Spontaneous Haiku

Art Strategies / Week 3 / Procedural, Aleatory and Instructional

Spontaneous haiku is an instructional set for creating a haiku. The procedure is highly dependent on chance, and the consequent end result might mean something to the reader, or perhaps it might mean nothing at all. And that’s the beauty of it.

Last week, I studied how Tristan Tzara’s instruction set on Dadaist poetry had given birth to the cut-up technique. The technique heavily influenced William S Burroughs who implemented a similar set into the audio format. Burroughs was a Beat author, through and through. Many Beat authors, most notably Gary Snyder, were inspired by Zen Buddhism and the Japanese way of living. They used to produce haikus on a regular basis. Haikus by the Beat generation were crude, spontaneous and mostly ambiguous in meaning. Through the following instruction set, I have tried to emulate a technique to create haikus that are Beat in nature, yet heavily reliant on chance.


George Orwell. Animal Farm. Penguin Books. Page 27.

Thomas Pynchon. Inherent Vice. Penguin Books. Page 150.

Jack Kerouac. The Dharma Bums. Penguin Modern Classics. Page 52.

2 thoughts on “Spontaneous Haiku

  1. I tried this:

    one eleven
    bitter confirmation of
    (Idea Art, Gregory Battcock, 1973

    but i had cheated, because if i followed your rules i would have had

    one eleven
    itself, and can
    (Idea Art, Gregory Battcock, 1973

    which is better? should i be evaluating?
    the instructions need more thought and nuance to produce satisfying work – bit for the participant and for the reader.

    1. Thanks for participating!

      My intent was to build something meaningful out of meaninglessness. I guess the process is derived from my own condition of over-analyzing things. Conflicting questions such as “Perhaps, something arbitrary has a meaning” or “maybe I’m overthinking?” But you’re right, the instructions might need some more work for the participant to be subjected to that condition. However, it did make you question your reasoning, which I think is a partial success for me 🙂

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