March 14 – Pi Day Literature

Pi Day is an annual celebration commemorating the mathematical constant π (the Greek letter pi), the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi Day is celebrated around the world on March 14th since Pi = 3.1415926535…


Thanks to computers, Pi has been calculated to trillions of digits past the decimal point, and is called “irrational” because it continues indefinitely without repeating and without ending. (“Irrational” may also refer to the behavior of those who like to memorize all the digits as far as they can go.)

One way to celebrate Pi Day is to compose a poem in “Pilish,” which, as a website devoted to this art explains, means “writing a sentence (or longer piece of poetry or prose) in which the lengths of successive words represent the digits of the number π (=3.14159265358979…). An example offered by the site is:

“How I need a drink, alcoholic in nature, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics!”

As you can see, the first word in this sentence has 3 letters, the next word 1 letter, the next word 4 letters, and so on, following the first fifteen digits of the number π.


Many scribes who try to master “Pilish” take on the rewriting of famous poems or works of literature. What follows is one of my favorites – a re-writing of Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. The original is here. Below, you see it “rewritten” in Pilish:


Of Carrolls


Slithy toves, borogove
Gimbled there all out in strathwabe
Mimified and gyrified,
A rath is outergrabe.

“Beware a scrunch, a scratch, stepson!
Beware Jubjub, withstand a word!
Respect the Jabberwock and dread
Manxomian songbird!”

He, sword off hand, placement maintained
Thus to complete father’s grand quest –
Then waited, vaunting showily
His progenitor’s crest.

Therewith three swords he animized,
Before the creature, rumbling.
It was alive; its feelers straight
Burbled while whiffling!

The vorpall sword o’ vulcanite
Smote – snicker! snacker! – artfully
A headless Wocky residue
Yielded strength mournfully.

“Youth did it – O, praised fearlessness!”
He issued melodies, forthright.
“Death’s strike! O, day! Strallough! Stralleigh!” –
A-chortling in delight.

Borogove, strange slithy troves,
A brilligtime quickstep
Mimsy creatures, gimblified,
Frolicked on a steppe.

The longest works in Pilish are rewritings of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. You can see them here and here. I have included just a taste of what you will get with a Raven rewritting below:


A Poem

A Raven

Midnights so dreary, tired and weary,
Silently pondering volumes extolling all by-now obsolete lore.
During my rather long nap – the weirdest tap!
An ominous vibrating sound disturbing my chamber’s antedoor.
“This”, I whispered quietly, “I ignore”.

You can also read a clever poem dedicated to the number of Pi by Polish poet Wisława Szymborska here. My favorite segment:

The longest snake on earth calls it quits at about forty feet.
Likewise, snakes of myth and legend, though they may hold out a bit longer.
The pageant of digits comprising the number pi
doesn’t stop at the page’s edge.
It goes on across the table, through the air,
over a wall, a leaf, a bird’s nest, clouds, straight into the sky,
through all the bottomless, bloated heavens.

You can watch a video of her performing the entire poem on this site.

To accompany your reading and watching, don’t forget to have some pie! There are some great and apt recipes here.


Happy 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939… Day!



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