I know nothing about poetry, but I’m pretty sure Verse by Verse—Google’s new AI-powered poetry generator—is phoning it in.
“Verse by Verse” is formatted like Smart Compose in Gmail, but for poetry: input the opening line, and the program generates a selection of often absurdist suggestions that rarely follow the previous thought. The program composes original lines in the style of your selected “muse” such as Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Emma Lazarus, and Phillis Wheatley. A sample line influenced by Philip Freneau: “Every man of the man and man.” Every man of the man and man…maaan.
The safely limited offerings are a lot less scary than OpenAI’s GPT-2, which can generate a fictional article from a lede sentence. (After sitting on the full version for a year, for fear that it could be used to spread fake news, OpenAI released the system in November 2019.) As Literary Hub has pointed out, you can already use GPT-2 to plug in a portion of a real poem and generate an ending. Verse by Verse is, decidedly, not that.
Here are a few works inspired my journeys in blogging:
Twitter dot com
I will ne’er log off
Pretend to let me like the bird
If I could ever hide my littleness,
Right would it be my misfortune
Inspired by Lydia Huntley Sigourney, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Amy Lowell
Why, lord, must you smite us with Fleets
Round the ships and up the towns?
Will do with them for their mortal fray?
Or if they might go with their quest
To go with their drift in a dream?
Inspired by Robert Frost and Emma Lazarus
OMG CATIE HOW DO I MUTE U
Away in the tempest, old and new!
Inspired by Phillis Wheatley, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and Gizmodo investigative reporter Shoshana Wodinsky
Verse by Verse
What is the song that speaks the sea
Around the strain and murmur of its hum?
Soft voices like the infinite host at rest,
Inspired by William Cullen Bryant
In other words, the results don’t hold up well against previous generative poetry projects. See research scientist Marjan Ghazvininejad’s program that culled song lyrics and plugged entirely new phrases into sonnet form, each line flowing from thematically similar terms. Or Ranjit Bhatnagar’s Pentametron, which doesn’t generate new lines, but searches Twitter for iambic pentameter and weaves lines into verse. This feels more like Google goofing off rather than trying to actually crack the AI-poetry puzzle.
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But it can be, and therefore, it exists, like a quivering bubble neath my native panes.