Sunday, April 23, 2017

April is National Poetry Month, and there are lots of ways to celebrate. One of them is to write poetry. But you don’t write? You don’t write poetry?  Let me introduce you to the Bonsai Story Generator.

The Generator is one of my favorite spots on the Internet.  The story of the generator is a simple one.  A group of writers exchanged white elephant gifts during their holiday get-together and one of them used a pencil and strips of paper inscribed with sentences derived from members’ stories to create a “Christmas tree”. In the online version of that tree, users feed text into the generator, click on a button, and receive something new and different.
“Story Generator” is a misnomer.  The process doesn’t produce a story so much as an evocative collection of words. I find the output fertile material for generating all types of writing.  I’ve “bonsai-d” my own writing to produce new iterations of poems or generate text when I was trying to chop through writer’s block. To celebrate this month of poesy, I started with raw prose materials and then pruned the result into a poem. 

     I took the post “What Students Leave” from my tumblr site, copied it, pasted the contents into the generator, clicked the “Bonsai this Text” button, and instantly perused the result.  Much of the prose that resulted is the background for the graphic at the top of this post. 
How did I turn all that prose into a poem? I looked for phrases that intrigued me, moved them around, and then filled in stuff until I liked the way it sounded.  Basically, I remembered Tom Robbins’ explanation of how poetry is made: “…by f**king around with syntax”.  I have a pretty casual aesthetic.  I ask myself, “Does this look/sound cool?” and “Does this make me feel something?” So when I thought the poem looked good, sounded cool, and made me feel something, I stopped.
This is the poem that resulted:

Try it out yourself! I’d love to see your results, so post them in the comments to share!

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