, of the poems I found, very few were metrical, in spite of origami’s precise, repetitive, dare I say rhyming folds (no, I probably shouldn’t have dared).  But, I get it -- somehow, origami feels like it belongs with free verse.

Thus, here is a poem by B. Sue Johnson.  For more background on this poem, see here.

Folding Paper

origami life
fold, then fold again
your hands persuading paper
to accept the creases and expand
into a bird
or a flower
while each passing day
adds a wrinkle to your skin


This poem by Joyce Sutphen begins:


It starts
with a blank sheet,
an undanced floor,

air where no sound
erases the silence.
As soon as

you play the first note,
write down a word,
step onto the empty stage,

… for the full poem click here.


Lastly, here is one that I wrote:

        Origami Swan

     origami criticisms
      will never fold me
           into a swan

© 2023, Tracey Kiff-Judson


So ... "origami criticisms" made perfect sense to me when I wrote it (criticisms that are like origami, i.e. repetitive little creases/folds/digs), but upon rereading, it sounds like criticisms of origami, which is not what I meant.  Ah well, an imperfect poem --

and to go with the imperfect poem, my imperfect origami swan that went horribly wrong somewhere around fold 24.   : )

If you’d like to give the origami star a try, click here for instructions.  For the swan, click here (just don't look at my swan for reference!).  Most likely, you will make one much better than mine!


  • I've done lots of origami with students & one of my granddaughters is a whiz doing them. I am so impressed with every bit of this, Tracey, the look, the math, and then poetry. This is new to me and thank you for sharing so much and that double-meaning of 'criticisms' is so interesting to ponder. I love your poem & the look of it, too. And isn't it a wonderful use of persuading in "your hands persuading paper"? Thanks for every bit!
    • Thank you, Linda!  How fun to do origami with students!  That tells me that you are a very patient person.  I am not even patient enough to do one swan correctly by myself!  : )

      Edited on Friday, 10 November 2023 23:58 by Tracey.
  • Tracey, I commend you on all that you have done to create this post: merging math and poetry with art, using pages from a book for an old world look, folding, researching, and writing your origami poem. It is all amazing to me. I am not an origami artist but am always impressed with those who attempt the intricacy. 
    • Thanks so much, Carol!  This is probably the third time in my life that I have attempted origami, and it will probably be a few years before I am tempted again.
  • Wow, what a cool post. Made me think about origami in a new way. Your big star is fabulous -- as is your swan + poem. Impressed by your math too. :D
  • Your origami and your your haiku are wonderful, Tracey, but I am most impressed with the math! Oh my, you had me sitting in my high school algebra and geometry classes again. Yay for using both sides of your brain!
  • Tracey, Yay for your creative efforts on many levels. Our youngest son was an expert origami artist in late elementary school and middle school. He made VERY complex shapes - buckyballs, dodecahedrons, and more, even a wreath. He was even featured in a national traveling exhibit of origami! It is a cool art form mixing math and creativity. I love how you mixed in some origami. Thanks for sharing your creations! 
    • Wow, Carol!  Your son's creations sound very impressive!  I had to google origami wreaths to see what that might entail, and there are some very elaborate projects!
  • I enjoyed reading your process!  Math and measuring seem tedious. I am not sure I have the patience for origami and I love "origami criticisms. 
  • You are a mathematician and a poet! Amazing! I loved your poem and even more the depth of thinking about origami criticisms. 
  • Oh, I love everything about this post!  Thank you, Tracey, for taking us on your origami journeys. And thank you for the links!  "Rhyming folds" is just right in my book; I'm glad you dared.  ;0) I love the sentiment of your swan poem - and the surprise of it! 
  • "Folding Paper" packed a punch,Tracey. Thank you for sharing these. I am IN AWE of your mathematical bent that produced such a beautiful star. And I will forward this to my nephew, a H.S. math teacher who may want to challenge his students :)
    And -YAY! - btw, for your concrete poem/swan!! (and your "imperfect" origami one... which gives me great relief, knowing all forms allow for imperfection. :)
    • Patricia, what a cool idea to use it for a school math project!
      Haha, truth be told, I have yet to write a poem that I'd call perfect! : )
  • An awfully lot to love here, perhaps most especially that you found THREE protractors in your house!  The star is lovely and the book pages make it moreso, and I think your imperfectly pointed little poem works very well.  Thanks for several kinds of inspiration!

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