HowTo: Make a ‘Newton Poem’

“What the heck is this site all about, anyway?” you may ask yourself.

Others have. Misspelled words, an abandoned piece of hardware, and a green screen – what does it all add up to?

I got the idea for Newton Poetry after hearing the term used to describe the gibberish MessagePads spit out from time to time when the handwriting recognition software falls short of its ideal. Then I saw someone had written the entirety of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” poem into a Newton, and I though, “boy, there’s an idea.”

So let’s see how I do it.

First, I love poetry. I love reading and writing and literature of all forms. Non-fiction, fiction, journalism – whatever, it’s all good. But since the act of scribbling something into a Newton takes so long, I opted for shorter poetry. Finding short poems is easy, and in this case we’ll use something by a Saginaw, MI (a bit north of where I live in Jackson, MI) poet named Theodore Roethke, a poem called “The Reckoning” from this lovely site:

Theodore Roethke poetry site

The next part is easy: just write the poem on the Newton’s screen using the stylus.

Writing the poem with the stylus

I don’t try to tidy up my handwriting; I just let it flow, pausing to read the next line. As I pause, the Newton translates each word.

The Newton translates what I write

Sometimes, the Rosetta handwriting recognition software records each word perfectly:

Vorpalize me!

Notice I don’t use punctuation. Doing so only confuses the Newton, and a lot of the dashes and commas translated look like a mess, so I add appropriate punctuation as I type the translated poem into WordPress.

Sometimes I’ll forget to turn the handwriting recognition on. It’s easy to fix. I hit the “A” key to turn the recognition software on, and double-tap a word with the stylus:

Select a word by double-tapping it

The Newton does its thing. Pretty easy, eh?

Depending on the length of the poem, this process can take a while. But I make no attempt to correct what the Newton does. I simply type what comes out into the blog, paying attention to line breaks and spacing, and I always include a link back to the original poem – so readers can check out what the original really says.

Most of this site’s traffic is drawn by the poetry, usually when someone does a simple search for the poem or poet (and, every once in a while, analysis of the poem). I can imagine how someone who lands on this site could get confused, but from here on out I’d like to link back to this process so visitors understand the process.

Through my Newton, I’m rediscovering poetry I haven’t seen since my many English Lit classes in college, plus I’m looking at stuff I’ve never read before. I’ve even searched out blogging poets and highlighted their work here. They are usually pretty appreciative, and seem to get a kick seeing their work “Newtonized.”

If you have any suggestions for good, short poetry, please leave me a comment. I’ll be glad to credit you with the suggestion. And hey, if you write your own poetry, I’d be honored to “vorpalize” (as Carroll said in “Jabberwocky”) your work.

Check back here for the rest of Roethke’s poem, “The Reckoning,” in its full Newton Poetry version.


  1. […] After the dazzle of the day by Walt WhitmanAfter the duzile of the day is goneOnly the dark night shows to my eyes the stars;After the claugor of irgan majestic or a chorus or perfect bandSilent athwawt my son moves the symphony true.[Read the original. And find out why this poem is misspelled.] […]

  2. […] [Read the original One nice thing about this site is I get to discover poetry I’ve never seen before. This is one author I’ve never even heard of. Find out why this poem is misspelled.] […]

  3. […] What is a Newton poem? […]

  4. […] [Read the original. And find out why this poem is spelled funny.] […]

  5. […] [According to Anam Cara: A book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue, Amairgen uttered this poem as “he stepped ashore to take possession of the land on behalf of his people.” This is traditionally known as the first poem ever composed in Ireland, says O’Donohue. Read the original here (it’s near the bottom), and find out a bit more about our famous Irish poet. And find out why this poem is spelled funny] […]

  6. […] Island” of course. People love their pirates these days, don’t they? Find out why this poem is misspelled. […]

  7. […] The unseen power. by RumiWe are the flute, our music is all Thine;We are the mouantains echoing only Thee;And moves to defeat or Victory;Zions emblvzoned high on flags unfurled -The wind invisible sweeps us through the world.[Read the original. Learn more about Rumi here. I found a Rumi poem called “The mixed-breed apple” in a bookstore, but I’ll be darned if I could find it online. If anyone knows a good source I can link to, I’d appreciate it. Find out why this poem is misspelled.] […]

  8. […] I stand as on soml might- eagle’s beak, Enstwurd the sea abscrhing, viewing, (nothing but sea and sky) The tossing waves, the form, the ships in the distance, The wild unrest, the snowy cuvling cups – that inboiind urge and urge of waves, Seeking the shorts fivever. [Read the original. I plan on taking a big New England trip later this spring, and I liked the imagery Whitman uses in this one. Gets me excited about what I’ll be seeing for the first time. Find out why this poem is misspelled.] […]

  9. […] Animals. by Mother GooseBow-wow, says the dog,Mew, new buys the cat,Grunt, grant says the boy,And squeak goes the rat.Tu, why says the oul,Quuck gmoik, says the duck,And what the cuckoo says you know.[Read the original. I get a lot of hits of my onomonotopia stuff, and this one was kind of fun. Find out why this rhyme is misspelled.] […]

  10. […] Roads go ever ever on… by J.R.R. TolkienRoads 90 ever ever an,Over rock and under free,By caves there neve sun has shone,By streams thut newr fu the seas.Roads go ewer ever on,Uncle cloud and uncle stir,Yet cut trut wundering have goneTurn at last to home afar. [Read the original – at the bottom of the page. I can’t believe I haven’t done Tolkien yet. I’ve been thinking about picking up the “Lord of the Rings” series again. This one fits my upcoming trip, too. Find out why this poem is misspelled.] […]

  11. […] Iron Man limerick. by Rob WeychertThere once was a defense contractorWho was defilij patrayled by an actorRuguy from “Less Than Zero”Is how a snperheroWho weishs maze them sixty fine factors.[Read the original. Rob is hosting a great blog on his month-long trip across America. Found it by getting ready for my own trip. Find out why this poem is misspelled here.] […]

  12. […] Seeker of truth. by e.e. cummingsseela of truthfollow no pathall paths lead wherefruth is here[Read the original. Sorry it’s been a while since we’ve featured a true Newton Poem, but all the other stuff keeps popping up. This time it’s a short one. Find out why this poem is misspelled.] […]

  13. […] Let America Be America Again by Langston HughesLet twen’cu be America again.letit be the dream it used to be.letit he tupneev on the plainSeeking a home where he himself is free.[It’s been a while since we’ve done any real Newton Poetry here. Read the original. A good one, I think, in these weird times. Check out other Newton Poems, and find out why this poem is misspelled.] […]

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