skip to Main Content

Haiku Time: an iPhone Haiku Generator

Some haiku news from Jim Kacian:

A young programmer (and Yale student), Luke Bradford, has created a haiku generator application for the iPhone and iPod Touch, called Haiku Time.

He has tried to improve on the somewhat nonsensical haiku created by truly ‘random’ generators (for example, the one at https://www.everypoet.com/haiku/default.htm). To accomplish this, he’s chosen a vocabulary which is meant to fit together seamlessly—lots of nature terms and overt techniques such as personification. Rather than use dictionaries of words he’s composed its vocabulary by hand, testing to ensure that each combination meshes appropriately. In this sense, it’s not so much a random generator as a set of chosen words and phrases, yielding tens of millions of possibilities, but all under the constraints of grammar, syntax, seasonal vocabulary and a specific aesthetic. The results are simple, neither as precise nor as varied as human-written haiku, but still pleasing if not completely original.

Haiku Time is certainly a limited tool but is interesting in the way it experiments with the notion of intentionality in art. Here are some haiku that Haiku Time has generated:

Snow by the meadow
Sighing gently with the stars
The voice of the clouds

Spring day on the shore
The night laughing to the sea
Tell me of the dawn

Rose in the sunlight
Writing love songs to the sky
Murmurs of the past

You can see a demonstration video of Haiku Time on YouTube.

There are also sample haiku, further description, and updates on the developer’s blog, Luke Bradford: iPhone Apps.

The Haiku Foundation will be in conversation with Bradford to discover the possibility of creating a haiku game, for iPhone and possibly larger platforms, though this is in the very earliest stages. We would welcome your input into what you might think would be fun and challenging in a haiku game, and will keep you apprised of our progress.

This Post Has 37 Comments

  1. Hi, Guys, I marvel at all the different artistic creations these new electronic devices can provide for those who are proficient in them. I have spent my life trying to explore the perameters of what my body does in eye/mind/hand sync. What to me would be ideal is if the electronic and the natural arts could complement each other – inform each other. I’m not sure I’m saying this properly, but if we all just express our own art in whatever way that calls us…and to try to understand the other.
    I understand that there is now some concern in the US about the lack of creativity. So I am thankful for whatever creativity is nurtured. But all art has its own history and place in the human experience. What will last and be valuable will be that which resonates with human existance.

  2. Hmmm. I must confess that when I wrote my last comment, I was thinking of a real or vitual room where graphic artists, haiku poets, and programmers would work together to develop a new . . . something: game, performance, haiku-chanting robot! Sorry, I’m a tech writer. My day job is showing.

    My point was that in that setting, people with disparate skills and kmowlege would work together for the purpose of creating something. It would not be enough to have a position and stick to it. We’d still have our views, but in that context we would set some of them aide for a while to help something come into being that is inconsistent with any one view. Of course the results would often be forgettable. But something really neat might result.

    The other ideas for a Sailings etc. sound good as well.

  3. “So Dave, maybe at some point you can lead a “cross-cultural” discussion. ”

    I would be interested in this too. Coming from Germany, a year in England and France and travelling extensively in Europa and later in Asia, expecially one year India (for anthropological studies) … then off to Japan in 1977.
    I know very little about American culture, never been to America.
    I guess for the appreciation of Japanese haiku it does make a BIG difference wheather you can speak and read the Japanese language or not.

    No more now … grin…
    Gabi

  4. Dave and all concerned: for future Sailings I would very much like to invite blog participants who have a question they are keen to explore to act as “guest presenters”. This would primarily entail introducing the exploration and, as it progresses, to jump in and move it along if called for. So Dave, maybe at some point you can lead a “cross-cuiltural” discussion. Of course, despite our beautiful fleet of sailing ships, it seems that some discussions take off on their own, in subway cars and ski lifts, and maybe some in hot-air balloons…

    I will discuss this idea with Scott and Jim and report back.

  5. I just watched the lead segment on today’s CBS Sunday Morning (The Wellspring of American Creativity) . . .

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/01/10/sunday/main6078280.shtml?tag=contentBody;featuredPost-PE

    Naturally MIT’s Media Lab was part of the story. I thought the following part of the story was relevant to this discussion.

    “Nexie [a human-like robot] – and all other Media Lab inventions – begin with what Breazeal calls the “secret sauce” of creativity: getting people in different fields to share ideas.

    ‘It’s not just about multiple sciences and multiple engineering,’ she said. ‘It’s like you’ve got designers and artists and musicians. I mean, we’re all under the same roof.’ ”

    I think the discussion of Haiku Time has gone well. My hope is that another kind of conversation is possible — not instead of, but in addition to – the kind of discussion we just had. This other kind of discussion would be focused on “how can we integrate our different perspectives and ccreate something new, or interesting, or a good splattlering failure that serves as an object lesson to others” (!)

    I hope we can have more of these cross-cultural discussions. Perhaps some of them will develop into working sessions of the kind described above, where some differences are ignored for a while and others are blended into something new.

  6. Hi Rachel,

    I agree with you, and I had hoped that was clear in my early posts.

    What is interesting is that we have all reacted to the iPhone app, and in different ways.

    It is a move on from the old fashioned pointless generators, and I do agree with you, and that’s why I hoped that either on the current app or a later one there will be space to suggest a place to look at current published haiku, or a good current book.

    Hi Merrill,

    I’ll work on it! I’m trying to get more of haiku out again after having a quiet year on my own work. 😉

    Alan
    http://area17.blogspot.com
    .

  7. Hi, Tom and Alan, This may be off subject, but there are missing spots in the Haiku Registry just waiting for you.

  8. I think all of you may be missing the intention and point of Mr. Bradford’s “generator.” The application certainly does not presume to replace the artistry behind a haiku; rather, it is an opportunity for the reader and writer to consider an imitation and, thus, become better acquainted with the qualities a true haiku. Rather than the somewhat presumptuous claim of “haiku generator,” might it not be more beneficial to term the app a “source of haiku inspiration?”

  9. Basho certainly would, as Britain is knee-deep in snow and completely taken by surprise.

    Haiku is a great artform, no one can pin it down into something static, thank goodness. Brrrr…off to bed with hot cocoa! 😉

  10. Aside from a historical meaning, the concept “haiku” is just whatever one says it is. As for “history,” there are several traditions, several “families,” of “haiku.” My guess is that contemporary poets often write in different traditions at different times. The relative value of each tradition is a vexed question, and will continue to be vexed by commentators. One area that seems open for revaluation is the relationship between haiku and “nature” — e.g. the formal presence of the kigo. Aside from the odd conversations noting that kigo differ from region to region (conclusion: Japanese kigo are irrelevant!), kigo do appear to have a profound signification with regard to the ethos of a certain kind of haiku and indeed a certain “destiny” for the form, for is not the form, within at least one tradition, quite apt for contemporary discussions of ecology? Why shouldn’t a poet place his consciousness within the field of the seasons? The parable in the Zhuangzi about the skull suggests that an “essential” humanity is quite open and vulnerable to the seasons, perhaps the plaything of the seasons, and it’s very likely that Basho, for one, drew on THAT tradition.

  11. Tom D’Evelyn said:
    “As resident Martian, I note the bit that swirls around these conversations, the concept/ word “haiku.”

    Mentioning about Martians gets me thinking that ‘mechanical birds with many wings and some are treasured for their markings’ and perhaps that could be extended, or telescoped, for haiku itself? 😉

    Tom D’Evelyn said:
    “Is there anxiety about what the word means? It seems to be used with confidence by all the contributors. Does it have a secret meaning?”

    And a secret handshake? 😉

    “The family resemblances that qualify a bit of communication (?) to be called a haiku are presumably recognizable and lead to the confident uses. I wonder what they are? Since there have been many attempts to prescribe what a “haiku” is, perhaps the contributors agree, tacitly, on a kind of lowest common denominator. Wonder what it is?”

    I believe haiku is still in flux. Even Basho didn’t blindly follow the 5/7/5 construct, and would have felt confortable with the kigo or keyword debate as more and more voculabury came about with the Industrial Revolution(s).

    LCD? Some contemporary Japanese female haiku writers write haiku longer than tanka, some write tanka shorter than haiku.

    The problem with the 5/7/5 construct is that so many people drop the idea of good writing and merely jump into forcing strange line breaks, even cutting a word in half, so the ‘haiku attempt’ has a 575 count even if it’s ugly bad writing, repetitive and jerky. Is that haiku, well several thousand people would say it is, but how far do we go to say something is right just because a scary number of people on a night out say it is? 😉

    Luke Bradford said:
    “The only constraints I gave myself were 5-7-5 syllabic structure, focus on nature imagery, and seasonal terms. I wasn’t aware of the viewpoint of the poet as a significant element of haiku, or of the fact that 5-7-5 is rarely used in English.”

    There seems to be two parts to this: the 575 construct, ‘nature’ and ‘seasonal terms’ being the first part, and the second part that the poet is a significant part of haiku.

    First part:

    Although some seasonal terms aren’t necessarily ‘nature’/natural history e.g. fireworks I’m not sure crowding in both a seasonal aspect and a bit about nature, and a 575 construct all in one is a good idea. I feel when a 575 construct is forced regardless of syntax and musicality (yep, music again) it becomes a blocked filter.

    Second part:

    I don’t think the poet is the significant part of the poem. A haiku stands even if the reader doesn’t know the poet’s name, and a haiku stands even if there is no ‘I’ either inferred or literally typed into the poem.

    “If Haiku Time were to produce a haiku that, had you seen it without knowing its source, communicated something beautiful and thoughtful to you, the reader, would you dismiss that haiku after finding out where it came from?”

    Many of us either run competitions or are asked to judge competitions where we judge entries without an author’s name. We judge merely on the attributes of the writing, not on a name. This is more common with haiku than other poetry, which is great. We actually get blown away with the thoughtful original writing, not who wrote it.

    “In other words, is the real problem here with the haiku themselves, or with the fact that expressing human ideas is a component of haiku?”

    I think this is a red herring. Many classic Japanese haiku [sic] as they were called hokku in classic times, and served a different purpose (renga starting verses), would have had inferred pronouns. In the West many haiku writers and readers got into a pickle over whether to state I in a haiku, and if it should be lowercase i or uppercase I.

    The Japanese just got on with more serious shifts and experiments in haiku, from Basho right up to this morning I reckon. 😉

    “Personally, I believe that the link between author and reader is already extremely tenuous.”

    Well, someone, or someones, did say reading haiku is as much a skill as writing one. 😉

    “I think that once created, art exists independently of both creator and observer, and I believe a person can appreciate beauty from any source, given the right mindset.”

    I hope so! I’ve experienced that often, and I’ve seen members of the general public reading haiku to themselves for the very first time and being incredibly moved without knowing anything about the mechanics of haiku.

    Ahhhhh… but we as writers need to know about the mechanics, so where does that put us?

    Alan
    http://www.withwords.org.uk/what.html
    .

  12. Paul, it’s interesting that our discussion has taken a turn toward music, because my major is Computing and the Arts with a concentration in music. I’m an electronic musician myself, so music is where I spend most of my time using technology to produce art. (I’m also a big fan of Einstein on the Beach.)

    I see now that your original comments were meant mainly to point out stylistic problems with the haiku Haiku Time generates rather than the method itself. I used a lot of personification partially because Haiku Time could never know all the nuances of noun-verb combinations that a writer can (for example, that a star flickers while a moonlit pond is more likely to shimmer), but also because I’m admittedly unfamiliar with current thinking in English haiku. The only constraints I gave myself were 5-7-5 syllabic structure, focus on nature imagery, and seasonal terms. I wasn’t aware of the viewpoint of the poet as a significant element of haiku, or of the fact that 5-7-5 is rarely used in English.

    The point I’m making is that, given time, I could make Haiku Time produce haiku of the style that you describe. I think Gabi asks an important question, which is “Would you change your mind?”

    If Haiku Time were to produce a haiku that, had you seen it without knowing its source, communicated something beautiful and thoughtful to you, the reader, would you dismiss that haiku after finding out where it came from? In other words, is the real problem here with the haiku themselves, or with the fact that expressing human ideas is a component of haiku?

    Personally, I believe that the link between author and reader is already extremely tenuous. I think that once created, art exists independently of both creator and observer, and I believe a person can appreciate beauty from any source, given the right mindset.

  13. As resident Martian, I note the bit that swirls around these conversations, the concept/ word “haiku.” Is there anxiety about what the word means? It seems to be used with confidence by all the contributors. Does it have a secret meaning? The family resemblances that qualify a bit of communication (?) to be called a haiku are presumably recognizable and lead to the confident uses. I wonder what they are? Since there have been many attempts to prescribe what a “haiku” is, perhaps the contributors agree, tacitly, on a kind of lowest common denominator. Wonder what it is? Our own software may be getting soft, or perhaps its just really widely shared . . . .

  14. All great comments. 😉

    Most of us are writers, so even if we ever relied on a computer to compose haiku, we’d still be ‘writing’.

    But most people feel they cannot write creatively, though often the most obstinate, in my experience, can.

    This haiku generator can attract people to the idea of haiku, and anyway, it’s out there right now, and yes I wish it could generate lines from real haiku, but who would give permission for their haiku to be deconstructed thus?

    If a follow up to the haiku generator is real haiku being generated in whole that’s a great possibility, but in the meantime we can write and we can read.

    Many people do use app games and DSLite whether we like it or not, and won’t default to a pencil let alone a pen, to physically write. We’re too opposable thumb driven I suppose. 😉

    But then novels are often composed by ‘txting’ but later printed in the old fashioned way, so there are markets out there for everything.

    Paul McNeil said: ‘I did not mean to demean you personally or your idea and project: Haiku Time. I do think it important to be sure your end-audience understands the genesis of the poems. Your third sentence says: “Haiku Time is in no way meant to be a replacement for reading and writing real haiku, and that suggestion should have no merit in the discussion here.” For me, your key phrase here is “real haiku.” ‘

    What I would love to see is a neat little message somewhere in Haiku Time that lets the gamer know that if they are interested in knowing more about haiku they can check out so-and-so.

    Or maybe if there is a campanion haiku app giving published haiku, a couple of weblinks?

    all my best,

    Alan
    http://area17.blogspot.com
    http://www.withwords.org.uk
    .

  15. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…and the stars in the heavens are “beautiful” only in that there is that human connection that can proclaim their beauty, examine the beauty, understand it, feel it deeply and share it with another…when that spark of recognition between one person and another happens….
    Personally, I’ll still be using my little old pen and note book…
    it’s what has become comfortable to me to write with.
    To have to rely upon electronic devices to “generate” what goes down on the page, I’d have to reliquish what it is inside of me that has to be said, expressed in some way to be part of the human family. I’d be giving that up to a machine. Since a machine can never truly appreciate the “beauty” of the stars, or the depths of the human existance, it doesn’t seem worth while to me to invest in it much. As it is, it’s become pretty expensive to just keep up with the devices I need to scan and send things on the internet. And I seldom have the income necessary for most of it…as it all becomes obsolete before I have even explored the last piece of equipment. My time is taken up with devices. My mind is being occupied with learning someone else’s idea.

  16. Would you change your mind ?

    If I read a haiku which I really like, say about the sea and the clouds
    would I change my mind if someone told me it was generated by a computer application ?

    If I read a haiku which I think really trivial, say about a bare branch and a crow
    would I change my mind if someone told me it was written by the famous Matsuo Basho ?

    . . .

    I just saw a program on NHK TV about a haiku meeting, where six panelists introduced a modern haiku each and the others had to evaluate it first with a maximum of three points.
    Most where really quite some riddles of sorts …
    (The name of the program was

    nanda korya haiku
    (What, that is supposed to be a haiku?)

    Then they discussed the haiku, told about the author and the circumstances when it was written and what it was most probably ment to say (Kaneko Tohta was the great leader in the background, knowing most of the poets himself and many of the circumstances ).
    Then the panelists were given a second chance to evaluate the poem again.
    What do you think happened?
    Most poems were evaluated UP with quite some points. Others went down quite a bit.

    Here is one

    tototototo tototototo myaku amaririsu

    tototototo
    tototototo pulse
    amaryllis

    (The Japanese is 5 7 5 and has the kigo amaryllis.)

    How many points would you give this one in a scale from 1 (low) to 10 (best)?

    I tell you more later, if anyone is interested in the background story. (and do not google yet …)

    Gabi
    .

  17. Computer generated haiku as a game or as a way to write haiku, I’m afraid, will catch on, like all the other electronic innovations.

    People are always looking for short-cuts, quick ways to accomplish something without investing a great deal of time. Digital photography is an example. My husband learned the old fashioned way to take pictures, adjusting his camera for every shot he took and developing the film himself in a bathroom I found it too time consuming to learn, so I took easy photos with a uncomplicated camera and got only so-so photos.

    Now I use a digital camera and take great photos that are even greater after I manipulate them with the photo imaging program.

    The point is, people always want to feel that they have accomplished something. Even though I enjoy my digital camera, I’m not sure if I’ve advanced or retreated in terms of personal growth.
    I have some great photos, but I can’t take much credit for them. Cannon and Picassa get the Bravos.

    Adelaide

    Adelaide

  18. ‘Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew
    It was the spirit that we sought and knew
    That we should ask this often as she sang.
    If it was only the dark voice of the sea
    That rose, or even colored by many waves;
    If it was only the outer voice of sky
    And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
    However clear, it would have been deep air,
    The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
    Repeated in a summer without end
    And sound alone. But it was more than that,
    More even than her voice, and ours, among
    The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
    Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
    On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
    Of sky and sea. ‘

    from ‘The Idea of Order at Key West’, Wallace Stevens

    …best to read it all:

    http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/Poetry/Stevens/The_Idea_of_Order_at_Key_West.html

    But collage and ‘found poetry’ are not new by a long shot (and the haiku generators combine these techniques) and it’s been demonstrated that ‘re-mix’ can form the basis of some quite creative music.

    ‘ESL ku’, the sometimes ‘happy accidents’ made by haiku writers to whom English is not the first language are sometimes praised as more creative or ‘different’ (& then of course, what’s praised will develop into a style) and I notice that the generated reassembling of words and phrases here has something in common with what learners of English as a second language come up with, so in the end perhaps it will be discerning readers who choose what lasts.

    It is possible that in the future all of our poetry will be ‘generated’ for us and fed to us. Will we still struggle to speak, to sing? Will we bother to ask, ‘Whose voice is this?’ Will we all assent to having generic voices speak for us?

    I am quite lost in the future that has arrived already, let alone that which is coming, so I guess I’ll just go back and sharpen a few quills now, before I decide what I can and can’t opt into.

  19. Dear Luke,

    Your analogy to classical or academic music is an interesting one. The manipulation of sound as means of communicating emotion, Art– capital A, is as old as the voice and a hollow log, a whistle or simple flute, a piece of gut stretched over a bent stick. More lately, so-called traditional musical instruments have been supplanted by electric applications (before the computer) such as the Theremin (1920) and later the Moog (1950s or so). Mathematics generated sounds in the 12-tone scale, the tones and semi-tones in a Western octave, and random orders of sounds and rhythms. Some composers then play their created series backwards or upside down. At the end of the 19th C., Debussy and others were influenced by the Paris concert of an Indonesian gamelan ensemble using wholly different tonalities than so-called Western music. Combinations of most of these elements are being written and performed in current times. An opera by Philip Glass, Einstein on the Beach, is an example. Representational Art is also influenced by mathematics. Paintings of Mondrian, for example.

    That your generated, adapted haiku, are artworks is not disputed by me — capital A. I do caution that while haiku are short poems, not all short poems are haiku. At least since the early 1960s, haiku writers, essayists, and theorists have debated definitions of English language haiku. To this day, we probably only agree that each person does or should develop her/his own theory. Part of mine is that haiku are based in human experience and perception. Such Art is never objective for that reason, even if expressed in a direct way. A person is attempting to communicate to another. Part of my own theory is that emotion (on some level) is communicated.

    My comments about the 3 poems Jim quoted meant that they would have a tough time passing muster as anonymous haiku in a contest or as signed work sent as haiku to a haiku journal editor. By the definition of others’ these three may be haiku. If so, they are not very good ones as most ELH are expressed today. My opinion. As I wrote in one paragraph in my first response, I am sure I can and will be fooled by machine haiku and haiku of pure fiction (human generated). This is Art as I have agreed, but either not haiku or not successful haiku (according to just my view). The 2nd in Jim’s blog item:

    Spring day on the shore
    The night laughing to the sea
    Tell me of the dawn

    Haiku, even of a dream for example, have the poet as observer. Where is the poet and when? The perspective? How may a reader place her/himself, so as to share? It is day at water’s edge, it is night, it is next day’s dawn. And the night is “laughing” ?? Luke, the night just is. It neither vocalizes nor is it sentient. In the first poem, possibly the snow may have a sound, but stars and clouds do not. In the third one — poeticism and anthropomorphism. Roses just are. Singing and murmuring?

    Your sentence: “Yes, some of the haiku it produces are silly, and some are just pretty – but a few are beautiful, and not only that, they express things that a human wouldn’t because of the weight of association and the limits of a conscious writing process.” is thought provoking and I will think on it.

    I did not mean to demean you personally or your idea and project: Haiku Time. I do think it important to be sure your end-audience understands the genesis of the poems. Your third sentence says: “Haiku Time is in no way meant to be a replacement for reading and writing real haiku, and that suggestion should have no merit in the discussion here.” For me, your key phrase here is “real haiku.” – Paul

  20. Snow by the meadow
    Sighing gently with the stars
    The voice of the clouds
    generated ku

    meadow snow
    on the fawn’s back
    stars gently fade
    my own version

  21. Haha… this reminds of a crazy eight ball, forecasting the future. A neat parlor trick. All technology comes with it’s pros and cons, and this is no different. It may introduce haiku to a wider audience. Someone mentioned reading. The real game would be, to take the generated haiku and turn it into the genuine article. But then, why not cut out the electronic middleman, save time and energy and simply grab a pencil? (Oh. Then I might have to use my mind, or take the time to develop a skill…. hmm. )

  22. I’m not exactly the ‘new generation,’ perhaps, but I do own an iPod Touch and I am an undergraduate student. I’ve poked at this app and other haiku apps in the iTunes store in the past, and none of them appealed much to me. There used to be an app for a time that I had that would give one shaky translation a day of Basho and the like, but I haven’t found a reason to invest in any of the others since.

    Haiku Time is pretty, and I imagine it is capable of making a few nice poems here and there, but I’m hard pressed to find it engaging past the impressive vocabulary. What I -do- however like, after watching the YouTube video, is the ability to select out lines; I’d be more impressed if I could move said lines and/or edit them. (Which is a bit more complex, I understand, but that’s my first impulse when watching the demo. This isn’t something that’d keep me entertained too long as it currently is.)

    While generators can be fun, the desire to tinker and a method for tinkering on devices like the iPhone and iTouch is probably more desirable for this group. Even though I often just write my haiku into the Notes app, I could imagine playing with tiles like in “Touch Poet” such as Susan described. For a broader audience, I could see filling in lines and/or choosing from different expressions or words (a small kigo bank for example), depending on how rigid one wanted to be (settings/levels of rigidness perhaps?).

    As others have expressed, an app that provided a haiku a day from around the world would definitely be nice. I’m not much of an e-book reader (though I do on occasion when nothing’s on hand), but I do know folks whom I’ve introduced to haiku that would probably be interested if such a thing was available. And I think we all agree that we like to see a little something during the day to give us a brief reprieve and maybe a smile.

    My thoughts on the fly.

    – Aubrie

  23. While I, too, prefer a book to an electronic gadget, there are times when I find myself with a few minutes to spare (especially when waiting for kids after school or on the sidelines of athletic events) and all I have in my pocket is my phone. I enjoy playing with words on the iphone app “Touch Poet,” which is very similar to magnetic poetry tiles. You can select the type of words generated, but, of course, haiku is not a category currently available. An enterprising haiku poet might compile a list of words conducive to creating quality haiku and propose it to the Touch Poet people. Just an idea. The poems created by such excercises never match the poems that come from genuine experience and emotion, but I view it sort of as a way of staying in shape — and passing time playing with words is fun, don’t you think?

  24. As the creator of Haiku Time, I feel I should weigh in.

    First, a clarification. Haiku Time is in no way meant to be a replacement for reading and writing real haiku, and that suggestion should have no merit in the discussion here. It’s meant to be an interesting experiment and nothing more.

    Next, a defense. I strongly believe that it is foolish and narrow-minded to dismiss the haiku (and yes, they are haiku, like it or not) that Haiku Time produces as inherently worthless. To consider the expression of ‘common humanity’ as the only viable purpose of art is to condemn a huge pantheon of potentially beautiful forms of art. I might remind you that most of us find canyons and constellations beautiful, yet these are merely the products of time and chance. For that matter, so are we – and so is this program. Yes, some of the haiku it produces are silly, and some are just pretty – but a few are beautiful, and not only that, they express things that a human wouldn’t because of the weight of association and the limits of a conscious writing process. Paul, your remark that these haiku wouldn’t make it past an editor’s red pen is ridiculous. They’re in a different style that you’re used to, yes, but they’re still art. That some people abandon art because it lacks a certain human element (which, in this case, is even stranger, considering that I, a human, composed this program’s vocabulary and overall design) is extremely unfortunate. The day that artists lose sight of the idea of ‘art for the sake of art’ is a very sad one.

    There is a talented young composer of classical music named Emily Howell whose debut album, “From Darkness, Light” can move an audience emotionally – provided you wait until after the concert to tell them she is a machine. Why ignore the fact that machines can produce beauty just because they’re machines? If you don’t like the haiku that Haiku Time creates, fine. Just don’t sentence it to death without a fair trial.

  25. I think THF is on the right track here…and I understand where Alan is coming from. From where I sit it seems to me that the whole world is going through some radical changes in information and networking around the globe. I understand that these “apps” are just a minor part of a whole new world we are entering now.

    And I am very glad that THF is aware of the human component as it explores these electronic bursts of creativity. I am very glad that there is this forum where these things can be examined and give haiku poets avenues to still function as poets in new and strange environments. It’s up to the poets how these things are used. It would be a mistake to try to control any of them. It’s better to just explore them and make a case for whatever poetry each poet feels he must create.

  26. Hi, Alan, Sorry I misspelled your name. It’s not that it’s unusual, it’s just that there are so many Alan, Allan, Allen, Allyn, that sometimes my fingers slip.
    I’ll try to be more careful in the future, but I said that the last time and it still happened. But I will try harder. Promise.

  27. Folks, Jim and I thought that Haiku Time was an interesting experiment, and we thought that the regular readers of our blog might be intrigued, amused, or put off . . . (just a little put off, we hope). Looks like we were right 🙂

    My hope is that the THF will become home to many conversations about haiku, near-haiku, maybe-not-haiku, and no-way-that’s-a-haiku. I think this broad, eclectic approach is one way to serve haiku.

    As a haiku poet, my conception of what I am trying to do tends to fall within a narrow range at any given time. That narrowing of options might be necessary, but it’s not good if I start assuming that my chosen options are the only valid ones.

    That’s where reading things we don’t like–at least not at first–comes in. Or having a conversation about a silly Iphone app. You never know where it might lead.

  28. Great comments!

    I’ll try to clarify. I read the message originating from Jim where he heard that Luke Bradford had done a haiku generator for an iPhone app, but wanted to gently encourage him (I believe) into considering a non-generated follow up.

    This follow up would be real haiku by real people past and present.

    The logic for an app or other electronic presence would be a game unfortunately as brain exercisers are the thing today and simply reading great haiku alas would not be enough. 😉

    If the iPhone haiku generator app piques interest in haiku [sic] they may be up for a superior ‘real’ haiku game, which in turn may pique their interest in actually picking up a real book to read real haiku. A slow process, but you never know, it might happen. 😉

    Thanks for noticing I don’t have two or more ‘l’s in my name; I didn’t realise how unusual the name ‘Alan’ was in the States. 😉

    all my best,

    Alan

  29. Alan wrote:

    but there is a definite move to electronic means of reading for new generations.

    Yes, but why not read the real thing, not generated haiku? Without reading the masters of haiku, traditional haiku and gendai haiku, which are genuine, how is someone who relies on a computer generated haiku, because he wants to be creative, to know what he has written? He could think he has created “haiku” and pass it on to others who will pass it on and so on, fostering an incorrect understanding of what haiku is about.

    I shall be interested in seeing what kind of a game computer generated haiku can produce, although I’m not sure that this will help haiku rather than hurt it.

    Adelaide

  30. Allan, You know there is a definite move to educate our children to be machines too…who needs art or music or poetry or haiku in the schools…And you know what, it’s just what happened to the arts in the USA. People past the age of 5 are afraid to admit that they have ever drawn a picture, or dared a little jingle much less a poem. In order to get the general public listening to poetry it has to have a bit of a clown in it.
    I love haiku’s ability to let us reach down inside us and explore what is human about us – lets us share our humanity and come to peace with each other.

  31. I have to tell you how amusing this is to me! First a little family history. My Mom was always afraid I’d end up an artist/starving someplace, although my folks met in art school and I was surrounded by that mindset. But every time Mom heard that something had been accepted it caused her a great deal of mixed emotions. So one year, in an effort to be supportive, she went out and got one of those magnetic poetry kits…you know, the little tiles with words on them, that you scatter over your fridge with the intent to jog your conscious mind into “poetry” when nothing comes.
    Well, I did scatter them across my fridge…they have never produced one thing worth while for publication…but they have always brought a bit of a smile to me as I remember the effort of my Mom to be supportive. Mom’s gone now…but the little tiles still scatter across my fridge.
    But it’s the work of exploring that relationship between us that is the root of poetry. That getting down into the essential aspect of our humanity and our condition. And I am thankful for the gift…the warmth of love and acceptance that the little tiles brought.

  32. No problem, Alan. Sorry for any confusion. I read a very lot of haiku from the computer and a netbook. My daughter and her husband have the latest toys with E-mail via a cell phone. I’m not that in the know.

    I like books _and_ a computer screen. But what I cannot seem to swallow, if I’m understanding you and Jim correctly, is a machine-made haiku. Delivery is great, but artificially “creating” a poem and calling it haiku seems close to incredible, as in not credible. Additionally, what it shows to newcomers to haiku, the human kind, would seem to lead up a false path. – Paul

  33. I respect what Paul and Adelaide are saying but there is a definite move to electronic means of reading for new generations.

    You can never beat a book of course! 😉

    But as much as I don’t like haiku
    generators as that term is an oxymoron, it’s a start. Luke has made some effort so a reader of haiku generated [double sic] can keep single lines they feel are more haikulike.

    THF are pretty inclusive, but also as a big organisation may have more chance of getting a better cellphone haiku application up and running perhaps?

    So many people read newspapers, novels, and other work off cellphones or kindle type gadgets today, that it would be good if THF can do:

    “The Haiku Foundation will be in conversation with Bradford to discover the possibility of creating a haiku game, for iPhone and possibly larger platforms, though this is in the very earliest stages. We would welcome your input into what you might think would be fun and challenging in a haiku game, and will keep you apprised of our progress.”

    If something of the quality of the PC game that Michael Dylan Welch helped produce can happen as a game then I can see it going on DS lite as well. 😉

    As someone who did a job as Santa through November until Christmas Eve (as part of an experience for my novel) I can tell you that tens of thousands of parents and children would have a go at a good haiku game if it was on DS lite, but certainly a few thousand would have a go on iPhone and/or iPod, but not as many.

    If anything gets people to see haiku isn’t a gimmicky and jokey 5/7/5 construct, and could help literacy which in turn helps further enjoyment of literature (incl. haiku) then I’m all for it! 😉

    THF look like their next step is to hopefully influence Luke into introducing good haiku that aren’t 5/7/5 constructs.

    I certainly hope THF influence Luke to improve on the haiku generator ‘material’ but like it or not, quite a few thousand will see bad haiku generator material, and any effort to improve on it has my vote.

    all my best,

    Alan
    With Words

  34. I don’t have an ipod or iphone, so I won’t be checking out this haiku generator. The examples given are enough to show me that they are pretty, but pretty isn’t what haiku is about. It is the poet’s experience and his sharing it with others through concise images that generate an emotion in the reader without using fanciful and flowery phrases, such as night laughing and voice of the clouds.

  35. Well, Jim, this concept seems not just a step too far but a hop, skip, and a jump past my relationship to haiku. Alan’s notion of an app for a haiku a day, but from actual human poets, is of course happening with websites at Cornell University Library, and the library of Shreveport ,LA — and no doubt many other places. Worldwide translations would be great.

    I wish you would expound some on why, Jim, this is worth any space at all in THF? I suppose I get more curmudgeonly as the years pass. I thought the art of reading haiku was an extension of writing it. This involves a sharing of experience, perception, and insight into the relationship of things. The creator of haiku attempts to share. It isn’t new that people make up haiku as fiction; some are even very good at it. But to deliberately substitute a machine containing “poetic” phrases to be juggled seems far afield, indeed.

    I have no doubt that some machine poems could and will fool me. These three wouldn’t get too far vis-a-vis an editor’s red pencil. Roses that compose songs, a night that can speak and laugh?

    It crossed my mind how very competent programmers have made computers for competitive chess. I’m not a chess player, but are artificial haiku analogous to Big Blue beating a chess master? Perhaps it is the Artwork that is missing?

    You already know I am a big fan of your own haiku. I am sure I have read several hundred in your books, contests, and in journals. Now if you assembled 365 of them what a wonderful app it would be for phone, netbook, or other computer to get a Kacian a day!
    – Paul

  36. This is excellent news! Luke’s haiku generator is indeed an improvement on the ugly attempts I’ve seen in years gone by.

    If an app showing haiku from around the world, and not just the West, is created, this will have magnificent consequences.

    Alan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top