A haiku is a form of Japanese poetry, which expressed in its simpler English form, is a short poem of three lines each with 5, 7 and 5 syllables in each line respectively. There is some disagreement about this, all to do with the difference between Japanese on and English syllables and the form should include some seasonal reference and also juxtaposition, but we are looking for unintentional haiku here, so let’s just concentrate on the syllables.
So haiku have rules that make them what they are, and anything that can be broken down into rules can be broken down into code. It was only a matter of time before some clever person thought of a way of putting computing and haiku together. Programmer, Google employee and one-time They Might Be Giants drummer Jonathan Feinberg has used a simple Python script to find accidental haikus in any piece of text, so you can cut and paste literally any text into it and it will do it’s very best to find a haiku in there for you. The clever little bit of code breaks down any lump of text and searches for sentences or groups of sentences where words fall in groups of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. The more text you put in, the greater the chance of it finding a haiku for you.
To demonstrate, if you paste in the entire text of the first Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy book by Douglas Adams into it, it will promptly find NINE accidental haiku including –
The man looked away.
Again a kind of sadness
seemed to cross his face.
Profound? You decide. Try pasting in any large chunk of text, it will find a meaningful moment you may have missed. Welcome to the wonderful world of the unintentional haiku.