Poetry Software
June 3, 2008 11:52 AM   Subscribe

What does a software for poetry writing need

I am not asking about poetry generating software, rather an organizing poetry software. I am trying to write such software, but like to know what others think the software should include besides the obvious rhyming ability. What do I need to make a successful software for poetry
posted by ljrsphb to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
You might look into software development applications (IDEs) for ideas. Things like syntax analysis and problem highlighting if the piece should be in a particular meter, popup rhyme lists when a word is right-clicked. Basically you'll want to compile a list of the traits and tropes of poetry and automate as many of those as possible. You could even include style analysis like word processors have grammar analysis, so that someone could know if their piece was 25% Wordsworthy.

I'm not into poetry or anything, but I am into software development. :)
posted by rhizome at 12:03 PM on June 3, 2008


I am not sure that I understand, from your question, what it is that you want your software to do beyond "organizing," which is vague.
posted by prefpara at 12:09 PM on June 3, 2008


What about formatting features like whitespace management?

For instance, poets like e.e.cummings used long distances of space and oddly justified text in constructing stanzas. Getting a traditional word processor to handle this could be confusing at first since poetry doesn't conform to established design.
posted by dendrite at 12:15 PM on June 3, 2008


Rhyme checker
posted by norabarnacl3 at 12:24 PM on June 3, 2008


I would say the big issue is what such software needs to not have: specifically, lots of distractions.

My guess is that something like Writeroom would be ideal for most poets, at least when they choose to write using a computer.
posted by sindark at 12:30 PM on June 3, 2008


Honestly, I think this is a non-starter. I know several professional poets (in the sense that they are frequently paid by well-known publications for their poetry), and I can't imagine any of them using poetry-specific software. If you're looking to sell something to the poetry.com crowd, that's something else--a rhyming dictionary and maybe a helpful list of forms with examples might be attractive there.

But, really, sindark is right--a way to write free of distractions is going to be the most useful thing you could provide, and tools such as Writeroom already provide that.
posted by hades at 12:45 PM on June 3, 2008


fuzzy logic
posted by SaintCynr at 1:28 PM on June 3, 2008


When I write poetry, I often create a list of topic related words to choose from. This is like a thesaurus, but would somehow include free association.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:29 PM on June 3, 2008


I know the same professional poets that hades does, and I can think of only one thing they might possibly use -- software to help them remember which poems they've submitted where and when, and whether it was a simultaneous submission. They might like having the option to get a reminder about a poem when it's been sitting around unacknowledged for ten months. (At some point you figure that the journal in question is hopelessly disorganized and it's time to consider submitting your poem elsewhere.) And the software could track rejections and acceptances.

Simplicity would be key.
posted by sculpin at 1:59 PM on June 3, 2008


Best answer: The people saying writers need nothing but text are probably not writers.

I'm not a poet, but I bet they go through even more revisions than screen/prose writers. Some kind of versioning tool that lets you save all your drafts at the push of a button, then compare side-by-side and maybe even merge?


Things like syntax analysis and problem highlighting if the piece should be in a particular meter,
That's a great idea. Writing is a lot more scientific than most people realize. Also, starter templates for the forms that have more set parameters (like sonnet)
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:27 PM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


also, a series of taggable "notecards" might be helpful for brainstorming, so the writer can jot down ideas and fragments on a certain subject/theme for later use.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:31 PM on June 3, 2008


Afraid I've got to join the chorus of responses saying "they don't need any specially designed software", or at least nothing with bells and whistles.

I know some Governor General's Award-winning poets (Canada's biggest prize, next to the Griffin). I remember them joking one day about when there would be, and I quote, "Microsoft Poet, which is just a typewriter."

Granted, they're neo-Luddites, and not all poets are. But plenty.
posted by Beardman at 4:24 PM on June 3, 2008


Response by poster: Some clarification I guess. One poetry software would not be targeted at the published professional. He already has it worked out over the years, that's he is a published professional says he already has the "software" probable in his own head.

Anyone who believes that successful writers(novelist,screenwriters,poets, and non-fiction writers, journalist) do not have a complex organizing system, has never written seriously.

The program target is the amateur poet trying to learn how to write poetry, trying to grasp the elements and the organization of poetry writing. The other target are teachers of poetry especially at middle and high school level. A tool to facilitate the teaching and learning poetry writing. Here is what I've been ale to do so far.


Poetry Forms
* Create Poetry Forms Settings Line By Line
* Use Syllable Count, Word Count or Beat Counts
* Design Rhyme Scheme, Refrain Scheme and Match Scheme.
* Define Your Own Custom Schemes
* Sixteen Meter Choices (Iambic, Trochee etc)
* Poem Print Control Left,Center Right, and Line Breaks between Stanza
* Color Keying of Lines and Poem Pattern Elements
* Line Notes -Specific Line requirements or reminders\
* Pattern Notes- Overall pattern goals and requirements
* Link Patterns to Poems/Poem Collections
Step By Step Instructions for Seven Classic Poem Patterns
* Sonnet- Italian,
* English(Shakespearean)
* English(Spencerian)
* Villanelle
* Rubyiat
* Cinaquin
* Ballad
Complete Help File System
* Tutorial in PDF format
o included with demo version
* Create Lesson Files
o Step by Step Instructions for creating Teaching/Lesson Files
* Trade Lesson Files with other users
* Teachers Able Create Interactive Learning
Write Poems
* Line by Line Poem Editor Associated to a Pattern
* Text Box Editor for long poems, or keeping collection of poems tied to same pattern
* 10 Research/Note Boxes for keeping notes, outlines for creating "Poetry Novels"

I am currently working on this addition to program...
Rhyme and Meter Dictionary(100,000 words)
* Compare planned meter and syllable counts to actual poem written
* Select a line, produce a list of words which rhyme with last word
* User able to add words to dictionary

The question is am missing anything.
posted by ljrsphb at 5:07 PM on June 3, 2008


I agree that poetry software would be basically superfluous. Many poets will say that poetry is meant to be heard aloud, and writing it down is just a way of remembering it. I suppose seamless integration of a dictionary and thesaurus would be useful.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:08 PM on June 3, 2008


On lack of preview, if your goal is to teach poetry you'll want to include plenty of examples of poems in various forms as a tutorial, rather than just instructions on how to construct a given form.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:14 PM on June 3, 2008


One suggestion I have, now that I know you are apparently targeting the poetry.com crowd: if you're writing the tutorials, lessons and help file system, hire an editor to go over your text. Because what you've posted here is missing a bunch of words and punctuation.

And, with all due respect, drjimmy11, I went through a respected creative writing program taught by a MacArthur Fellowship "genuis" grant recipient as an undergraduate, and a good number of my family and acquaintances are serious writers. I'm not talking from a position of ignorance when I say that while it is possible that some of them use the versioning feature of their word processors, for the most part their system consists of stacks and drifts of paper on their desk.

That said, I think a program to assist with the structure of some of the more difficult forms could be a useful tool for beginning poets. Sestinas are hard.
posted by hades at 5:44 PM on June 3, 2008


When I write I use the simplest word processor I can in full screen mode, with as many distractions as possible. A typewriter with a spell checker and cut, copy and paste would be adequate. I think it could be improved on however.

If I were writing this piece of software here are some of the things i would include and how they relate to my practice.

1. No formatting. Any chance to format while you write is a chance to distract yourself. Think Latex not a word processor. The only formatting options would be to chose from title, subtitle, epigraph, quote and emphasised/italic. The formatting would then be done from pre-chosen options that can not be changed in writing modes.

I like to have an idea how it turns out so I would prefer WSYWYG, however I would also include a 'typewriter' option that uses a mono-spaced font.

Lyx, the Latex based word processor, had a poetry mode, this had a very good idea, very badly implemented. It distinguished between line breaks and stanza breaks, unfortunately it treated standard line breaks (return key) as stanza breaks and required you to press ctrl+return for a line ending. Worse, it put a symbol representing this at the end of every line, which was very distracting and made it useless for me.

2. Line and stanza as natural units. i would reverse the lyx usage. Return would be a line break, shift+return as a stanza break. There would be no differentiation except that of spacing. I might also include a third type, say ctrl+return, that would but in a blank placeholder line that would be included in the stanza. There would be the option to mark these in a unobtrusive fashion, say a light grey square, and also to temporarily fold them away.

3. Word/line count. I would have a key combination that displayed the following while it was pressed: Total word count, line count (& total) excluding stanza breaks on the right side. On the left side a count of the number of lines in each stanza. I don't write to form per se, but I do often find there is something like form that emerges during writing. Knowing lines per stanza, is more important that knowing the number of lines.

4. Versioning. I don't use a versioning system so much as a numbered draft system.
This is similar to software numbering. I start out with 0.1. At the end of each writing session, or most likely at the beginning of the next I do a save as and increment the number to 0.2 etc. If I have different versions of the same thing I might add another letter or number on the end. major revision numbers correspond to major milestones so that 1.0 is normally the first complete draft of a poem that I am satisfied with. Typically I then lay it aside for a while, if then rework I continue as before. 2.0 drafts are normally those I consider might be in a fit state for submission.

I would have saving be an automatic thing so I did not need to distract/worry myself with it. The equivalent operation to save would be commit draft, with the option to be major or minor. There would be an option to start/end each writing session as a new draft. However it would also be possible to exit without incrementing the numbering. Typically I start each session by tying up the loose ends form the previous session, then once I have stabilized the poem, saving it as a new draft before adding to it.

5 [either/or]. Often while writing I won't have arrived at an exact choice of words for a particular phrase, word or suchlike, though I may have narrowed the choices down. These get inserted as [choice1/choice2] etc with [ ] for fill in the blanks. Typically i find it better to leave it like this and move on, returning at the next session to make a choice. I would have a mode that displays only one choice. Each time I clicked on one, it would convert these to a drop down box, so that I could chose/switch between them. Once I was satisfied I would then be able to freeze them (as a draft) and return to normal writing mode.

6. Notes etc I often have notes,images, potential phrases etc tabbed over on the right hand side of a (sometimes blank) line. I would wish to be able to enter them easily and have them display: not at all, in a separate pane alongside the relevant line, right aligned in a lighter colour on the line. beyond a certain length there would be an option so that w only the first few words would display, the rest appearing as a pop-up on rollover, click (to make them stay).

7. Organizing Files. This would be distinct form writing mode. Files would rarely be used directly. Rather there should be a way of viewing them as poems. In certain views drafts would be readily accessible, in others you could display in chronological order, by tag or label, by submission etc. Title would be the default way of referencing things. The program would understand that if something went from Untitled 24 to She Moves Slowly to The Laundrette on the Corner that it was the same poem unless you told it otherwise. It would allow you to nickname poems. There would be an easy way to track submissions and group poems in multiple ways.

8. Finally something like a cliche spotter would be good. Something to track recurring phrases and word use. Perhaps even checking against an external dictionary.
posted by tallus at 10:24 AM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


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