Nick Grant


For my final for Reading and Writing Electronic Text, I created a poem from my journal entries. I transcribed my journal entries around my birthday for the following ages: 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 22, and 23.

I first experimented with my journal entries for another assignment. In that assignment, I created a Markov chain that blended my journal entries from February 2014 to February 2019. I found the output to be fascinating. How can a computer convert my innermost thoughts into a poem?

While I liked the output, I disliked the format of the piece. Since journal entries represent my precious data throughout the years as I grow older, I chose to create a piece regarding my birthdays. In my birthday journal entries, I’m highly self-reflective. The piece centers on slipping into a new age. I chose the word “slipping” because we do not choose to grow older, we fall into the number. The diction attains a high level of movement. Additionally, I write in my journal to acquire balance. Yet I am always falling into a new situation.

I am creating four lines for each stanza. I originally chose five, but I found my poem to be too lengthy. The length limit is 80. Between each age, I weigh two journal entries in an equal balance. For example, the stanza between 15 and 16 consists of journal entries for each respective year. I attempted to weigh the balance more towards the latter year, but noticed more repetition. I removed test_output = False, but would receive a None error despite increasing the number of tries. I believe I received this error because my journal entries are very short.

The n-gram is 8, a decision I struggled with. If I chose 7, I would receive very unique lines, but they contained far more typos. With an n-gram of 8, at least one line in each stanza would remain intact from my journal. I chose this method because I desired to replace the lines with actual images from my entries. I realized that between ages 15 to 23, my handwriting becomes more mature. I showcase my growth. Additionally, I validate my entries and create a stronger connection with my reader.

I created a lot of outputs, but ultimately decided on this one. I admire the juxtaposition throughout the piece. For example, at 17 I strive for success. In the next stanza, I shatter a bottle. At 19 I dislike my environment. At 21, I am complimenting my roommate. I fail my test at 21, but at 22 I am discussing how I have high grades.

Some of these sentences are completely coherent, but I did not write them. I never wrote “16 is such a teenager!” or “I’m glad to say that I am a dick.” I never used curse words in my poetry, but I found that they worked in this piece.

I like how I discuss my numeric ages throughout the poem. I created the title “Dear Journal,” to indicate that these are personally written. Interestingly, the poem begins at 15. I skip ages 18 and 20, I didn’t bring my journal to college. This piece commentates on the act of writing itself. Why am I collecting this data? If I don’t write, does a part of me vanish?

The first line of each stanza is a repeated line with a space in between each letter, indicating the passage of time. Other than the lines that I replaced with images from my journal, most of these lines have been changed. Several of them are grammatically incorrect. The language is slightly off, which adds a mysterious tone. My favorite line is “I thought being vulnerable ever pays off – unless in art.” Overall, this piece is about vulnerability and raises the question of how art may be separated from an artist.

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