under the lilac
i had a kiss all ready
without them

as the bell's notes fade
the crescent moon
cold, cold

poem.exe is a bot that generates haiku-like poems and publishes them on social media.

It was featured in The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 3: Perhaps because the bot’s raw materials are traditional haikus – a literary form composed of short, image-driven lines often with strong ties to the seasons and natural landscapes – the results are surprisingly coherent and poetic.

The project went live in June 2014, and continues to evolve today.

Follow

You can follow @poem_exe on Twitter. A new poem is posted every 4–5 hours.

There are two accounts you can follow on Mastodon:

How it works

poem.exe is a friendly bot – a piece of software that runs mostly unattended and communicates through social networks. Every few hours, it ‘wakes up’ and runs through a procedure to create a poem.

  • First it selects three verses at random from a collection of a few hundred, and takes a single line from each of these verses to form the template of a new poem. It rearranges lines, and substitutes words and phrases.

  • Once a poem is assembled this way, it scans the text for seasonal references and other keywords. If the poem looks ‘interesting’ enough, the bot posts it and goes back to sleep. If not, the bot discards the poem, with a metallic sigh, and starts over.

This method was inspired by Leonard Richardson’s Queneau Assembly (2011) and Raymond Queneau’s A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems (1961).

The bulk of the source material consists of translated haiku by Kobayashi Issa (1763–1828), which have been edited to work better with the random assembly technique. Many of the resulting poems are coloured by Issa’s personality, notably his fondness for snails.

Credits and license

poem.exe was developed by Liam Cooke.

The avatar is from Utagawa Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, no. 40 (1857).

Poems generated by poem.exe are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.