The gift that keeps on giving, or Why I love the web

by | Sunday, April 24, 2011

I recently received this email:

Dear Mr. Mishra,

I am currently working on a poetry research project for school, and one of the requirements is researching five different poets. While looking for people who wrote palindromic poetry, I found your website and decided to use you in my project. The only problem is that I can’t find much information about you for my research. If you could, please respond to this e-mail with a little information about your history (i.e.-date and place of birth, family relations, etc.) as well as your inspiration for writing your palindromic poems. Thank you for your support!!!!!
Sincerely, Jake

P.S.- I am an eighth grader from Colorado and an aspiring poet.

Now I don’t consider myself a poet in any serious sense of the word (my dabbling in mathematical poetry or palindromic poetry notwithstanding). But it is great feeling when something you create and put out there in the world connects with someone else, someone who you would never otherwise have met or gotten to know. Here is what I wrote back to Jake:

Dear Jake —
Thank you so much for writing to me. I am honored to make it to your list of poets and glad that you are interested in palindromic poetry.

As for my history: I am professor at Michigan State University in East Lansing MI. I am originally from India where I studied engineering and design before coming to the US and getting my PhD. My wife is a graphic designer and I have two kids: my son who is a freshman in high school and my daughter who is in 6th grade.

Ever since I was a kid I have always been interested in puzzles and mathematics and poetry and visual design. That I think led to a habit of playing with words and images… so I do a lot of doodling and sketching (specially when I in meetings). I am fond of asking questions and looking at things around me in new ways. For instance, I love photography, on my Flickr site you will find photos of silly things like finding alphabets in cracks, and faces in everyday things. See this link and this one…


Then there are the videos I make with my kids. For instance see the new year’s card we made recently.

This also led to my creating ambigrams, which are words that are written in a special ways so that they can be read multiple ways. You can find a bunch of such designs on my website.

So I guess, palindromic poetry emerged out this desire or propensity to see the world in weird ways. And the challenge of writing poems that read the same backward and forward was inherently interesting. I particularly enjoyed writing ones that flipped in their meaning when you cross the half-way point. For instance in the poem “Me as I sit” the poem switches from me watching you to you watching me!

Finally, as must have noticed, from the dates, most of these were written a bunch of years ago when I was a graduate student at the University of Illinois. I haven’t written too many recently but the fact that they are on my website leads people to them – and I form all kinds of cool connections – such as the email I just received from you. A year or so ago I heard from someone who uses my poetry to teach poetry to inmates in prison (how cool is that!). You can read about that here.

That’s all for now.. I would love to read any palindromic poetry you may have written, if you are comfortable sharing them with me. Thank you again for your interest in my work. I look forward to hearing from you and let me know if there is anything else you need to know.

take care ~ punya

Note: I got Jake’s (and his parent’s) permission to post our correspondence on this blog under the condition that I not include his email address or other contact information.

Many moons ago I had written about the idea of the web as small pieces loosely connected (read Gandhi, ambigrams, creativity & the power of small pieces loosely joined) that allow people to pursue their passions and share it with the world at large. This is what gives the web its power, and this is also why I am not as comfortable with the barricaded worlds created by Facebook, which would not have allowed someone like Jake to easily find me, (but that is a rant for another day).



A few randomly selected blog posts…

All you can cheat, the web & learning

Now here's an important story coming out of Denmark: Students in Denmark Allowed Full Access to the Internet During Exams I have always been a believer in allowing students to use any resources they can during examinations. If we care about authentic assessment, what...

TPACK on Vimeo & in the Netherlands

Dr. Clare Kilbane, Associate Professor at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio recently created an enhanced podcast/vodcast explaining TPACK as a part of an ARRA grant implemented in the state of Ohio last spring. This podcast/vodcast was designed in the style of...

Celebrating Euler’s birthday

Google has a new doodle out today (the 15th of April) to celebrate the 306th birth anniversary of Leonhard Euler, the Swiss mathematician and physicist. This prompted some reflection on his work (and some mathematical poetry)... At the bottom right of the doodle above...

TPACK & Art Education

Camille Dempsey, a professional development consultant in instructional technology, education, arts and leadership as well as a doctoral candidate in in the Leadership and Instructional Technology Program at Duquesne University has been " investigating TPACK in...

Wikipedia minor fail

I recently received the following email: Sir, I was reading the article in Wikipedia on 'Samarangana Sutradhara' (King Bhoja's treatise on Architecture). I was of the impression that there is no translation of the work in English. Though the article says that there is...

Off to Netherlands

I will be out of the country for most of next week. I will have access to email (except when I am in-flight/traveling) though I may not be able to reply as to emails as promptly as I would like. For those who care I will be in Twente University, in the Netherlands,...

The commodification of ugly

Noah, one of the students in my design doctoral seminar sent me this video by Ze Frank. Check it out.



I have been a huge fan of EdTechBooks for a long time. Their philosophy of making quality textbooks freely accessible for all resonates with me deeply. It is no surprise that I was excited to hear of their latest initiative: that of creating a living encyclopedia of...

Decision science, neural Buddhists & the loopy brain of David Brooks

I do not understand David Brooks. Brooks is an op-ed columnist for the NYTimes. For the most part his columns are right-of-the-political wing nuttiness, garbed in some erudite clothing. I am not linking to them here but his past few op-eds suggesting that McCain would...


  1. Punya Mishra

    Gaurav, that is cool… most unexpected and unasked for and hence twice the fun (actually since it is almost palindromic, it would be 3.5 times the fun). ~ punya



  1. Who wrote this poem? | Punya Mishra's Web - […] Once in a while someone finds them and writes to me (a couple of interesting stories here and here).…
  2. Palindromic poetry: Falling Snow | Punya Mishra's Web - [...] The gift that keeps on giving, or Why I love the web [...]

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