News stories are not often places for poetry — filled, as they are, with facts and grafs and ledes and quotes, all arranged in pyramids. But that’s changed with the launch of “Times Haiku,” a project that turns The New York Times’ copy into splendid 15-word poems.
Subtitled “serendipitous poetry from The New York Times,” the blog’s launch comes concurrent with National Poetry Month. It’s powered by Jacob Harris’ algorithm, which he wrote “scans each sentence looking for potential haikus by using an electronic dictionary containing syllable counts.” Harris, a senior software architect at the Times, reversed-engineered the coding behind @horse_ebooks for his @nytimes_ebooks last year.
The new algorithm’s only requirement is numeric: Like classic haikus, its selections must contain five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five again in the third. “The nice thing about haikus is they’re very short, so they’ll fit inside a tweet,” Harris said.