AI Can’t Write Poetry

One of the things people have asked the chatbots to do is to write poetry. I will admit to not reading every chatbot clip that comes across my timeline. Every time I read one, I can feel brain cells dying from the vacuity.

But I love poetry and probably have read more of those clips than others. So far, they have all been very bad.

We can start with a conversation on Twitter, a response to an observation that what the chatbots write is very bland. A commenter said that he requested a poem on a pandemic in the style of T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” and it wasn’t bland at all. He shared the poem with us. Indeed, it was not bland. It was “The Wasteland” with the word “pandemic” dumped in at maybe five or six places, and ended with a doggerel rhymed couplet about a plague being in the air, thus combining plagiarism with blandness.

Most of what chatbots create when they are not plagiarizing is bland. Words are assembled in a statistical pattern, but often fail on the mechanical aspects of poetry. So far I haven’t seen chatbot poetry that scans or even rhymes competently, to say nothing of alliteration. I saw a couple of “sonnets” presented as one person’s mind-opener toward the wonders of large language models. The “sonnets” had fourteen lines each, to be sure, but I could discern no metrical or rhyming scheme.

One may choose to make one’s own meaning from statistically assembled words, but that is solipsism. Poetry is one mind reaching out to another.

That’s W. H. Auden, quoted in this review of a compilation of his work. Those lines contain Auden’s feelings expressed in pictures created by words, with the feelings reinforced by the rhythm. Interpreting Auden’s words and pictures into feelings is one of the ways humans communicate to each other. Statistically determined word order has nothing behind it.

Here’s Wilfred Owen, The Spring Offensive 1918

Or William Blake, The Garden of Love

Not bland.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

One comment

  1. Mary meloscia · April 27

    Thank you for sharing those beautiful poems.


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