THE BLOG
01/02/2011 11:54 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Finding Poetry in WikiLeaks

Still wondering whether you should read through the WikiLeaks documents to decide for yourself whether they're a victory for transparency or just high-tech terrorism? That's so last year. A website called Haikuleaks has already mined thousands of the documents for you and found the moments of pure poetry.

Tetalab's Fabrice Fourc, who, I assume, is some sort of computer genius, unleashed a "haikufinder" on the WikiLeaks cables. The poem-finding program, described as a "python module," automatically locates haiku in unstructured English text. Our diplomats, of course, don't actually write in haiku (though that would be awesome), so the poetry is purely accidental. So far, haikuleaks has spotted 65 of the little buggers in 1,830 cables. A programmer on the haikufinder website explained how it works:

"Each candidate haiku line, and then the entire haiku, has to make it through a few heuristics to filter out constructions that are likely to scan awkwardly (like verb phrases split across lines)."

The results, while not as intriguing as, say, Julian Assange, are pretty entertaining. Many of the haiku describe interesting characters, like this one about a distracted and gluttonous diplomat:

Instead, he gulped three
cans of Coca-Cola while
inhaling his food.

Or this one about international official and cruddy writer:

He has written books,
but most critics understand
that is not his gift.

Or this one, describing an official who may, in fact, be dead?

We have not noted
any tendency to shake,
blink or roll his eyes.

And you have to love someone who keeps it real regarding nepotism:

A Cuban woman
in her thirties confides, "It's all
about who you know."

One humor-challenged commenter on the website metafilter.com opined that the haiku are not legitimate, as the haiku-finding program does not scan for references to the seasons or for a startling shift in the last line -- both traditional elements of the haiku -- and thus dismissed the poetry as "shoehorned doggerel." He was expecting Shakespeare? Besides, did he not notice that

Parts of the country
are often cut off by snow
and avalanches.

There's your seasonal reference! Alas, none of the haiku feature "a startling shift" or resonate with one of life's deep philosophical questions. You know, something like

Julian Assange,
you promote such anarchy.
Why the perfect hair?

I guess we'll have to write those ourselves. (Feel free to add your own in the comments).