Some notes on AI & poetry

I’m due to give three talks in the next month and I’d been particularly anxious about one of these, on GenAI and poetry a month tomorrow. Last night I had a long intense dream which featured me worrying about the three talks, as well as a mysterious fourth. But on waking up I felt inspired about the whole thing, and have been gathering my thoughts.

  • I’ve started reading Funkhouser’s Prehistoric Digital Poetry, which looks at the form pre-world-wide-web, starting from 1959. It seems like an interesting complement to 50 Years of Text Adventures due to the digital archaeology involved and the overlapping time periods. Funkhouser places digital poetry in a wider framework – Oulippo, obviously, but he refers to examples of permutation poetry dating back to ancient times.
  • Obviously, much of poetry’s power comes from the link to human experience. Someone made the point that an AI-generated account of the Spanish Civil War could never work as well as Orwell’s first hand account. Would a computer-generated version of Howl ever work?
  • NaNoGenMo has been running since 2013, well before the emergence of LLMs. I found reading All the Minutes a genuinely moving experience, with its gestalt voice emerging from twitter posts. I think there are interesting ways we might use GenAI to generated such summarising texts.
  • I recently got hold of Jeff Noon’s Cobralingus, which imagines a word engine transforming text into new forms. It’s something that could easily be done using ChatGPT.
  • William Deresiewicz proposed that AI Will Never Rival Human Creativity through LLMs since these are designed to pick likely decisions. I know friends that preferred earlier text-to-image models since these were less accurate and produced more interesting outputs. But I can’t imagine it being too difficult to train/design an LLM to be more ‘creative’.
  • GenAI is an interesting tool for reappropriation of existing texts. I had an interesting session where I generated haiku from some of my favourite poems, with some interesting results.

A red wheelbarrow,
Glazed with rain beside white hens,
Much depends on this.

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