My inbox and social media feeds have been filling with advertising from companies offering the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to write my blog posts. At first, I suffered a mild sense of outrage. What could a robot teach a writer about writing? Isn’t the joy of blogging having that spark of an idea, connecting those fragments which sit inside a writer’s head, adding a touch of research, then creating that final piece?
Never one to miss an opportunity, I took a few days pondering and decided to put AI to the test. As most of my writing centres around poetry, I wondered how any AI system would cope with the challenge of writing a poem. The poem I selected was William Wordsworth’s, Daffodils.
This poem is one of my favourites. It was one of the first poems, other than nursery rhymes, I learned by heart. Wordsworth’s birthplace is only ten miles from where I was born. Growing up, his poetry was a backdrop to my English literature education.
There is an interesting history behind Daffodils. When Wordsworth first wrote the poem, in 1804, he never gave it a title. The original poem only contained three verses. The four-stanza poem, which we know today, was the second version, which was published in his book – Poems in Two Volumes. Again, the poem was left untitled, and it is not known where or when the title appeared, other than it was adopted by publishers to identify the piece.
It is also rumoured that Daffodils was not the sole work of Wordsworth and included contributions from his sister, Dorothy, and his wife at the time, Mary Hutchinson.
The AI Poet
The next part of this venture was choosing what AI software to use. Most AI writing software providers offer a free trial in exchange for personal information and credit card details. In the end, I opted for Google’s AI Poem Generator, Poem Portraits, which is free and does not require anything other than the input of your selected words.
This generator asks for users to “donate” a single word to an ongoing, collective poem. The word entered will be integrated in a randomly, or rather, algorithmically produced couplet based on a scanning of more than 20 million words of 19th-century poetry.
I used the words, wandered, lonely and cloud, taken from the first line of the poem, and daffodils, the assumed title. Below is the unedited result.
Wander to the summer heights, the soft dreams, Strange, and sweet, and warm, and still and slow. Lonely and shining streamlets, swell into the deep. Your redemption, seems to be still the same thing. That cloud of mountains are still as the dew, Your room for the wind, the heavens. That daffodil is not the breath of heaven, and That is why I should forget the face of the dead.
If I am honest, I have written worse in my time. With a little bit of editing, there does appear to be a framework for some semblance of poetry. If you want to see Wordsworth’s version of Daffodils you can find it here at Poetry.com. Maybe I no longer need to be toiling at my writing desk for hours, considering whether a line needs a full stop or a comma.
What do you think? Is AI the way forward for writing? I would welcome your thoughts. Have a good weekend.