Google Writes Poems (And So Can You)

Posted on Thu, Jan 29 2015 9:00 am by Valerie Cabrera

I’ve always found poetry to be weirdly beautiful. Poetry reminds me of my best friend in fourth grade who had better hair than me and walked with poise and grace and a tiny bit of snootiness. When she talked, I never quite understood her, but I admired her in an intrigued sort of way.

Up until recently, I thought something was wrong with me for thinking strangely of poetry. I’ve realized, though, that it’s not really my fault.... Because poetry is weird. Wonderfully so.

In late 1920’s, the Dadaist writer Tristan Tzara wrote “To Make a Dadaist Poem,” and it gave these instructions:

Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article of the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that makes up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are—an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.

Another example of the strangeness that is poetry is the found poem. This type of poem takes an existing text, such as a page from a novel or a newspaper article, and refashions it, often blacking out different sections of the text to highlight several key words, thus breathing new, often equally complex life, into a previous work. Poets such as Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot often used elements of found poetry in their own pieces.

But these nontraditional poetry techniques might have to make space for another approach: Googling. The blog Google Poetics turns Google autocomplete suggestions into poems, which are strangely telling of the human condition, often quite moving, and at times humorous. It might seem silly to think of these Google poems as real poetry, but is it really much sillier than putting words in a bag, shaking them up, and taking them back out in a different order?

Swedish founders of the Google Poetics blog write in their info section:

“The Google autocomplete suggestions are based on previous searches by actual people all around the world. In the cold blue glow of their computer screens, they ask “why am I alone” and “why do fat girls have high standards.” They wonder how to roll a joint and whether it is too early to say “I love you.” They seek information on ninjas, cannibals, and Rihanna, and sometimes they just ask “am I better off dead?...The all-knowing search engine accepts and embraces these questions and tangles them with popular song lyrics, book titles and names of celebrities…”

Although Google isn’t Burroughs, or Shakespeare, or Dickinson, it still manages to shed light on the inner workings of the human mind, our wild hopes and our bizarre fears, our absurd worries and our crazy wonderings. Inspired by Google Poetics, the following “poem" illuminates the subject of why we write: sometimes it’s for ourselves, for the fear of silence, because we have to, because apples, in order to find out what we think, so we don’t have to be alone. It's weird and a little bit wonderful, but that's okay because so is poetry, and so are we. (Find images—proof—of my Google autocomplete searches here.)


I write

I write to you.
I write to discover what I know.
I write to you, fathers.
I write to find out what I think.

I write because you exist.
I write because I have to.
I write because I must.

I write for apples.
I write for myself.
I write for fear of silence.
I write for myself and strangers.

I write like a lefty.
I write like a kid.
I write like a girl.
I write like a dog.

I write so I am alive.
I write so slow.
I write so I know what I think.
I write so much that it makes me sick.

I write not to live your life.
I write not too shabby.
I write not to be a prisoner.
I write not to be alone.

Valerie Cabrera
is the Loft's Marketing and Communications Intern.