This year in the New York Times Book Review I read about a book that combines my interests in haiku and electronic poetry. It's called Comes the Fiery Night by David H. Cope. The author compiled 2,000 haiku (yes, two thousand), some of which were written by human haiku masters, (Issa, Basho, Buson), and some which were composed by a machine.
The challenge, according to Cope, was to figure out which haiku had meaning and which were "worth while." In the preface, he directed you to look for humor, pith, happiness, sadness, and history. He also warned you that his computer made typographical mistakes.
So I looked for all that and also decided to look for connective tissue between the three lines, an overarching story or lesson across three lines (preferable a Buddhist or Zen lesson), cohesion in grammar, tenses, repetition or sense, what might seem too abstract for ancient haiku writers, indefinite pronouns, and common subjects of haiku (like nature). I felt I had a pretty strong rubric going for me. Although some days of reading were easier than others, I must say I felt pretty confident that I could track the real McCoys.
I went the extra electronic step and purchased the book for my Kindle. This made the process extra challenging because Cope's eBook kept crashing my Kindle after poem 200. So I stopped after getting 500 done and emailed the author with my guesses. Cope won't give you the exact answers, but he will tell you how many you got right or wrong.
I got 21 out of 221 right! Can you hear my heart breaking? That's a pretty intense brain whopping I just got from a machine. If it's any consolation, the proceeds of the book go to Greenpeace, saving the environment and not poetry machines.