Goofing around with Chat-GPT (the chat sauvage?), I asked it to “Write a poem in the writing style of JC Reilly.” First, it didn’t know who I was (ugh), but when I gave it a link to one of my poems, this is what it came up with:
In this moment, I am but a flicker
A mere flame in the grander scheme
My life, a mere fragment in the picture
Of the endless and infinite dream
I am a creature of light and shadow
Walking the tightrope between day and night
With each step, I sow a seed to grow
Towards a future that’s ever so bright
I take comfort in the impermanence
Of all things that exist and persist
For I am but a brief remembrance
In the memory of what will persist
The sun rises and sets, the tide ebbs and flows
A rhythm of life that moves ever on
I embrace this dance, as the story goes
For in each moment, I am reborn
So let me be a spark in the darkness
A beacon of hope in a world of doubt
Let my light shine forth, with no less
Than the radiance that life is about
For in the end, all we can do
Is to live, to love, to dream, to be
And let our light shine, ever true
As a reminder of what it means to be free.
I think it goes without saying that I would never write such drivel. I might write some crap poems, but at least they are original crap. Among the things that bother me about this “poem” include the fact that it uses “persist” as a rhyme for…”persist.” Like, please try harder, Chat- GPT. Also, the clear amount of cliches included strikes me as incredible. You’d think a computer would have a lot more language to draw on, which could lessen the cliches. That said, I do like the slant rhyme of “ever on” with “reborn.” I wouldn’t think to make that choice, and I kind of like it. But the rest of the poem hurts my soul.
I also asked it to write a poem in the style of Ilya Kaminsky and honestly even if I had never read Deaf Republic or Dancing in Odessa, I can be sure it’s nothing like his writing. Still, it’s a much better poem than what Chat-GPT wrote for me (and by “better” I mean “being incrementally not as bad”):
A poem in the style of Ilya Kaminsky:
The night sky is a canvas of stars
Each one a beacon, a guidepost
In this world of darkness and uncertainty
A reminder that there is light in the darkness
But what of those who cannot see the stars?
Whose eyes are shrouded by the fog of war
Or the darkness of the soul?
Do they too have a guidepost to follow?
Perhaps it is the sound of a loved one’s voice
Or the touch of a hand, warm and reassuring
Or the memory of a time when all was right
And hope burned bright, like a flame in the darkness
For even in the darkest of nights
There is a glimmer of hope, a spark of light
That can ignite a fire, a passion
And lead us out of the darkness, into the dawn
So let us hold onto that flame, that spark
And carry it with us, wherever we may go
For though the night may be long and cold
There is always the promise of a new day.
The second stanza is pretty decent (minus “the darkness of the soul”). Still, some achingly bad abstractions (“darkness and uncertainty”) and worse cliches (“the touch of a hand, warm and reassuring;” “lead us out of the darkness, into the dawn” “glimmer of hope”) doom this piece to the trash bin.
I’m not too worried that poetry is dead now that Chat GPT can write poems, because all it can write is really bad poems. And I think most teachers are savvy enough to spot crap poetry when it’s presented to them. Honestly I also think students wouldn’t want to turn poems like these in because they inherently know they’re bad as well. If I were teaching poetry, and a student turned in some work like this, I wouldn’t get mad. I’d just get really NITPICKY about their revision work, and they’d have to write a new poem because I’d mark all the places where the poem fails. (Which is about 95% of places.)
Here’s one more:
This one is supposed to be à la Billy Collins:
The world is full of mysteries, he said
As he looked out the window, lost in thought
Like the way a tree knows when to shed
Its leaves, or how a bird knows when to take flight
And there are secrets lurking in every corner
Like the way a cat curls up in a sunbeam
Or the way a flower turns to face the sun
Or the way the moon appears in the sky
And then there are the things we take for granted
The everyday wonders that we barely notice
Like the way a pen glides across paper
Or the sound of a kettle as it comes to a boil
But there are also the things we cannot explain
Like why some things are meant to be
Or why we find ourselves in certain places
Or why we feel a certain way at a certain time
And yet, even with all these mysteries
The world still manages to spin on its axis
And we still find moments of joy and wonder
As we journey through this ever-changing world.
This one at least has a few good images (“like the way a pen glides across paper/ or the sound of a kettle as it comes to boil”). But it’s also not funny, and I think of humor as being a hallmark of Billy Collins. Still, over all, the poem is kind of lifeless, and that last stanza is so leaden it may as well be made of concrete.
I think “lifeless” is the operating word here. These are poems by something that clearly has no life of its own, and can only replicate what it thinks a poem is. But it must have really bad models to produce examples such as these. This seems hard for me to believe when there are hundreds—maybe thousands—of years of poetry available online.
What is also surprising to me is that it doesn’t actually borrow lines from the poets—lines that must be floating around the internet. That at least I could understand—a little plagiarism. Maybe I’m even a little nostalgic for plagiarism—there is a certain art to doing it that is completely bereft in what Chat-GPT does. Plagiarism at least requires the plagiarist to look things up to copy; Chat-GPT just makes it all up.
But I can’t be too hard on Chat-GPT. It gave me this great recipe…which looks pretty legit:
Carrot cake is a delicious dessert that many people enjoy. Here’s a recipe for a classic carrot cake:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups grated carrots
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
- Cream cheese frosting (recipe below)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale yellow, about 2-3 minutes. Gradually add in the oil and mix until well combined.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in the grated carrots, pecans, and raisins (if using).
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops with a spatula.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans before removing and frosting with cream cheese frosting.
Cream cheese frosting:
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy.
- Gradually add in the powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat until smooth and creamy.
- Use immediately to frost the carrot cake.
Enjoy your delicious homemade carrot cake!