Early Computer-Generated Haiku

When I was in grad school, a fellow grad student named Kelton Rhoads (with, as I recall, my encouragement) published the following haiku in Grey Matter (#1, 1987, page 54), the English department’s literary journal, which I helped to edit. The poem was attributed to “K.v.L. Macintosh.” “K.v.L.” indicated Kelton’s first name and his middle initials, and “Macintosh” was a computer reference. That’s because this poem was computer-generated, a process that also inspired this poem’s title. And so he used a pseudonym to publish it. I forget how he did it, but we do at least have the finished product, and I have vague recollections of influencing its creation, perhaps by helping to choose the best result, or assembling the best lines. Or maybe I was just in on the conspiracy. It’s not half bad as these things go, especially for 1987, when the poem remains chiefly imagistic, is not a slave to 5-7-5, and even alludes to Bashō. I wonder if this was the first-ever computer-generated haiku. Probably not.





by K.v.L. Macintosh


This hidden, forgotten pine—

Within the wet pond

A stone rings.


Another poem earlier in the same issue (page 15) may also have been computer-generated (I vaguely think so, or was it simply the poems subject that prompted its pseudonymization?). This piece was attributed to “S. Tilly Friends,” which I knew to be a pseudonym, but I no longer recall what the name was meant to refer to—surely some sort of inside joke.



by S. Tilly Friends


There was just you and me

and autumn

and a gorilla with a red bottom.