Found Poem Generator – Introduction

“How do you go back to the beginning?
Short stories are the best,
It’s always one step behind me,
The fools in the hall.
When your life has already flown?
Our life, a wheel within a wheel.”

–  Shadow The Poet aka James Laurie

I recently undertook a course on learning Object Oriented Programming using Python. This is one of the many useful little courses provided by universities and hosted by the FutureLearn website which I occasionally frequent. I wrote about their Song Writing course featuring Martin Simpson a little while ago.

I spent a period of my life writing software using Borland Delphi, so I am familiar with Object Oriented Programming, or OOP as it is known using its TLA. My interest in this course was to get stuck into a language that is relevant to the hobbyist / creative and as pervasive as BASIC used to be back in the good old days of home computing. Python is built in to Linux, so features on many Raspberry Pi’s, and also is therefore MacOS and so fits the bill straight off. What also piqued my interest was that the course would teach using Python by using it to write a text-based adventure game, something I misspent an early part of my youth playing.

As I followed the course I had an idea of using what I had learnt so far to write a ‘Found Poem Generator’. Rather than creating dungeon rooms and items as Objects, I would create lines of a poem. These lines could then have attributes attached to them such as word count and syllable count, perhaps even metre or some other attribute. Once I had collected my lines, counted the words and syllables and fed them into the program I would then be able to generate poems. The results could then be edited and new poems would come into being. 

I felt there was precedent for this firstly as I sometimes do this anyway by looking at my book of fragments and pulling various lines out to create a new poem. Valerie Laws did something similar in 2002, although more organic than technological, by writing her lines on sheep and using the random wanderings and grouping of the sheep to create new poems.

Warm drift, graze gentle, White below the sky, Soft sheep, mirrors, Snow clouds.

– Valerie Law’s Sheep

FoundPoemScreenShot1

At the moment the program can create a random poem based on my found lines which stored in one of its files. The command ‘poem’ followed by a number will cause it to generate a poem of that many random lines. I also store the number of words in the line and the number of syllables too as my next update will be to start incorporating standard poem forms into it. Haiku’s and other syllabic forms will probably be first.

The found lines are currently hardcoded into the program, as I still haven’t found out how to read data from a text file or spreadsheet yet using Python. In order to simplify things for myself I created a spreadsheet that I can use to hold my found lines. It has some text manipulation formulas in it that convert the lines I enter into the correct format for copying and pasting into the program file.

I have uploaded all this into a Dropbox folder here if you fancy a play with it, if you wouldn’t have a clue what to do with them then have a look at the FutureLearn course I did or look out for a future blog where I’ll try to explain.

“When your life has already flown?
Our life, a wheel within a wheel
The fools in the hall
The wind blows in gusts
Looking for that way home”

–  Shadow The Poet aka James Laurie