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The Poet Is A Computer

Zackary Scholl, undergrad at Duke University, has modified a program that utilized a context-free grammar system to spit out full-length, auto-generated poems.

“It works by having the poem dissected into smaller components: stanzas, lines, phrases, then verbs, adjectives, and nouns,” Scholl explained. “When a call to create a poem is made, then it randomly selects components of the poem and recursively generates each of those.”

Scholl’s work forms part of a small but burgeoning canon of ​algorithm​ically abetted poetry and prose—from ​​bots that​ mine Twitter​ to build sonnets in iambic pentameter to poem drones that ​scrawl lines o​n sid​ewalks to automated novel-generators, the gap between man and machine-made art has, ever so slightly, begun to close.

In 2010, Scholl began submitting the output to online poetry websites, in order to gauge reader reaction, which he says was “overwhelmingly positive.” The year after that, he sent his auto-generated poems to literary magazines, where they were rejected from the likes of Memoir Journal and First Writer Poetry. Scholl then submitted a battery of poems written by his algorithm to the Duke literary journal, The Archive. One was accepted. Here's its text in full:

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.

SF readers might recall the verse transcriber from J.G. Ballard's 1971 short story Studio 5, The Stars.

Also, the electronic bard from Stanislaw Lem's 1965 work The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age has a variety of advanced techniques for generating stories:

Trurl let the machine warm up first, kept the power low, ran up the metal stairs several times to take readings )the machine was like the engine of a giant steamer, galleried, with rows of rivets, dials and valves on every tier) - till, finally satisfied all the decimal places were where they ought to be, he said yes, it was ready now...

Now that the potentiometers indicated the machine's lyrical capacitance was charged to the maximum, and Trurl, so nerous his hands were shaking, threw the master switch...
(Read more about Lem's electronic bard)

Be sure to check out this excellent article at Motherboard via our friends at Frolix_8.

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