Experimental Poetry 19


This experimental poetry idea shows a method of making a concrete poem using Excel. A concrete poem is a poem where the words are written to make a shape or a picture. An example is, if you wrote a love poem but the poem was written in the shape of a heart. We can do something like this in Excel if we have a shape in mind.

Consider making a poem in the shape of a wave. This example follows my poem Concrete 1. What is a "wave" in mathematical terms? A basic wave in mathematics is a sin curve, or y = sin(x).

Take the following poem:

drifting on a wooden boat
going where the ocean wants me to
I have always felt that water knows best
and put this poem into a single column, where each word is on a new row. Call that column A.

Next, create a column of x's, say from 0 to 2*pi (or about 7). This will help us get the width of the graph, as well as calculate y. I chose 2*pi because I know the sin curve wave "resets" there (i.e. its period or length of one cycle is 2*pi), so I knew it would make a decent wave shape.

In another column, create the y's by calculating y = sin(x). Then, simply graph the x's and y's, and make the label for the points be column A instead of the y's.

Next, make the color of the points and any lines white, remove the chart title, axes lines, grid, etc. This effectively makes the points and lines and everything else disappear, so you are left with the words in the shape of a sin curve.

You can also make the words spaced exactly how you want to by controlling the spaces between the x's, as well as their orientation (above, below, etc.) with respect to the curve, can resize the graph, change the size of fonts, colors, and so on.

Check out the spreadsheet here to see two examples of how to create concrete poems using Excel. The second example follows my Concrete 2 and involves randomness. Feel free to customize the spreadsheet as needed. If you use this idea, please credit Statisticool.com.

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