Given the involved process of the composition of The Wild Hunt Divinations and some confusion I've seen about my process (e.g. thinking I simply dropped sonnets into a program so that "the computer wrote" the poems) I thought it might be useful to outline my process here!
How I used an anagramming tool to write The Wild Hunt Divinations
These poems, what I call “divinations,” were created with the assistance of an online anagramming tool and the source text of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. The first line of the corresponding Shakespearean sonnet is borrowed as the title for each divination. The rule I set for myself was that I had to anagram line-by-line, so each line of the divination has the same letters as the corresponding line in the Shakespearean sonnet (or they should if I did my job right).
After I entered a line from Shakespeare’s sonnet into the anagrammer, the tool would present me with a group of words, a lexical pool, and I would then select words I was interested in or that held heat or resonance with my themes. After I selected a word the anagramming tool would refresh and show me a new list of available words based on my previous selection(s). I’d then select the next word and the next and so on and so on, deleting and shaping until all letters had been used and I was left with a line I was pleased with.
In this way I would form each line a word at a time keeping in mind the enjambment before and after as well as any music to be found in and created with the anagrammer. Many (many) times I would delete a word if the pool dried up (by returning an error or simply leaving me with words I didn’t want to use). I would also substitute words I could find on my own since the tool won’t autopopulate cursing, pop or queer cultural language, or internet slang in the available lexical pool.
To show you how this worked in practice, let’s put the first line of Sonnet I, “FROM fairest creatures we desire increase” through the system.
After entering the line directly into the URL sans spaces (a little workaround to get past the character limit of the tool when using the box provided) I am presented with 200 lines of text that look like this:
I know that I want to maintain the word “desire” from the original line. This is for a few reasons (I like the idea of making the conversation between my sonnet and Shakespeare’s explicit, and desire is one of the main themes of the project). So I type “desire” into the green box above the pool, indicating it should be included in my anagram. The lexical pool refreshes its 200 options and the first lines look like this:
Next perhaps I select “foam” which appears well down the list but resonates with the idea of “desire” for me. This selection yields another 200 options which start out like this:
Later in that list I see “trees.” Then in the next list “rune.” At this point, I realize I am lacking verbs so I tease out the word “recites” from what I see left in the pool because it fits thematically with “rune” and musically with “desire” (to my ear at least). Then I add “raw.” At this point the list has shrunk down and looks, in its entirety like this:
I realize I don’t see the current options giving me a line I’d be pleased with, so I remove “foam” and increase the size of the lexical pool again which gives me the word “frame.” My mind immediately wants to put “rune” and “frame” together and I see the “ic” still left over so I change the noun “rune” to the adjective “runic” leaving me with:
“Sea of” feels like it completes the thought and I have my string of words to include in the line. I then shape the line to “make sense” in some way (imagistic sense, dramatic, musical, thematic sense) and using the framework of punctuation I have decided on for the project as a whole, I divine the final version of line:
recites desire: runic frame / sea of trees—raw
This then informs the next line which can, through its own imagistic, dramatic, musical, thematic contributions, reshape the line before it (maybe I actually want to end stop the line, or there’s a beautiful enjambment available if I find a way to move “sea of trees” to the end of line one to connect with an unexpected verb at the start of line two; though in actuality I am gifted the word “beads” in line two whose assonance with this version of line one was too good to pass up).
And I do this for every line. Once I have all fourteen lines (or 15 in one case and 12 in another), I read and reread the poem to make sure it “makes sense” in those imagistic, dramatic, musical, thematic senses I mentioned earlier. I tinker with passages that aren’t working until I’m more or less satisfied.
This process was easier for some sonnets than others though I am not certain why.