Monday, February 6, 2023

ChatGPT’s twenty-line poems

I asked ChatGPT to produce twenty-line poems in the styles of major American poets. A number of tentative conclusions: ChatGPT has difficulty distinguishing “in the style of” from a hazy idea of subject matter. And ChatGPT assumes that almost all poets write in quatrains of iambic tetrameter, with clumsy rhymes and inspirational messages. At times I was reminded of the calypso section of John Ashbery’s “Variations, Calypso and Fugue on a Theme of Ella Wheeler Wilcox”:

Gazing at the Alps was quite a sight
I felt the tears flow forth with all their might

A climb to the Acropolis meant a lot to me
I had read the Greek philosophers you see
Here are the exhibits. Chat GPT didn’t provide titles for its poems. You may provide a laugh track.

With Emily Dickinson, Chat GPT appeared unable to distinguish “in the style of” from “about”:
A life of simplicity,
With words that cut like knife,
Her thoughts, so deep and true,
Still echo through the time.

Her spirit, wild and free,
Her verse, a mystery,
A world of insight and power,
A soul that feels no cower.

A heart that knew true pain,
A mind that sought refuge in verse,
A voice that spoke of love, loss,
And truths that we still traverse.

Her quill, a tool of grace,
Her words, a healing place,
For those who seek a meaning,
Her legacy, still gleaming.

So let us raise a glass,
To Emily, our guiding star,
Whose words still touch our hearts,
And will forever be a part.
ChatGPT has a little information about Gertrude Stein:
Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,
A simple statement that everyone knows,
It’s a symbol of beauty and grace,
A color that brings a smile to our face.

But words and their meanings are complex,
And the truth of what we say is often vexed,
So we repeat and repeat with care,
To make sure the meaning is always there.

And Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,
A reminder of all that nature bestows,
A symbol of life, and its constant flow,
Of growth and renewal, in rain or in snow.

So we hold tight to the words we say,
And the truth that they hold, every day,
For Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,
And its meaning will never, ever, go.
Wallace Stevens GPT exhorts us to cherish and bask in beauty:
The world is a dream, a mirage of hue,
A dance of shadows, a play of light and dew.
Its beauty lies in the eye of the beholder,
A kaleidoscope of colors, forever bolder.

The sky is a canvas, a masterpiece of blue,
The clouds, a symphony, a chorus of hues.
The trees sway in the breeze, like an endless show,
A gentle rhythm, a song of life that flows.

The stars shine like diamonds, in the endless night,
A constellation of wonders, so distant, so bright.
The moon is a mystery, a story untold,
A whisper of secrets, that forever unfold.

So let us embrace this world with open hearts,
With grace and wonder, with joy and art.
Let us cherish its beauty, its mystery and might,
And bask in its splendor, till the end of light.
ChatGPT has enough information about William Carlos Williams to produce a poem about a red wheelbarrow while avoiding meter and rhyme. But that’s about all it has:
The red wheelbarrow
Glazed with rainwater
beside the white chickens.
A simple thing,
yet so much depends
on its functional grace.
The tool of the farmer,
carrying weight with ease,
rolling through fields of green.
A symbol of hard work,
of the toil and sweat
that brings sustenance to life.
Without the wheelbarrow,
the farm would grind to a halt,
leaving only emptiness.
But with it, the earth yields
a bounty to be shared,
nourishing body and soul.
So let us give thanks
for the red wheelbarrow,
a humble hero of the land.
Langston Hughes GPT has “heard the blues.” He too wants us to appreciate beauty. Because poets love beauty:
Verse 1:
I’ve seen the sunset, orange and gold
Over fields of cotton, the story untold
Of those who worked the land, in scorching sun
    and rain
With calloused hands, they toiled, they sought to

For I am a child of the earth, so rich and so bold
With a spirit unbroken, a soul that won’t fold
I sing for the weary, the tired, the worn
For the ones who’ve been burdened, it’s a brand
    new morn

Verse 2: I’ve heard the blues, the lament of the night
With a voice that’s so sorrowful, but filled with
For it tells of the struggles, the pain, the strife
Of a people seeking justice, a better life

For I am, &c.

Verse 3:
I’ve walked the streets, of cities so bright
With neon lights, and the sounds of the night
For the Harlem Renaissance, it was a time of pride
With artists and writers, who sought to defy the tide

For I am, &c.

So let my voice echo, through the streets and the
For all to hear, for all to realize
The beauty in life, the beauty in rhyme
For a brighter tomorrow, for a future that’s truly
John Ashbery GPT also encourages us to appreciate beauty. And look — he’s plagiarizing Wallace Stevens GPT:
The world is a strange and shifting place,
A maze of colors, sounds, and shapes.
Its mysteries are infinite, untold,
A labyrinth of secrets waiting to unfold.

The trees sway in the wind, the rivers flow,
The sky is vast, and the clouds aglow.
The world is a never-ending surprise,
A constant change, a flicker in the eyes.

But even in this chaos, there is peace,
A stillness that whispers, a gentle release.
The world is a tapestry, woven with care,
A masterpiece of life, beyond compare.

So let us embrace this world with open arms,
With wonder and grace, with joy and charm.
Let us cherish its beauty, its secrets untold,
And bask in its radiance, till we grow old.
Frank O’Hara GPT wants to stay in the city:
I am walking down the street,
The city’s lights shining bright,
I hear the sounds of cars and feet,
As people hurry through the night.

I feel the wind blow through my hair,
And see the stars up in the sky,
It's moments like this I can’t compare,
This feeling makes me want to fly.

I think of all the friends I’ve made,
The memories that will last a lifetime,
And I’m so grateful that I’ve stayed,
In this place that’s always been so kind.

I see the city’s endless rows,
Of buildings tall and grand,
And I know that everyone knows,
This is where they want to stand.

So I’ll keep walking down the street,
With a smile upon my face,
And I’ll remember this moment sweet,
This time and this place.
And then I wondered: what if I tried an unmajor poet? Here’s Amanda Gorman GPT:
Verse 1:
Amidst the night, I stand so tall
With words that carry weight, words that will
My voice a beacon, a lighthouse in the sea
Of doubts and fears, it’s a symbol of freedom,
    you’ll see

For I am a child of the earth and its fire
With a spirit unbreakable, a soul that won’t tire
I speak for the silenced, the broken, the torn
For the ones who’ve been crushed, it’s a brand new

Verse 2:
My pen is mightier than the sword they say
With each word I write, I pave a brighter way
For those who’ve been oppressed, I am their voice
With my words I heal, with my words I rejoice

For I am a child of the earth, &c.

Verse 3:
The world is listening, and I won’t be still
With every rhyme, every line, I will uplift and heal
For I know what it’s like to live in pain
But now I rise, now I soar, and I won’t refrain

For I am a child of the earth, &c.

So let my voice echo far and wide
For all to hear, for all to take pride
In the power of words, the power of rhyme
For a brighter tomorrow, for a future that’s truly
With that chorus, Amanda Gorman GPT is ripping off Langston Hughes GPT. And Gorman GPT repeats the same curious verse-chorus-outro structure. But that structure isn’t reserved for Black poets. T.S. Eliot GPT uses it too:
In the still of the night, I hear the city moan
With the sounds of the traffic, a symphony alone
For the city is alive, with a life of its own
And the shadows they dance, to a rhythm unknown

For I am a part of the world, a part of the scene
With a mind that’s so restless, a soul that’s so lean
I wander the streets, in a daze and a trance
In search of the truth, in search of a chance

Verse 2:
In the heart of the city, I see the people move
With a pace that’s so frantic, they’ve got nothing to
For the city is a maze, with a life that’s so cruel
And the ones who get lost, they’re just another fool

For I am a part of the world, &c.

Verse 3:
In the mind of the city, I feel the emptiness grow
With the weight of the world, it’s a burden I know
For the city is a world, with a life that’s so low
And the ones who find peace, they’re just letting
    it go

For I am a part of the world, &c.

So let my words flow, with a rhythm so pure
For all to hear, for all to endure
For a world that’s so bleak, for a world that’s so true
For a future that’s bright, for a future that’s brand
I was hoping for “A future that’s bright, for me and for you.” I guess I’ll have to write my own poem.


When I showed Elaine these bot efforts, she suggested trying Charles Bukowski. Why hadn’t I thought of him? Perhaps because I sold my Bukowski books some years ago.

Beneath the streetlights, I stand and ponder,
Of all the drinks I’ve had, the nights I’ve squandered.
With worn out shoes, and a broken soul,
I roam the streets, seeking a new goal.

The city is alive, with neon lights,
And laughter ringing in the endless nights.
I walk the alleys, with a bottle in hand,
Looking for solace, in this lonely land.

The raindrops fall, like tears from above,
As I remember the women I’ve loved.
With lipstick stains, on cigarette butts,
I find comfort, in my drunken ruts.

I write my thoughts, in a crumpled notebook,
Of life on the edge, and the streets I took.
With every word, I pour out my heart,
And hope to capture, what tears me apart.

So I’ll keep drinking, and I’ll keep writing,
Until I find meaning, in this endless fighting.
For in the words, and in the whiskey’s flow,
I’ll find redemption, and a way to grow.

Even Bukowski ends with a message of hope. On his gravestone though: “DON’T TRY.”

Related posts
A 100-word blog post generated by ChatGPT : I’m sorry too, ChatGPT : Spot the bot : Teachers and chatbots : Imaginary lines from real poems : ChatGPT writes about Lillian Mountweazel : Rob Zseleczky on computer-generated poetry

Rob Zseleczky on computer-generated poetry

I often go searching for the past online. And thus I found (via Google Books) a letter about the possibilities of computer-generated poetry by my friend Rob Zseleczky, published in the February 1983 issue of the computer magazine Byte. Strange: a few days ago I took screenshots of the pages with the letter and did some cutting and pasting to make a column of text. And now this issue of Byte is available only in Snippet view.

[Rob Zseleczky, “Computer Poetry: Art or Craft?” Byte, February 1983.]

The key passage, to my mind:

An artist may draw upon any or all of his life’s history in order to pass judgment on a single word. His intellect, his moral integrity, his honesty, his passion, his love, his hope, his hate, his fear, his skepticism, his faith — in short, the sum of the poet’s whole existence gives him the ability to make artistic judgments. And a sense of tradition supports the artist’s individuality, which includes his powers of artistic discernment. Thus, in our ever-changing, prone-to-forgetfulness world, the popularity of computers is assured, but computers still lack what Keats called “the knowledge of contrast, feeling for light and shade, all that information (primitive sense) necessary for a poem.”

If you could accurately enter your whole life into a computer without leaving the minutest fact out, then the computer could possess a chance of becoming artistic. But even then the computer would have to be considered the protégé of its programmer. For now, computers may be profitably used as electronic thesauri, as servants to the new craft of electronic poetry-writing. As far as the art of poetry is concerned, computers will have to wait.
Right on, Rob. Judging by the poems I ordered up from ChatGPT this past weekend, computers are still waiting.

Related reading
Rob Zseleczky (1957–2013) : All RZ posts

Sunday, February 5, 2023

O.B. Rude Drug Co.

[O.B. Rude Drug Co. 5003 Fifth Avenue, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Looking at this photograph, I went back and forth: Rude’s, Rex, Rude’s, Rex. I decided to go with Rude’s Drugs — I like how its sign (look closely) turns R into Rx. And it’s just as well, because after looking into Rude’s Drugs, I couldn’t find a thing about Rex Repairs. If it’s Rex Shoe Repair Service, as I suspect it it, the owner declared bankruptcy on April 13, 1940.

The O.B. Rude Drug Co. had a much longer life. Ola B. Rude established a pharmacy at this address in 1908. He and two partners incorporated the business in 1919. In 1931 and 1932 Rude ran the same ad again and again in Brooklyn newspapers:

[Brooklyn Times-Union, December 7, 1931.]

A Norske Apotek? A Norwegian pharmacy. Wikipedia: “Until the early 1970s, Bay Ridge was dominated by its Norwegian community.”

Rude died in October 1931, as reported in a compilation of Brooklyn deaths in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He left $10 to his wife Evelyn, who left him in 1927. Two sisters in Norway received $1000 each. Everything else — what the paper called “the residue” — went to Rude’s son Christopher.

In 1938, a new advertisement:

[The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 2, 1938.]

In 1955 and 1956 Christopher — now Christoffer — appeared in the Bay Ridge Home Reporter in photographs of gatherings of Scandinavian-American Business Association.

[Bay Ridge Home Reporter, March 127, 1955.]

And here’s a photograph of the younger Rude with a fancy cake.

Rude Drug was still going as late as 1960. Here’s a story with an unusual headline. Do click for Mixtura Brita and more:

[“Norwegian Compounds in Aura of Old Bklyn.” Bay Ridge Home Reporter, November 4, 1960. Click for a readable view.]

No wonder the store was still going. It gave good service:

[The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 30, 1931.]

Here is the final item I discovered, a brief biography with a photograph:

[Norske utvandrere og forretningsdrivende i Amerika: Utgis som minde i anledning av hundreaaret for den Norske indvandring til Amerika [Norwegian emigrants and business operators in America: Published as a commemoration on the occasion of the centennial of the Norwegian immigration to America] New York and Oslo: J. Burner, 1927.]

A translation, via DeepL, Google Translate, and a small bit of sprachgefühl:

Ola Bertram Rude was born on June 12, 1875 in Drammen, the son of the late photographer Rude. He departed from Oslo on May 27, 1902 and arrived in New York on his birthday. Immediately after his arrival he was employed as manager of a pharmacy in Brooklyn. After six years, in 1908, he bought his own pharmacy and established himself at 5003 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, where he still does business. Rude graduated as a pharmacist from the University of Oslo and is the only Norwegian-graduated pharmacist in the eastern states. He has one of the largest and best Norwegian pharmacies in America, and is noted for his conscientious efficiency and thorough knowledge of his profession.
He might also be noted for a more than slight resemblance to the actor Thomas Mitchell.

The Rude stretch of commerce — one side of one Brooklyn block — gives a nice sense of urban retail density. On the corner, Kane’s Men’s Clothing, followed by Rude’s, Rex Repairs, The Bargain Center, Merit Shoes, Leonard’s Meat Market, Weisslite Paints, O’Malley’s Tavern, P. Gleicher Floor Coverings, a Paints and Hardware store, S & L Public Market, and Fancy Fruit & Vegetables.

Google Maps shows no. 5003 for sale in 2022. Before that it was a Party Fair store.

Related reading
More OCA posts with photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Stella Zawitowski, is a toughie. It took me half an hour, with the greatest difficulty in the northwest and southeast. I kept looking and looking at clues, “Over and over and over and . . .” (30-D, ten letters). And eventually answers turned up, correct ones. Much difficulty, little joy, save for 37-A.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

2-D, ten letters, “‘Fighting fuel’ of WWII.” I thought it had to be a foodstuff.

18-A, ten letters, “Craft presaged by da Vinci.” My first thought was HELICOPTER. I have to nitpick: the name is Leonardo. A helpful editor at the British Journal of Aesthetics once turned my da Vinci into Leonardo, and I have never forgotten.

28-D, five letters, “Part of a vegan crunchy sandwich.” I can’t imagine it, but if you say so.

31-D, ten letters, “Trash-talk.” I took a shot, thinking No, that can’t be. But it was.

33-A, five letters, “Domelike dispenser.” A bit farfetched.

34-A, nine letters, “Guy a la mode?” See 33-A.

38-A, nine letters, “Ear or eye.” Good clueing.

42-A, five letters, “Nickname on a singer’s ’72 40 Across album.” A lot of work to figure out these five letters, even knowing that 40-A, five letters, “First.”

51-A, eight letters, “Major trading partner of Turkey.” Next they’ll be asking for principal exports.

52-D, four letters, “Power source of little power.” Really?

My favorite in this puzzle: 37-A, five letters, “Get the 411, once.” So hard to see, these days.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, February 3, 2023

“The witty outsider”?

On the PBS NewsHour, David Brooks just characterized Donald Trump** in 2016 as “sort of the witty outsider.” Wut?

Three more posts about Brooks
He misunderstands the term SNOOT : He says that everyone in the 1980s wanted “more integration and less bigotry” : On Bono’s “raucous go-go”

[Two asterisks: two impeachments.]

From Cartoons

A teaser, not a spoiler. Jeffrey Cartwright will go on to provide an extended summary of Cartoons.

Steven Millhauser, Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943–1954, by Jeffrey Cartwright (1972).

If this passage isn’t enough to move someone to read the novel, I don’t know what is.

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Another ChatGPT fail

From a 500-word ChatGPT production:

Lillian Mountweazel was a famous photographer and sculptor in the 20th century. She was born in Bangs, Ohio, on May 11, 1942 and died in an explosion on August 2, 1973, while on assignment for a photographic encyclopedia. Mountweazel’s work was known for its unusual themes and the inventive use of light and shadows, and was a major influence on the American art scene of the 1960s and 1970s.
Hundreds of words follow. But what ChatGPT doesn’t understand is that Lillian Mountweazel was not a real person. I won’t tell if you won’t.

The Lillian Virginia Mountweazel Research Collection has much more about Mountweazel’s life and work.

Related posts
A 100-word blog post generated by ChatGPT : I’m sorry too, ChatGPT : Spot the bot : Teachers and chatbots : Imaginary lines from real poems

Thursday, February 2, 2023


Edwin courts the mysterious and sometimes terrifying Rose Dorn. A partial inventory.

Steven Millhauser, Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943–1954, by Jeffrey Cartwright (1972).

Does Steven Millhauser understand certain varieties of American childhood? Does he ever.

This passage made me think of Drake’s clickers, little toys once included in boxes of Drake’s cakes. And my goodness — there are Drake’s clickers for sale at eBay.

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

“Raucous go-go”

You know what Robert Caro says: Turn every page. Thus I found myself looking at a David Brooks profile of Bono in the December Atlantic, “The Too-Muchness of Bono.” For your consideration:

Rowing for heaven by day and drinking with superstars by night — Bono’s spiritual adventure is the greatest high-wire act in show business. You can’t help wondering which way he’ll go. Will he be ruled by his rage or his compassion? Can he find inner stillness amid the raucous go-go of his life? Can he keep his focus on the celestial spheres when the people on the beach at Nice are so damn sexy? Can he die to self, or has his permanent tendency toward self-seriousness and pomposity become too great? If the guy is so concerned with his soul, why did he spend so much time writing about his hair? The ultimate questions at the center of it all are the same ones that have haunted American history: Can you be great and also good? Can you serve the higher realm while partying your way through this one?
And while I think of it, I’ll recommend the David Brooks episode of Michael Hobbes and Peter Shamshiri’s podcast If Books Could Kill. I’ll recommend all the other episodes too.

Two more posts about Brooks
He misunderstands the term SNOOT : He says that everyone in the 1980s wanted “more integration and less bigotry”

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Beauty , defined, undefined

The CEO of Coty, Sue Y. Nabi, is writing to dictionaries to encourage new definitions of beauty. There is of course a hashtag: #beautyundefined. Nabi is quoted in Harper’s Bazaar:

“Of course, not all people are impacted by, or feel excluded by these definitions. But the implicit ageism and sexism in the examples were born in a different time. We believe it’s time to bridge the gap — time to bring the definition to where society is today. By changing the definition, if more people feel included — feel beautiful — there will be a ripple effect which touches us all.”

It [the campaign] doesn’t suggest a specific alternative, though. “At Coty, we believe that no one can control or dictate what is, or is not, beautiful,” Nabi says. Indeed, the campaign aims to “undefine” rather than simply “redefine” beauty, so that no one feels excluded by the definition or examples that accompany it.
There’s a certain incoherence in this effort: is the call for new definitions, or no definitions?

Merriam-Webster’s entry for beauty includes this definition and sample sentences:
: a beautiful person or thing
His new car’s a real beauty.

especially : a beautiful woman
She was a great beauty in her day.
And from the American Heritage Dictionary entry :
One that is beautiful, especially a beautiful woman.
The ageism of “in her day” could easily be excised. But the especially is reasonable: it is the case that the words beauty and beautiful have more often described women than men. And it’s important to notice that neither dictionary states what constitutes beauty. M-W :
the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit
And AHD :
a quality or combination of qualities that gives pleasure to the mind or senses and is often associated with properties such as harmony of form or color, proportion, authenticity, and originality
Does Nabi realize that these definitions apply not just to people but to art, music, &c.? Either way, there’s something risible about the head of a cosmetics conglomerate pushing for a redefinition — or undefinition — of beauty.

Don’t miss the photograph that accompanies the Harper’s Bazaar article, showing models wearing lots of makeup. At least one model appears to be wearing colored contact lenses.

A related post
Being wrong about beauty