Virtual and Robotic Poetries

Soon, I can see it coming, someone will publish a poem in a legit journal, an entire book even, composed with a poetry software. There are several choices, such as The Virtual Poet, "a tool for the professional poet and anyone who wants to write a small poem with just the right words for that special someone. If you have ever spent minutes, hours or even days searching for the right rhyme, Virtual Poet can do it for you in just seconds." Or Icon Poet, "an unusual piece of software that lets you produce original poetry by clicking on different word categories [...] a great cure for writer's block." One may smirk at these lame tools, but soon, I can see it coming, they will become bolder, more willing to take risks, explore deeper depths of feelings and splinter, kick open doors at the backs of their minds, their techniques growing ever more radical, iconoclastic. Nothing is too farfetched. Just yesterday, the Financial Times published "UK report says robots will have rights." It quoted Henrik Christensen, director of the Centre of Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology, “If we make conscious robots they would want to have rights and they probably should.” A small percentage will also yearn to write poems, no doubt, and a handful, if we're lucky, will become exceptional at it.


memexikon said...

Computer generated poetry has been around for a long time. The first acknowledged book of such is The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed created by the software known as Racter in 1984 I believe.


Linh Dinh said...

Dear Memexikon,

Thanks for the info. I never knew. Can you list some other examples?


Linh Dinh said...

Dear Memexikon,

I just read several pieces about Racter online. It was basically a hoax, no? Racter's programmer, William Chamberlain, tweaked those poems and prose pieces so much, they were essentially his writings. What triggered my blog entry was the comment in the Financial Times about robots "wanting" to have rights. To want is to have desire, to long, to miss, to feel satisfaction, injustice, irony, all the ingredients that feed writing, no?


memexikon said...

Sentience & computer generated writing is really another realm by itself & depends which AI scientist/philosopher you reference.

Here's Marius Watz's original computer generated poetry reference page which tracks most of the early projects:

computer generated poetry

Linh Dinh said...

Dear Memexikon,

What a useful page. Thanks a lot!


Samuel Vriezen said...

Dutch poet Gerrit Krol experimented with computer generated poetry as far back as 1971 in a project called APPI - I don't have access to any examples right here though, and I'm not sure just how serious this attempt was.

I wouldn't be surprised to see older examples even. Music generated by computers certainly goes back to the late fifties (LeJaren Hiller with Illiac Suite and of course, a few years later, Xenakis with the ST series), as does vocal synthesis. Poetry must have been high on the list. But symbolic manipulation always seems just a little tougher than the kind of parametric manipulation that you can do easily in music, so perhaps a much later birthdate may be natural.

Patrick Herron said...

Author Hartman, Charles O., 1949-
Title Virtual muse : experiments in computer poetry / Charles O. Hartman.
Imprint Hanover, N.H. : Published by University of Press of New England [for] Weleyan University Press, c1996.

Definitive work on the subject of computer poetry, with descriptions of Hartman's own work towards a computer poetics and development of rudimentary poetry generation software. I highly recommend it.

Murat said...


As you imply, it is not the intelligence, but the impediments against the applications of intelligence, which define the human.

The inalienable ability to fuck up. "Writing against the grain," as Jack Spicer says. What will we do with writer blocks? Dive into it.

Do you remember in The Blade Runners, what gives the androids away is their eyes. They have feelings, passions and even their very own sense of mortality. But they can not get ride of their class status: android.

Or is there something even deeper in the eye, beyond intelligence or feeling? What Patrick calls the "vision," what beyond the periphery of control?

In The Blade Runners the androids are the freedom fighters, wanting their rights, the quitessential "other."

Otherwise,how could the Sean... part could be so sexy?



memexikon said...

I guess I have a hard time understanding why the obsessions with computers ghost-writing human-like texts. Xexoxial Editions has published a number of computer generated books, the first of which is Carniverous Equation in 1982. The program (called SPOOK) was designed by Michael Helsem. Several years later, I hacked a hypercard script to create the Pataliterator, which when you click go, generates a neologistic language & outputs a unique 40-80 page text, no 2 texts alike. Both of these projects were designed to let the computer do what it does best, permutative computing, rather than modelling human speech & sentiments.

michael said...

i am excessively fond of the webpage-generated texts produced by Rob's Amazing Poem Generator:


unfortunately, you have to go into "source" to ctrl-C it.

there used to be a program around that would generate texts based on Markov-chains--the likelihood of adjacent words in a given source (with quite lively results), but this has been lost for quite awhile now.

BTW computer-generated art & music has much more aesthetic validity at the moment--but i leave it to you to do your own discovering...


PS http://www.evolutionzone.com/kulturezone/c-g.writing/index_body.html