Week 8

The first step is to identify a suitable form of poetry and extract the relevant rules and patterns which can be used to generate poetry.

Forms of Poetry

A list of poetry styles can be found here.

In essence, I have narrowed it down to two specific forms of poetry: Clerihews and Limericks.

  • Clerihews. A Clerihew is a comic verse consisting of two couplets and a specific rhyming scheme, usually a-a-b-b. The poem is about/deals with a person/character within the first rhyme.
  • Limericks. Limerick is a rhymed humorous, and or nonsense poem of five lines. With a rhyming scheme of: a-a-b-b-a.

Motivation behind the chosen styles

The selected styles that are comparatively simpler than other candidates in that list. However, the main motivation is the presence of clear rules and patterns that can be extracted to generate poetry intelligently. Furthermore, both forms encourage humor which would fit in well with the Blogwall as a form of public artistic expression.

I will elaborate upon each style here.


Why Clerihews?

  • Short, easy to write
  • Fun
  • About something (person, character, place). I believe this will fit in well with the blogwall as a medium of expression/communication.
  • No specific rules/rhyme/rhythm pattern. This can be good or bad.

The first and second lines rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other (a-a-b-b). The first line usually names a well-known character, and the second line ends with a word that rhymes with the character's name. When I say "character", it essentially refers to a generic subject, and not necessarily to a specific person. Clerihews can be about anything or anyone. Nonetheless, they have a central subject.

Writing a Clerihew can essentially be broken down to 4 steps.

  • The first step in writing a clerihew is to choose an interesting character to write about. Subjects might include: a favorite teacher, a political figure, a well-known person, a friend, a pet, a coach, or a relative.
  • Choose a character from the list and write his or her name.
  • Work to brainstorm a list of rhyming words and phrases that describe the character. Clerihews aren't serious; they can be funny, witty, and whimsical.
  • Experiment with combining and rearranging the descriptive words and phrases to fit the a-a-b-b rhyming pattern. While it is important for the pairs of lines to rhyme in a clerihew poem, it is also important to describe the character in a fun and whimsical way.

In more specific terms, a quick analysis reveals the following rules in a Clerihew.

  • They are four lines long.
  • The first and second lines rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other.
  • The first line names a person, and the second line ends with something that rhymes with the name of the person.
  • A clerihew should be funny.

Generating a Clerihew

Thus, there are 3 key things in a Clerihew. A subject, a rhyming word (usually an adjective) and description (adjective, adverb…). An implementation that can identify and extract these keywords from a message could generate some interesting and funny poetry, drawing from a database of Clerihews.


Why Limericks?

  • Fun, humorous.
  • Specific rhythm pattern could make the system more fun. Rhythm pattern in limericks (in general):

lines 1, 2 and 5: da DUM da da DUM da da DUM (3 beats/DUMS)
lines 3 and 4: da DUM da da DUM (2 beats/DUMS)
However, this can also be hard to implement. Hence, my first plan of action is to work with Clerihews.

A Limerick is 5 lines long with rhyming pattern a-a-b-b-a. This, coupled with the rhythm pattern, make writing a Limerick substantially different from a Clerihew.

The structure of a Limerick is described line by line below.

  • 1st - Identify the subject
  • 2nd - Describe the subject
  • 3rd and 4th - Expand on the second line
  • 5th - Wrap up with an often funny conclusion

In other words:

  • Introduce person - end line on place or name
  • Describe the characteristic(s) of the person
  • Detail their activities on this line
  • And complete them on this
  • Whilst saving the last line for the comic consequence and conclusion

Lines 1, 2 and 5 have five to ten syllables that rhyme with one another.
Lines 3 and 4 have five to seven syllables and also rhyme with each other.

Steps to write a Limerick:

  • Pick a name/character/subject
  • Get a list of words that rhyme with the last word in the first line.
  • Write the second line using one of the rhyming words. The rhythm pattern should also be satisfied.
  • Come up with an interesting story/description for lines 3 and 4. These two lines should rhyme and the rhythm pattern is also different.
  • Now you need to go back to the list of “A” rhyming words to find one that can end the poem.

Generating a Limerick

A Limerick, like a Clerihew still focuses on a particular subject and rhyming worlds. However, it is one line longer and in addition to the rhymes, it also has a specific rhythm pattern. For our purposes, this can be both good and bad. For instance, this could add some complication to the implementation. On the other hand, it has a better well-defined structure than a Clerihew which could give better results.

Next steps

I am currently looking at how to use natural language processing to identify and classify words as subject/verb/adjective and so forth. This will be my next task. I will attempt to implement a simple parser that identifies these words from a text message and reports it back.

Also, I am looking for a source of Clerihew poetry that I can use for the project. I will then have to input this into the system.

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