Google: Poetry Creation Made Eneasy

November 25, 2020

I spotted “Google’s Verse by Verse AI Can Help You Write in the Style of Famous Poets.” The subtitle illustrates why this Google innovation is probably going to find some Silicon Valley Shakespeares:

Quoth the Bugdroid, “Nevermore.”

The write up guides the reader to this url. Then the page displays:


Okay, let’s write a poem with the Google smart software. I am skeptical because Google set out to solve death. So far, no luck with that project. For poetic style, I quite like the approach of William Abernathy, who wrote a remarkable tribute to Queen Elizabeth called Elisaeis, Apotheosis poeticaas in Latin when he was trying to avoid arrest for religious heresy. (For more info on William Abernathy, navigate to your local university library and chase down Vol. 76, No. 5, Texts and Studies, 1979. “The Elisæis” of William Alabaster (Winter, 1979). Oh, the poem is a tribute to Elizabeth the First. Did I mention the poem was an epic, thousands upon thousands of lines. In Latin too. Hot stuff.)

Well, bummer. Mr. Alabaster is not listed as a stylistic choice on the Google write a poem Web site. I thought AI was smart. Well, let us sally forth with the clever and sometimes interesting Edwin Arlington Robinson who wrote:

Mininver loved the Medici,
Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
Could he have been one.

Yep, sin. But I had to pick other poets with which the smart Google AI is familiar. Trepedatiously I selected the fave of elderly literature teachers: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Plus in a nod to the Rona and rising infection rates, I plunked my mouse cursor on the liquor-loving and raven loving Edgar Allen Poe. Yep, I noted the “nevermore” in the article’s subtitle. Then I clicked “Next.”

I specified a quatrain in iambic pentameter with the rhyming scheme AB AB.

Google’s smart software wanted a chunk of poesy as a “seed” for the smart software. I provided:

Whoa, teenaged mind, cause no sorrow or pain

I want to point out that this is the first line of a poem my junior class English teacher Edwardine Sperling required us to write. (She loved cardinals, the bird, not the baseball team.) My poetic flight of fancy at age 15 on this line motivated Ms. Sperling to try and get me expelled me from high school. No sense of humor had she. (The compromise proposed by the assistant principal was that Ms Sperling could ban me from the National Honor Society as a result of my inappropriate writing, and I had to sit outside the class in the hallway for the remainder of the semester.)

And what was my “Spirit of Nature” poem about? Nothing much. Just sitting in the woods on a sunny day in early autumn. Then the Spirit of Nature emerged from a pile of leaves. I explained that my Spirit of Nature was the October 1959 Playmate of the Month from Playboy magazine. I elaborated via metaphors (terrible metaphors I must confess) how the Spirit of Nature or Miss October helped move away from “sorrow or pain.” I will leave the details to your imagination. My poem was a hoot. But I got the boot.

Back to the Google smart poetry writer, a system which I hypothesized would have zero imagination and would have been an A student in dear Ms. Sperling’s literature class.

I clicked the Next button again. Magic. Google’s fine system spit out after some prompting after I provided the first line in red. Google goodness is in blue:

Whoa, teenaged mind, cause no sorrow or pain
Enlife a phantom of an idle love;
Yet in a fancy I could now attain
Look on the beauty of that world above!

Great stuff those words in blue crafted sharp and true by Lord Google.

Ms Sperling would have relished the “enlife” word. The prefix “en” leads to many coinages; for example, enbaloney, enstupid, and enmarketing. Maybe enAI? Sure. But no Playboy bunnies. No filthy innuendo. No double entendre. The meaning thing eludes me, but, hey, Google couldn’t solve death either. The GOOG is not doing too well in poesie either I opine. Any questions about Google’s query ad matching semantic system? Good.

Stephen E Arnold, November 24, 2020


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