‘New York Times’ Haiku Generator Turns Articles into Poetry

These journalists are poets, and they don't even know it!

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Times Haiku

But we’re working off

a detailed road map and we

know where we’re going.

Believe it or not, that bit of wisdom came straight out of a New York Times ArtsBeat Q&A with Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

In honor of National Poetry month, the Times’ senior software architect Jacob Harris created an algorithm that browses articles on the NYTimes.com homepage for sentences that would make good haikus, reports the Neiman Journalism Lab. In case you don’t remember from high school English class, a haiku is a poem of Japanese origin made up of three lines — five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third.

(MORE: Startup Giant Thinkwell Reinvents Itself with Haiku Deck)

In a seemingly simple process, the software combs through the texts for “haiku-friendly” words then checks them against a pronunciation dictionary, explained Neiman Lab. The dictionary also helps with the syllable count. All of the algorithm’s creations are posted on a Tumblr called Times Haiku, along with links to the original articles.

The site was inspired by Haikuleaks, a similar generator that writes haiku from Wikileaks’ diplomatic cables.

Harris was also the brains behind the bot @nytimes_ebooks, a parody of @Horse_ebooks, an Internet bot that constructs nonsensical tweets from words found online.

Times Haiku is one way the newspaper hopes to broaden the reach of its articles, Marc Lavallee, assistant editor for interactive news, told Neiman Lab:

“If someone sees the site, or the image of an individual haiku and shares it on Tumblr, and it gets them to think about who we are and what we do, or gives them a moment of pause, I think we’ve succeeded in a way.”

MORE: HaikuLeaks — The New Way to Read Your WikiLeaks