Ulysses Haikus

I have discovered a very simple algorithm for generating passable English poetry: grab random sentences from the greatest novel ever written and plug them into the most primitive template you can find. I call this project "Ulysses haikus."

To start we need the text itself and a few lines of Python code to parse it, which should leave us with a list of every sentence in the book. From there we can make two sub-lists containing nothing but five- and seven-syllable sentences (for the 5-7-5 haiku pattern) and use those to randomly generate our poems. You can find the full code, including a cute function for the syllable counts by Danny O'Brien, on this page.

Of the one hundred poems I generated in my first trial, about half ended up being readable, which says something both about Joyce's facility with words and the integrity of haikus. Ten, in particular, were actually quite striking:

   He waits while you wait 
   Moonlight silver effulgence 
   He is young Leopold 
   Hhhn: burst sideways 
   His gun rusty from the dew 
   Breakfast is ready 
   I'll flay him alive 
   Uncertainly he waited 
   Heavy of the past 
   Holohan told me 
   No security 
   Watching his water 
   Wonder where it is really 
   where the tide ebbs .. 
   You are cautioned 
   Beware of imitations 
   History to blame 
   Must be his deathday 
   Known as Koch's preparation 
   And the rest nowhere 
   Serum and virus 
   Dreadful life sailors have too 
   I needn't tell you 
   Wonder how he looks at life 
   Probably neuter 
   Repentance skindeep 
    --Yes, sir, the chemist said 
   Where I come in 

In any case I was pleased with the results, though I encourage more experiments as I'm sure there are plenty of gems yet uncovered. Send your best to haikus AT jsomers.net.