AI generated poetry

Fascinating post by Scott Alexander: Gwern’s AI-Generated Poetry

GPT-2 is the language processing system that OpenAI announced a few weeks ago. They are keeping the full version secret, but have released a smaller prototype version. Gwern retrained it on the Gutenberg Poetry Corpus, a 117 MB collection of pre-1923 English poetry, to create a specialized poetry AI.

Extensive samples provided, with commentary:

This is all perfect iambic pentameter. I know AP English students who can’t write iambic pentameter as competently as this….It has more trouble with rhymes – my guess is a lot of the poetry it was trained on was blank verse. But when it decides it should be rhyming, it can keep it up for a little while. From its Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard fanfic …

Scott chose interesting examples to show how the AI can start off rhyming perfectly and then gradually the rhyming deteriorates; or how it can start off well and then deteriorate into complete gibberish.

Would you spot this as fake robot-generated poetry if no one tipped you off?

My heart, why come you here alone?
The wild thing of my heart is grown
To be a thing,
Fairy, and wild, and fair, and whole

Scott really, really liked this tidbit, and says:

That last line, with its ABAB structure, is actually brilliant even by the standards of human poets. “Fairy and wild and fair and whole”. I could say that all day. This has to be a coincidence. It’s not that good anywhere else. But even having something generally okay enough that it can occasionally blunder into something that good is great.

I have to admit, several bits of poetry worked out really well. I am now predicting that someone is soon going to start using this type of AI thing to generate lines and poems. I can see that working much better than using this sort of word-generator to write prose. Would it be cheating, to present poems as though you wrote them yourself, if whole quatrains or longer stanzas were generated in this way?

Click through if you have time. There’s a trick buried in the post, so do read the entire thing if you’ve got a minute.

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5 thoughts on “AI generated poetry”

  1. The Teen sometimes visits All Poetry which is for posting poems. A lot of them are worse than any of these examples.
    My kid at least works on getting meter right, often borrowing structure from older poets. But some of the other posters there… let’s just say, they don’t think anything like that matters.

  2. Sometimes you gets the impression that some people really believe that to create poetry, you simply take a paragraph of prose and drops in line breaks at random intervals. But for unrhymed poetry, I thought this:

    There are several kinds of people in America;
    There are several kinds of people, I mean their number.
    There’s a girl growing up in the house by the light,
    There’s a youth upon the road, or a girl somewhere in New York;
    There’s a prettier girl, and a man more congenial,

    But none of the likes of the likes of the fellows are equal.
    There’s one who has never been married and married,
    There’s one who don’t want to be treated with kindness;
    A fair youth is never employed nor neglected;
    There’s one who has never yet come to a neighbor,
    And one who resides in New York from the start;

    But none of the likes of the likes of the fellows
    Are equal to him, and wherever he goes,
    The heart somehow breaks under the hand that is steering;
    And so it is with me

    Was quite good. I would never have spotted it as computer generated, despite occasional repeated phrases and some puzzling lines.

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