Google's AI-Powered Poetry Generator Has Some Cryptic Wisdom, Maybe

Illustration for article titled Google's AI-Powered Poetry Generator Has Some Cryptic Wisdom, Maybe
Photo: Three Lions (Getty Images)

I know nothing about poetry, but I’m pretty sure Verse by Verse—Google’s new AI-powered poetry generator—is phoning it in.

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“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

Rollouts

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

Slack

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

Google

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.

But it can be, and therefore, it exists, like a quivering bubble neath my native panes.

Staff reporter, Gizmodo. wkimball @ gizmodo

DISCUSSION

mrgoodbeer
mrgoodbeer

Good thing Cummings isn’t on the list. It’d look like a cat is trying to sneak under your hand for a pet while typing.