“Please stand by”

The calculus of poetry

In recent months, I’ve written a couple of times about online poetry generators. But now I’ve found a physical computational device — a poetry calculator called the Verse-O-Matic. The prototype was created by James Robinson, a student at the Interactive Technologies Program at New York University, and as Robinson describes on his site, it works like this:

The Verse-O-Matic looks almost exactly like a regular printing calculator, although the digits are replaced by nine themes (love, happiness, beauty, humor, age, nature, separation, sadness, and despair). When a key is pressed, the calculator searches its memory to select all of the 70 poems in memory that refer to that theme. Additional themes can be added (“+” = AND) or subtracted (“-” = AND NOT) from the poetic equation simply by pressing the appropriate keys. When the user presses “=”, the equation is completed and the calculator prints a poem that fulfills all of the thematic boundaries that the user has set.

For instance:

“This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.”
[William Shakespeare]

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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