Language Algorithm Turns Tweets to Poetry

Language Arts

Language Algorithm Turns Tweets to Poetry

Feb 20, 2013

WHAT'S IN A TWEET?: Apparently volumes of iambic pentameter -- the ten-syllable lyrical meter of choice for notable English poets John Donne, William Shakespeare, and John Milton. With special apologies to every English teacher, we were never able to master the slashes, asterisks, da's and DUM's often employed to identify and characterize iambic pentameter, but that certainly hasn't been a problem for Ranjit Bhatnagar and his magic algorithm, Pentametron. The nifty program mines a Twitter firehose (that's geekspeak for a real-time mega-feed of every tweet) for instances of iambic pentameter and creates couplets for your poetry-viewing pleasure. At the time of writing, the latest crowdsourced masterpiece reads as follows:

"Did cats exist before the internet?"/"I've given up revising for the day."

Perhaps not as rousing as Macbeth, but the consistent number of Pentametron couplets (around ~100 in the past 5 days alone) speaks to how much seemingly abstract literary devices are baked into our everyday communication. In this NPR interview, Bhatnagar explains that Pentametron is a natural result of his love for programming and surrealist poetry. Little did he know, he was also creating a (pop) culturally relevant tool for introducing students to classical poetry.

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