The Ocean, The Leaves and AI

Like many people, I've been experimenting with using AI tools to write. In one way or another, AI has been part of my writing practice for decades. I begin using Ray Kurzweil's "Poet's Assistant" ages and ages ago after hearing Christopher Dewdney speaking about it. You could feed it a corpus of a poet's work (I liked Blake's) and then add another corpus (I'd feed it old manuscripts of mine) and then you could get it to generate entire poems, or, even better, to complete sentences. I found it particularly interesting to prompt it with words or phrases that confounded it. "Underwear" isn't in the Blake poems, for example.

I've often used Google Translate, and an N+7 generator, running next through them multiple times and generally trying to exploit the strange corners of the software.

Lately, I've been exploring ChatGPT and GPT-3. With any AI, the trick is to figure out how to give it productive prompts which cause it to respond in interesting ways and hopefully generate something of use. I'm not a purist--I'm happy to take output and edit it. The first example below (and set to music in the video above) The Ocean was created without any signficant editing -- a couple of tiny nips and tucks. The second piece, The Leaves was more substantially edited and I merged two different GPT-3 prompts and results together. I love the idea that you give a prompt to an AI and then the result is kind of like a prompt back to you.

The Ocean


She says this as though it is not what she expected me to say: as though there are many other things I could have said or wanted to say to her, but that I will not say or do because of my own limitations, because of the limits I have imposed upon myself, and the limits I have imposed upon my children, which means she has imposed them too, I think, and we are all bound together in the same way, although in different ways. Our family life has limits, which I do not want to impose upon myself or my children; beyond these limits there are things that cannot be said or done. 


I cannot say that I wish for my children to experience only happy things, for although I want them to be happier than we have been, I do not want them to be shallow and callow and unawakened. I cannot say that I am okay with them suffering and being unhappy, because I am not okay. In truth, I tell her (although I never say it aloud), the only thing I want to do is stand by you, be near you, love you, and make sure that nothing bad ever happens to you. And also I tell her, it's not enough for me to believe that I have affected this world, I want my children to believe that they have affected the world, too. 


Because she has given me life, or because she is leaving me, or because we both know that I could not really say anything else to her. Because I have given her life, or because I am leaving her, or because we both know that she could not really say anything else to me. I am silent for the same reason that there is no such thing as good luck: we are not the ones who have put this world together. 

The Leaves

Grandpa is the biggest and grandmother is the smallest. Together, they walk through the snow as if it were nothing. However, when it comes time to pick up a fallen leaf, grandma picks it up with her tiny little fork and grandpa picks it up with his big, big lips. 

Now busdriver Daryl gets lost in the snow while driving tiny tiny five-pin bowler children. He isn’t concerned because his mysterious past and excellent sense of smell give him a knack for navigating dark and treacherous paths.

Eventually, Daryl and the children come across a cabin. Darryl knocks and an old man opens the door. He is a retired five-pin bowler and has everything they need, from warm blankets to poisoned hot chocolate. The children are excited because they have never tasted such delicious hot chocolate before. They fall like leaves to the floor.

Back home, Grandma puts dishes in her tiny little sink while Grandpa washes them with his big, big lips. They know something is wrong at the old man’s cabin and again walk through the snow as it were nothing. Grandpa catches Daryl and his bus between his big big lips. Grandmother sticks her fork into the dark and treacherous paths of the retired five-pin bowler’s heart. Because she has lost her fork, she makes herself an entirely new set with the children’s tiny little bones while Grandpa spits Daryl somewhere mysterious. Grandpa has a knack for doing this.