We can’t go a day without hearing about it in some form or other. ChatGPT has many asking if artificial intelligence software is making human writers obsolete. We can probably all imagine ways in which A.I. might have implications for marketers, copywriters, and even students and educators, but since April is Poetry Month, let’s consider: do artificial intelligence systems have a role to play in the world of verse?
Marcel Gagne, the owner of Salmar Consulting and a good friend to PQL, started sending me some PQL-themed poetry last summer, which he generated using GPT-3 and modified slightly to his preference. Here’s a small taste:
The Porcupine’s Quill is a house of words,
And of stories, and of books
With antique printing presses.
It is a place where dreams are born,
And where imagination runs free.
It is a refuge for the lost,
And a place of wonder and delight.
Come to the Porcupine’s Quill,
And be swept away by the magic of words.
The Porcupine’s Quill
I write for you and for myself
and for no one else
not for money or for fame
or to impress those who don’t know me.
So I try to write the way I would speak,
if that were still possible—direct and true,
without false modesty or bravado.
Without fear of being misunderstood.
I want my poetry to be a windowpane,
a view through which you can see yourself clearly:
your strengths; your weaknesses. Your loneliness. Your joys.
Your anger—at injustice, at how things are, at those who hurt you.
Your struggles with self-esteem and self-loathing.
Your failures and disappointments; your griefs and losses;
your love affairs. The people in your life—family, friends, co-workers.
The places you’ve been and are going—places where you live;
places where you’ve traveled;
places where you’ve never been.
The books you love and the ones you don’t like; the movies,
music and art that nourish you.
The things that make you feel alive or dead inside.
[Used with permission. From http://marcelgagne.com]
I think we can all agree, A.I. can’t quite compete with the venerable poets we’ve been proud to publish over the years. It’s a little over-fond of cliché, and some of the lines feel a bit hollow while others sound like exaggerated marketing copy. The system can mimic the form, but one gets the sense it doesn’t quite understand the function. At least, not yet.
Given these early results I don’t think anyone should be fearing that the robots will take over the poets’ jobs any time soon. Poetry seems a uniquely human expression, and its specialties are feelings, experiences, relationships—things that A.I. systems aren’t built to have.
Perhaps, then, we should look at A.I. writing software not so much as a replacement but rather as a tool, or even a collaborator, that writers can use to generate ideas when they’re stuck or to play around with images or themes that might not otherwise occur to them. Would that make all poets editors of a sort, granting them the task of reshaping, reworking, adding depth and precision—the human element—that we so desire?
Smarter minds than mine have been exploring the potential use and misuse of A.I. systems like ChatGPT for a while, debating what the proper uses of the software may be, what implications it might have on classrooms, workplaces, privacy, and yes, even book publishing. While the potential misuse might be scary to contemplate (copyright issues, plagiarism, and increasingly convincing scams come to mind), frankly, I don’t think there’s a way to put this genie back in the bottle. So we might as well have a bit of careful, creative fun with it.
But if you’re of a mind to avoid computer-generated words, we can help…
What’s happening this month…
We’re still working on printing James Reaney on the Grid, which is a beast—at 320 pages, it’s quite a bit longer than our usual fare, and it approaches the edge of what we’re comfortably able to accommodate on our binding equipment! After that, we’re looking forward to the next issue of our journal of the printing arts, the Devil’s Artisan, issue number 92, featuring printmaker Alex Dempster and his search for authentic Mexican folkloric tradition.
It’s that time of year! We’re looking forward to being back at the Grimsby Public Library and Art Gallery for the 45th annual Grimsby Wayzgoose Book Arts Fair on April 29th. It’s a wonderful chance to meet printmakers, book binders, book artists, and book lovers in general. Be sure to stop by the PQL table to get some of our latest releases.
In the world.
April 11th is National Library Workers’ Day. Visit your local branch and let the librarians, administrators and other staff know that all their hard work has been noticed.
April 25th is World Art Day, a day to appreciate fine arts and the way that they enrich our lives. And we’re not just talking about visual arts like painting or sculpture—we’re talking theatre and cinema, music, architecture and, of course, literature.
Since April is Poetry Month, it’s fitting that the month also hosts Great Poetry Reading Day on April 28th. Celebrate with re-read of a few of your favourite verses, or ask a friend for some recommendations to get you going.
From the porcupette’s corner…
With the alleged spring weather making an appearance (the hail storms and flurries in recent weeks notwithstanding) we have the exciting task of preparing ourselves to attend the upcoming slate of events scheduled to take place in spring and early summer. I’m particularly pleased to be heading back to the Grimsby Wayzgoose, which we’ve unfortunately been unable to attend in person for several years now.
It will also be a treat to climb aboard the train and head back to Word on the Street Toronto, held at Queen’s Park at the end of May. The two-day exhibitor marketplace was quite successful last year, and we’re hoping this year is even more so! Plus, we’ve got the Wellington County Writers’ Festival, now in its sophomore year, to look forward to in June.
This porcupette will be a busy little traveller—it’ll be nice to embark on a road trip or two, so long as the weather behaves itself!
Hope to see some of you out and about at these upcoming spring events. Do say hi and introduce yourself. I always enjoy meeting a fellow book lover!