Can you write a better poem than a robot? Really?

Robot2Can you write a better poem than a robot?  In 2011 this one was published in the Duke literary journal, The Archive, before they knew it wasn’t written by a human:


A home transformed by the lightning
the balanced alcoves smother
this insatiable earth of a planet, Earth.
They attacked it with mechanical horns
because they love you, love, in fire and wind.
You say, what is the time waiting for in its spring?
I tell you it is waiting for your branch that flows,
because you are a sweet-smelling diamond architecture
that does not know why it grows.
Keep in mind that the journal is an undergraduate one, put together to be inclusive and encourage students to write.  Zackary Scholl, who was then an undergraduate at Duke and who created the program that made the auto-generated poem submitted it with 25 other auto-generated ones.  This was the only one that was accepted.   So, the fact that it was published is not as scandalous as it first sounds, but the implications are still kind of fascinating.
 Programmers are working on making computer-generated poetry more and more sophisticated.  This most likely means that  human poets will compete more and more with computers for places in literary journals. I imagine it will be annoying to editors to find out, after they accept certain poems, (esp the typical sort that sounds academic but is designed to be about nonsense) that they were duped into thinking they were written by actual poets.  Perhaps this will have an influence on the types of poems that will be accepted by future editors. (?)
We like to think that humans will always be able to write better poetry than computers…but (considering all of the very bad poetry written by humans that’s already out there,) in many instances this is, already, not the case.
Brian Merchant wrote a good article on the Duke lit mag publication of the robot-poem at Motherboard: “The Poem That Passed the Turing Test,”  February 5, 2015.
See Zackary Scholl’s blog-post about the project and his published poem here: 


And Try Schnoll’s poetry generator for yourself here:
Also see: The Robot Poetry Blog, which last posted in 2009 and used something called the “Google Poetry Robot.”  According to the site’s webmaster, that program was also able to get a poem accepted by a literary journal (SFU High Altitude Poetry.)  You can hear some of the robot poets who were involved in this project reading their own work here.
I end this post with one more piece composed by Schnoll’s poetry generator. If I didn’t know better, I would honestly think it had been written by someone in a graduate school class of the type I took in the mid 1990’s. (Minus the stupid title….)

Your toe is enough

by A Computer, September 04 2015

There are many pencils in front of balanced events
you light my eloquent propellers
like a great ostrich
to fresh grape
but the light dedicated the memory.

Come with me to the ship of trousers
and the warmth to its awe.

And among the stones the secure one
the fisherman covered with scrupulous quilt
Some awaken but I blossom your silicon like silence!
And you relaxed in the tiredness and transformed a shining light.

Here I am, a charitable hips lighted in the region of lunar
and the current to its law
and among the stalks of cattail the honest one,
the man covered with dashing gold architecture
the order of the horses.

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