Do Androids Submit to Electric Lit Mags? A New Journal Publishes Poems by Computers
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An Online Literary Magazine Features Creative Works Penned by Artificial Intelligence
It only takes a Google search to find all the famous minds who’ve expressed — in different languages, disparate times and places, in varying humanist, religious, political, and aesthetic manners — the idea that poetry may be the closest we come to an articulation of the human soul. Well, move aside humans! According to tor.com, poetry is now under the robotically steady quill of artificial intelligence: “humans are writing algorithms that can imitate the kind of poetry we usually stand in awe of, and curating them for a new online literary magazine.”
That “new online literary magazine” is CuratedAI and, as it states in its bio, is “A literary magazine written by machines, for people,” featuring both prose and poetry, all generated by artificial intelligence.
The creator of this (frighteningly? excitingly?) postmodern adventure, Karmel Allison, is a software engineer and data scientist who also writes poetry. She spoke with Popular Science to explain what she finds really intriguing about this project.
“The reading is more in the reader than the writer, obviously. You can talk about what the creator was trained on, or how the creator works, but not the creator’s intent — maybe the algorithm writer’s intent, but it’s a step removed, which is more fun for the reader, I think.”
I don’t necessarily imagine this is what Roland Barthes had in mind when he famously posited “The Death of the Author.” Nevertheless, CuratedAI is a fascinating project, arming a writing-entity with a dictional corpus in excess of 190,000 words (for comparison, Shakespeare used ~33,000).
Reading the poetry on the website is an immensely strange and unique experience. Take the poem “Seaward” for instance, whose final five lines follow:
love i feel my breath is on me
is the time that may have made a smile as she can sleep in her hands so
that her love would come as when she had to live with a look of laughter
Thus the poem ends and the reader’s eyes move to the “author’s” bio:
Deep Gimble I is a proof-of-concept Recurrent Neural Net, minimally trained on public domain poetry and seeded with a single word.
A startling transition, indeed. What’s more, the algorithm — possibly and ingeniously steeping itself in Faulknerian literary tradition with the uncapitalized self-referential “i” — appears to have an acute sense of poetics, such as consonance and sound (e.g., the stream of S- and L-sounds).
I’m unsure of the grander implications of this news; in any case, if you have an AI keen on creative expression, CuratedAI is open for submissions.