“@HaikuD2” by John Burger

Screen capture of "@HaikuD2" by John Burger. John Burger's "HaikuD2" twitter profile. Text: "(Profile description) / Automatically / searching for art created / inadvertently I run on @johndburger's laptop / en.wikipedia.org/Haiku / (Recent post #1) / I'm a little girl / burt I have a big bubble... / Don't burst my bubble! / (Recent post #2) / Im not even mad / or anything anymore / my life is complete"
Open “@HaikuD2” by John Burger

This cleverly named bot finds haiku in the twitterverse and republishes them in a recognizable format. The program “runs on @johndburger’s laptop” and even though the code isn’t available, the basic procedure can be inferred from the results as a set of steps:

  1. The program uses Twitter API to pull tweets to analyze, filtering out anything that isn’t in English.
  2. It uses some sort of library, like the Wordnik API to identify and count the number of syllables in all the words obtaining a total for the tweet. With this procedure, it can identify tweets with exactly 17 syllables.
  3. It then determines which of those tweets can be divided into three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables without cutting into any words.
  4. It formats the results to add: line breaks, a ” •” symbol at the end of the first two lines (to signal line breaks for Twitter clients that don’t support them), attribution to the writer of the original tweet, and the #haiku hashtag.
  5. Burger then selects the best haiku or simply posts the raw results (I’m not sure), and manually post or schedules about 6 tweets per day with a 4-5 hour interval between them.

Twitter has long been a friendly environment for haiku, which fits comfortably within its 140 character constraint, but never more than now that it has added line break functionality into its Web client. The sheer amount of haiku written, found, and generated into Twitter is astounding, but there’s something special about this bot: its social dimension.

Imagine the delight at discovering that something you tweeted was found to be a haiku. Wouldn’t this cause you to reexamine your language through the conceptual frame of this poetic form? Could this encourage some to then purposefully write a haiku or two (or ten)? Similar to Pentametron, this bot draws attention to language, line breaks, word choices, surprising the writer with line-based juxtapositions, and accidental seasonal references. This is a case of found poetry, using a mechanical process that can always be refined, but already produces wonderful results.

Of course, if you’re a purist and find joy only in carefully crafted lines that follow the strict haiku tradition, then these are not the haiku you’re looking for.

Featured in Genre: Bot

Read more about this work at ELMCIP.