• csalisbury
    Someone trained a beefed-up version of last year's GPT-2 text-generator AI on a giant corpus of poetry, then let it generate a million words, and posted it publically for people to sift through

    It's, like ----it's pretty good. Here are three bits I found in my first foray.

    When you get to be President,
    A lot of things will change.
    You will have people to dinner
    And they'll want what you've got.
    And, they'll want to give you money,
    And you'll want to take it.
    They'll want to give you orders,
    And you'll want to take them.

    The Oval Office will be
    Full of people you never knew.
    And you'll wish you had been born
    Another boy or girl.
    They will be, what, pre-adults now?
    Have you ever seen so many P.M.s?

    When the President gets things started
    It's difficult 'at last to stop 'em;
    It's difficult 'at all those lobbyists
    Have ever represented the people.
    It's not so difficult when you've already got
    A duty to do and an influence
    To give your vote, your advice to anyone.

    If it wasn't for him I'm afraid
    The railroads and all the other things
    They've been clamoring for wouldn't get through,
    For he's the biggest silent guy in the country
    And one voice can always drown them all.
    I'm sure, though, if I had to bet,
    It's Mr. Smith will be the next one in.

    It was late by the time she climbed down from the ladder
    And pulled the bed-sheet off the statue of George Washington
    And walked across the wet grass to the car;
    It was late when she came back and made me a coffee;
    It was late when she put her purse in the seat and got in.


    The wedding was held on the island this year,
    And was a success beyond all expectations.
    There was much fun,
    But my memory's failing.
    There was dancing and music and singing and good wine,
    And good beer for Peter to drink,
    For he drank nothing but water with his food.
    He looked dreadful--sick.
    His face was drawn and yellow;
    He hadn't a lump or a spot;
    But he looked so ill,
    With his long hair down over his pajamas-trousers,
    I nearly went home with a neighbor's daughter,
    To take a pint of poison and observe her death.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm

    Fascinating and apparently beautiful. Thanks for posting this.
  • Noble Dust
    The overall voice reminds me of poetry written by a child - but a kid with some promise. Some of it gave me a chuckle. I don't know. It would have been interesting to read this without knowing it was generated by AI.

    If I wanted to get a little more in depth, I would wonder what eras and traditions the poetry the AI was fed come from. Poetry is so dependent on cultural context. If you read Paradise Lost today, you might appreciate it or even love it, but the style, and even the content will feel removed and sort of academic, in the sense that it's not so visceral to your own real experience; in contrast to something like the John Ashberry stuff you've been posting, for instance. So that being said, if doing this is just a fun game, then whatever. But if there's any hope of actually generating compelling poetry, you would need to take cultural context into consideration...but philosophically, I'm pretty opposed to this sort of thing myself. I wanted to avoid pulling the "those deng compooters can't replace the human spirit dammit!" card, but that's where I stand...anyways.
  • Brett

    I think this is really interesting. When you say you found this in your first foray does it mean you sifted through a bit to find it?

    I don’t agree with on cultural context. Has the AI just done what so many poets do, which is raid the pantry. Or am I mistaken in what he was getting at?
  • Noble Dust

    Can you provide support for the idea that poets "raid the pantry", and maybe define what that means?
  • Brett

    That they work in a tradition with a long unbroken tail. They steal from the past and reposition it in relation to cultural contexts. They “Make it new” and refresh our perceptions and experiences.
  • Noble Dust

    Yeah sure, all I'm saying is that a studied poet understands it's history, and their place in that history, and their work will probably flow naturally from that historical position that they occupy. AI on the other hand, if it's referencing a boat load of poetry from the past 1,000 years, would do so seemingly at random...unless there are elements in the code that delineate eras and styles. But reading these examples from the OP, there's absolutely no tone or style. It's completely flat. So if there is an element to the code that generated those poems that did take style and era into consideration...it certainly doesn't come across at all.
  • Noble Dust

    Here's a further wrinkle beneath a wrinkle: we're so far only dealing with the English language here. To say nothing of the notorious untranslatability of poetry.
  • Noble Dust
    Which actually brings up something else that was bothering me with the AI poems; there aren't many metaphors or similes. Ironically, if anything, the oblique language of the second poem almost reads like a bad translation.
  • Brett

    But reading these examples from the OP, there's absolutely no tone or style. It's completely flat.Noble Dust

    I’d agree to some degree. But there seems to be contemporary ideas in the lines. Of course these are the lines given to us by so she may have lifted the work that she relates to.

    True, it does read like a bad translation. On the other hand if it was regarded as a first draft with work to be done then that could change. Metaphors and similes might be formed at that stage.
  • Noble Dust

    There's contemporary information in the lines, which I assume was part of the information the AI absorbed. That doesn't equate to a style.

    I'm not sure if you've ever written a poem or not, but metaphors and similes (i.e. poetic language) generally are not added later...
  • Brett

    I just realised it might appear that I’m arguing that an AI can write poetry, which I’m not. It’s more like William Burrough’s “cut ups”.
  • Brett

    but metaphors and similes (i.e. poetic language) generally are not added later...Noble Dust

    There’s no correct way to produce art.
  • Noble Dust

    I didn't think you were arguing for anything in particular necessarily; just responding with some thoughts.
  • Noble Dust

    I agree. But there are more genuine and less genuine ways.
  • Brett

    Of course.

    We crossed over there. My comment was in regard to “...some thoughts”.

    “Genuine”. This is getting tricky now. Isn’t it possible a metaphor may come to mind spontaneously while in the process of writing or playing with an idea? Is that not genuine simply because it was spontaneous?
  • Brett

    Of course I don’t believe that an AI could go on to create a metaphor.
  • Noble Dust
    “Genuine”. This is getting tricky now. Isn’t it possible a metaphor may come to mind spontaneously while in the process of writing or playing with an idea? Is that not genuine simply because it was spontaneous?Brett

    I'm not sure how it's getting tricky, because what you described there is basically what I meant. So going back to you saying "On the other hand if it was regarded as a first draft with work to be done then that could change. Metaphors and similes might be formed at that stage", what I meant in responding was that metaphors are generally spontaneous, rather than requiring drafts. That may be an oversimplification; of course new metaphors could spring up on repeated drafts. But in my own experience of writing poetry, poetic language does tend to be spontaneous, and not something that is improved much with drafts; usually a few simple versions, maybe, but generally, the original "inspiration" of the language is what sticks; drafts only refine, they don't redefine.
  • Brett

    “Tricky” was in relation to “genuine”.

    of course new metaphors could spring up on repeated drafts.Noble Dust

    That’s my feeling. I don’t mean that a metaphor is formed later as a conscious act because the writer felt a metaphor was needed at a certain point, but that the creative act creates its own momentum and throws up new, unexpected possibilities. Maybe my use of the word “first draft” was wrong and instead I should have just used “process”.
  • Noble Dust

    By "genuine" I was suggesting that a natural creative process will produce poetic language; if it doesn't, it would be more akin to some sort of scientific (AI generated, maybe?) process. Yes, the creative process does throw up new possibilities. In my own experience, the best (most genuine) work tends to be a process of "all the ideas are given at the beginning, and are then refined over time". But there is a mysterious alternative where, occasionally, half-formed ideas that have promise can be slowly perfected over time. EDIT: but the original "genius" (in the original sense of that word) almost always suffers and loses something. But I find this process to be the exception to the rule. But no, any good writer or artist hopefully understands the importance of "drafts", so drafts are absolutely important. As is the process of the whole thing. I think we're mainly in agreement.
  • Brett

    90% perspiration, 10% inspiration.
  • Noble Dust

    Eh. There are no accurate percentages. If perspiration suggests practice, then of course it's crucial, but I would say inspiration would be more like a 90% cut. But practice isn't only 10%. So the pithy quote breaks down, in my view.
  • Brett

    It’s not a rule. It’s for amusement. Perspiration refers to hard work.
  • Noble Dust

    Yes, I know. Practice is the hard work of art...
  • fdrake
    I'm pretty amazed that it's learned devices and tropes.

    Thence down the mountain-sides the bright gold sun
    Dapples all the valley below

    Simile, assonance
    Like dew-beads on the feathery grass,

    Repetition, consonance, that thing where the narrator addresses an inanimate object - it also uses "hark" for it because that's what poems do.

    One old tree, old as the dawn,
    Old as the story of the sea
    Old as the dawn of days,
    That through the twilight with its weight
    Was calling to the dawn,
    That through the summer with its gifts
    Was calling to the fall,
    And saying to the land, "Hark!
    There is a joy in heaven above!"

    It's learned patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables:

    The hour, the hour of golden sunshine,
    - + - + - + - + - = -+-+-+-+-
    The hour of sharper freezing weather,
    - + - +- +- + - = -+-+-+-+-
    The hour of yonder dark and dreary cloud
    - + - +- + - +-? + = -+-+-+-+-+

    (that extra stressed bit also breaks the repeated pattern onto the next line)

    It can elaborate an image over multiple lines:

    Of light unfading, bright and deep;
    A golden river flecking the verdant floor.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    The overall voice reminds me of poetry written by a childNoble Dust

    A child could not have written this:

    If I were of their pride,
    If mine were one thought,
    If mine were their thought,
    O Lord, Who know the secret of the sun
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    that thing where the narrator addresses an inanimate objectfdrake

    An apostrophe.
  • Forgottenticket
    Poetry is so dependent on cultural context.Noble Dust

    Sure, but are are we not moving away from the classic definition of being able to capture the transcendental, the fixed and unchangeable, as in a mimesis, and more towards continentalist theories of art. A lot of poetry is contemplative, meditative, and does seem platonic in its construct. A friend of mine tells me he primarily reads Paradise Lost because of how it assists his own art today.

    Btw, on the AI itself, these poems are better (sort of) , but the TalktoTransformer was nonsense 99% of the time. AI just makes me feel like a nihilist. I recall Wayfarer called it the materialist Ahriman.
  • dimension72
    In chess, computers (and now AI with AlphaZero) have for decades dominated the game. Today's chess grandmasters don't even come close to the calculating strength of AI.
  • csalisbury
    @Noble Dust I agree that this isn’t poetry per se, but it’s still beautiful at times. I think ‘genuine’ poetry is often something like the smoke generated from an intense spiritual encounter - say smoke rising from an altar, where the sacrifice is the poet’s encounter ( with something) and the poem is the smoke rising up. This would be something like collective smoke filtered through another medium to produce uncanny almost-poem plumes.

    The AI was fed poems from many times and genres, and many of the poems it’s produced feel mock-ancient-epic or mock-mannered-Donne or mock-romantic. I have a hunch the selections in the OP stem from post 50s American poetry ( New York School especially comes to mind.)

    A lot of times and styles there if you check out the link. This one feels almost like (one aspect of) Wallace Stevens:

    Between mouthfuls of apple pie,
    they discuss the panda's defection,
    the new twelfth-man problem, the low
    cardinality of Jesus, and whether
    Saint John broke the bread at the Lord's Supper
    instead of the guest Aava.
    Their talk is either philosophical
    on the one hand, or distressing personal
    on the other.
    Eve, it is whispered, died of exposure.

    I think, while agreeing with the distinction between genuine and nongenuine poetry, there’s a beauty here. And formally, technically, this is a wonderful stanza.

    Mostly I’ve been slicing and dicing and extracting the good bits while leaving out the AI-junk but it did produce at least one poem coherent from start to finish which, coincidentally, also begins with the death of a woman due (almost) to exposure. The title it chose is odd - ‘Driving to Santa Fe’ - but the rest is a kind of satisfying whole. Here it is:

    Driving to Santa Fe

    Under the smog of snow a woman
    has killed herself because of the pain
    she was in. Her husband did not want
    to go to the doctor because he said
    it wasn't his job to cheer up
    people in pain. The tempest is
    hiding in the chambers of the man
    who keeps the local offices of the Christian
    Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
    The committee is made up of church ladies
    from all over the county: Mary Ann Vecchio
    from Limerick, Lucille McCann of Morgantown,
    and Mrs. Wallace Smyth of Chesterfield.
    John Nevin is the investigator for the committee.
    The committee keeps trying to get
    the coroner to open up an investigation
    into the death of Rosemary Phagan,
    the woman who died in the tobacco barn
    on the Mount of Olives. Mary Ann Vecchio
    and Mrs. Wallace Smyth came down
    to Phagan's wake and were so overcome
    by the magnitude of the loss
    that they went back to Limerick and wrote
    to the coroner. Now the committee
    is trying to investigate the death
    of Mrs. Phagan because she is a friend
    of Mrs. Vecchio's and Mrs. Wallace
    Smyth's son is a passenger on a bus
    that was supposed to have taken them
    to watch the sunrise on Palm Sunday.
    The committee thinks that Mary Ann Vecchio
    and Mrs. Wallace Smyth have conspired
    to kill Mrs. Phagan in Limerick.

    I think this last poem, especially, is truly remarkable.
  • csalisbury
    Yeah, it’s crazy how much it learned. And what’s also crazy is gpt-3 is out, but, from what I understand, it’s not available to the public. This is all on last year’s iteration, gpt-2 (modded) I need to find a link for you because apparently it also, only incidentally, learned very basic arithmetic while learning text-generation, which is interesting from a ‘general ai’ perspective (objections ala it’s only generating correct answers by regurgitating math textbook character strings are addressed- I’ll link when I get home)
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.