There are definitely more important things to talk about, like continuing the discussion on gender in poetry, but what the heck, let’s take a turn toward the self-important. No one’s going to be interested in this, except me and maybe my wife.
Last month, Robert Peake turned me onto Wordle.net — a really neat website with a script that turns any block of text into a word cloud (i.e., a visual representation where the more frequent a word is used, the larger it appears). Anyone with a book or thesis or novel or any large body of writing they’ve worked a long time on will immediately be driven to enter their own work and see how their themes and linguistic ticks turn out as word art. (If you don’t click “Save to Gallery,” no information will leave your computer…so if you’re worried about the text leaving your hands, use Printscreen to get the images, don’t save it.)
I couldn’t help myself. Here’s American Fractal‘s wordle (click to view full size):
As you can see, the heart of poetry is still the simile. If you check out Peake’s wordled manuscript, you’ll see the same massive “like” (the program automatically removes small articles like “the”). I wonder if you’d be able to find any book of poetry that doesn’t have “like” as the most common word.
Beyond that, though, I think you can see the themes emerge pretty clearly. I won’t go into detail, though, because you don’t care, and I’m in a rush. But it’s interesting to compare it to the wordle for Rattle #30. Notice how, with 100 or so different authors, no themes or quirks really step forward (click the image to view full size).