Poetry: Fact and Fiction


In the current climate of alternative facts and fake news, fact vs. fiction seems to always be a part of any debate. This has me fixated on facts—how they are determined, expressed, disseminated, you name it.

When it comes to facts, the focus tends to be on the part of the definition associated with truth and not always the part that states that a fact is a piece of information backed by research and used as evidence. It should give us pause that we see facts as meaning “a thing that is known or proved to be true.” There is nothing incorrect in this as it accurately describes how the word is used at times, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture. Facts are true until they are not. In 1998, Canada was comprised of two territories and ten provinces until April 1, 1999, when Nunavut was formed and became Canada’s third territory. That Canada had two territories and ten provinces was a fact, until things changed and it had to be modified. The prospect of things changing over time seems to confuse or upset mainstream culture. This aspect of mainstream culture, the tendency to fall behind or the inability to keep up with accurate facts, leaves room for people to confuse things further with their political goals.

This makes me think of creative works. There is an inclination to see creative expression as mystical in some sense, but what happens when we mine facts from fiction? How valuable is it to focus on this information? How much can we learn from it? I’m thinking we do a little experiment with the poetry of this issue by using a statistical lens to discuss each author’s contributions. To obtain the facts I need I have used Voyant Tools and Natural Language Understanding, which are both text reading and analysis websites.


“It’s complicated”, “See through” and  “Making A Sandwich Underwater” by Razille Aigen

This corpus has 624 total words and 355 unique word forms. 57%

Keywords: time, just, left, sharp, away

Overall sentiment: Negative (-28%)

Emotion: Joy 50%, Anger 14%, Disgust 12%, Sadness 55%, Fear 62%

Entities: impulsivity 74%, Nova Scotia 69%, one day 69%

Categories: sports/go kart 68%, family and parenting/children 64%, style and fashion/body art 64%

Concept: Wonton 92%, Complicated 90%, Bread 89%


“Angel” and “Aphorisms” by John Grey

This corpus has 667 total words and 342 unique word forms. 51%

Keywords: summer, angel, brown, instead, it’s

Overall sentiment: Negative (-46%)

Emotion: Joy 59%, Anger 10%, Disgust 8%, Sadness 60%, Fear 13%

Entities: Angel 88%, Lionel 70%, Uncle George 47%, Providence 38%

Categories: family and parenting/babies and toddlers/baby clothes 80%, travel/traveling   with kids 79%, family and parenting/children 75%

Concept: Pine 87%, Snow 86%, Burial 85%, Aphorism 84%, Autumn 82%, English-language films 78%, Death 77%


“My natural charm” and “St Patrick’s Day weekend” by D.S. Maolalai

This corpus has 443 total words and 224 unique word forms. 51%

Keywords: irish, home, hope, charm, come

Overall sentiment: Negative (-42%)

Emotion: Joy 63%, Anger 53%, Disgust 9%, Sadness 54%, Fear 14%

Entities: Dublin 67%, Canada 64%

Categories: family and parenting/children 82%, family and parenting/babies and toddlers/baby clothes 78%, art and entertainment/shows and events 76%

Concept: Feeling 89%, Split Enz 79%


“At Printers Row Lit Fest, Chicago” by Wilda Morris

This corpus has 102 total words and 82 unique word forms. 80%

Keywords: Chicago, printers, row

Overall sentiment: Positive (42%)

Emotion: Joy 54%, Anger 16%, Disgust 9%, Sadness 21%, Fear 57%

Entities: Willis Tower 82%, Chicago 77%, The Chicago Reader 69%

Categories: business and industrial/advertising and marketing/advertising 88%, style and fashion/clothing/skirts 78%, sports/walking 72%

Concept: English-language films 95%, Los Angeles Reader 86%, Willis Tower 79%, Chicago 78%, Skyscraper 78%


“Sofia in 1993” and “Untitled” by Margarita Serafimova

This corpus has 37 total words and 27 unique word forms. 73%

Keywords: city, cool, ancient

Overall sentiment: Positive (65%)

Emotion: Joy 70%, Anger 2%, Disgust 2%, Sadness 22%, Fear 3%

Entities: Sofia 89%, shady 77%

Categories: society/crime/personal offense 58%, law, government and politics 58%, society/senior living 57%

Concept: City 84%, Cool 83%, The City 80%, The Time 74%


“Singing naked under the full moon” and “Index” by Sean Steele

This corpus has 667 total words and 357 unique word forms. 54%

Keywords: moon, index, bottle, time, feel

Overall sentiment: Negative (-47%)

Emotion: Joy 59%, Anger 7%, Disgust 4%, Sadness 47%, Fear 8%

Entities: Index 79%, Improvisatory 36%, two stones 36%

Categories: art and environment/music/music reference 83%, art and environment/shows and events 75%, art and environment/music/music genres/world music 73%

Concept: Rhythm 94%, Ecliptic 81%, Month 81%, Lunar phase 79%


How useful was this information to you? Some results from the above data are simply incorrect: for example, “Improvisatory” is obviously not an entity. Though, in order to judge how useful this statistical analysis is, you will need to read the poems first. One thing is for sure, the experience of reading facts versus the poems is not as enjoyable, for me anyway. But one interesting thing happens. With these facts, even those who do not study English lit can see fiction as non-mystical, as clear themes and other patterns begin to emerge. There are facts in fiction and facts can become fiction over time. Maybe if we focused more on these details there would be fewer opportunities for fake news? What do you think?



NIKOLINA LIKAREVIC is the CEO of a rural library in Ontario. She has two masters, one in modern literature and the other in information. When she is not reading or working on Sewer Lid she is the Deputy Editor of Open Shelf, an online professional magazine for the library and information services sector.


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