New York Times Turns Its Stories Into Haikus

Happy National Poetry Month!

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 2, 2013 9:55 AM CDT

(Newser) – The New York Times is celebrating National Poetry Month with a quirky new Tumblr: Times Haiku. It's exactly what it sounds like: haiku generated from stories posted to the NYT homepage. But, interestingly, it's all automated. So a computer algorithm came up with gems like these:

  • "His wife was his world / and his mother was his world / and his family."
  • "I slugged two shots of / plum brandy, convinced we had / wandered back in time."
  • "The one thing to be / careful about is trimming / the broccoli rabe."
  • "As dawn broke we warmed / strawberry Pop Tarts over / the dying embers."

The project was the brainchild of the paper's senior software architect, Jacob Harris, Nieman Journalism Lab reports. He built a program that finds haiku-friendly phrases or sentences in articles and displays them in the five/seven/five syllable haiku form. Though Harris' code makes use of an an open source pronunciation dictionary that contains syllable counts, he has had to teach the program how many syllables certain non-dictionary words—like "Rihanna"—contain. Neat feature of the algorithm: It bypasses "sensitive" stories. He started the project on his own, then sold Times editors on it. (The haiku, of course, all contain links back to the original articles.) Says Harris, "Sometimes it can be an ordinary sentence in context, but pulled out of context it has a strange comedy or beauty to it."

Times Haiku.
Times Haiku.   (Times Haiku)
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