The Making of Tomahawk Girl

I began work on my generative poem by considering the restraints of the title: a “t” word followed by a “g” word. To maintain the integrity of the original poem structure, I sought to craft a title with a three-syllable “t” word and a single-syllable “g” word. I wrote down a couple of each under two columns and matched the ones I thought would work together best. “Tomahawk” was more evocative and interesting than “telephone” or “tapestry,” and, when coupled with “girl,” I knew I’d inadvertently created a superheroine.

I don’t normally compose poetry, but I enjoyed this level of experimentation. Accounting for the changes in the syntax of my words required me to think about what story I wanted to tell and how. Tomahawk Girl is the heroine, and the Hatchet Guys are the villains … or are they? When I entered those words into the code to appear at the beginning or the end of the lines, the idea seemed ambiguous. I originally envisioned a battle between the two in a good vs. evil sense, but the code proved the story could be so much more.

The random text generation proved for some truly satisfying lines. “Shed the red” and “embrace the dark cold veins” sound like they came right out of a comic book superhero story. Tomahawks clashing with shields, blades spilling sinew and spikes cutting bone — all good stuff. The poem retained the gory, epic nature I had originally intended, but by leaving myself to the mercy of the code, the words acquired a whole new dimension of meaning. Being willing to relinquish some of the authorship to the code allowed for the poem to turn out the way it did; I never would have created something I could be so happy with if I had tried to micromanage the text.

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