Randomness in Computer Assisted Poetry


4/15/19

In my Introduction to Computer Assisted Poetry, I shared some ideas on using computers and random selection of letters and words and parts of speech to assist with making poems. In this article, I will show a general approach that I take to introduce more randomness, and vary the number of lines in the poem, the number of words in each line, and the parts of speech each word is in the poem. As usual, it is never a "press the button and you're done" type of thing, but more a "press a button, maybe a few times until you see something you like, then edit, edit, and edit" type of thing. That is, it is computer assisted, with the computer serving as a tool for creating interesting combinations of structure and word choices that you may not have considered.

Consider the following screenshot from Excel

The process starts with setting parameters (the yellow parts of this spreadsheet) for the minimum and maximum number of lines the poem will have (here it is 1 and 10 respectively). Once that is chosen using a randbetween(min,max) function, then for each of the lines the number of words per line is chosen, here ranging from 2 to 7 words per line. Next, for each word, select the word randomly from a randomly selected part of speech. In this example, I only consider nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. In the actual spreadsheet I use, I select from a lot more parts of speech (interjections, prepositions, etc.) and do some other things. The last step prior to editing is to concatenate all the randomly selected text.

I hope this gave you an idea of the methods I use to create poetry and of things you can do.

Thanks for reading (and writing)!


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