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Amazing Poetic Tech

Now you can write poems, personally guided by classic poets, through Google’s AI poetry tool

The tech supergiant Google is known to thrive on innovations, and its latest offering promises to blur the lines between literature and technology. Till now we had Art joining hands with Artificial Intelligence, and also Music. Now it is the turn for Poetry to get an AI boost. “Verse by Verse” is the latest Google innovation. It is an AI-driven tool in which one can choose to collaborate with classic American poets to co-author poems. The verse output will match the creative style of the respective American poet one selects out of a shortlist offered by the tool.

In its own blog, Google describes this offering as an “…experiment using AI to augment the creative process of composing a poem. It will offer ideas that you can use, alter, or reject as you see fit. Verse by Verse is a creative helper, an inspiration—not a replacement.… … Using Verse by Verse, you can compose a poem with suggestions coming from some of America’s classic poets: Dickinson, Whitman, Poe, Wheatley, Longfellow and others. In order to make this possible, we’ve trained AI systems that provide suggestions in the style of each individual poet to act as your muses while you compose a poem of your own.”

Yes, the poem will be your own and you can alter, edit, rewrite whatever the tool suggests so that it suits your vision or message or matches the stanza you intend to compose. The AI would suggest – but you take the final decision as the author. That is what the blog means by the tool being a “creative helper, an inspiration—not a replacement.” You can select up to three poets as your muses, analyse the verse suggestion offered by each against your own output, and then opt for the one you deem the most suitable. You may also reject all suggestions and continue with your own composition if none seems appropriate.

Figure 1:Ongoing composition in “Verse by Verse output. Image courtesy: Google

The application is really simple. First you need to select the classic poets whose style you want to follow. You may select up to a maximum of three poets from the choices on offer. The system will let you preview each of the poet’s style through samples of their writings to help make your decision. Then you will be prompted to select the form and the structure of the poem you are about to compose: couplet, quatrain, free verse, poem length, rhyming scheme, and the like. Now for the real stuff! You have to write the first line of the proposed work on your own; that is the first verse. Once that is done, the “Verse by Verse” algorithm will suggest possible options for the second line – Verse 2 – based on the muse you had selected. If you have selected more than one poet as your muse, options for that line will be provided from all of them. The Google blog categorically specifies that these suggestions “are not the original lines of verse the poets had written, but novel verses generated to sound like lines of verse the poets could have written.” You either choose one of the suggestions, or edit them to suite your message, or ignore them all and write the line on your own.

Next, you proceed to Verse 3 and again the muses offer suggestions based on the line you had decided for the previous verse, and thus the exercise proceeds till the poem is complete. Once finished, you need to provide a title. The system allows you either to copy your final work as text, or to download the output as an image file.

So how does “Verse by Verse” do all this? As a first step, Google had trained the underlying generative algorithm on a wide range of classic poetry. In the next step, the generative models on each individual poet’s body of work had been fine tuned to capture the essence of the distinctive writing styles. Care has also been taken to ensure that the lines generated do not sound like meaningless combination of words culled from a database on the basis of simple textual matching. To impart context and meaning to the suggested lines, “the system was trained to have a general semantic understanding of what lines of verse would best follow a previous line of verse. So even if you write on topics not commonly seen in classic poetry, the system will try its best to make suggestions that are relevant.”

Figure 2: A “Verse by Verse” output. Image courtesy: Google

The tool works with classic poets and classical styles only – and that is for obvious copyright reasons. Using contemporary works and “in copyright” authors would give rise to innumerable legal complications involving intellectual property and plagiarism. Yet, whatever “Verse by Verse” has achieved is a giant leap for AI and the outputs are fascinating indeed.

If you are interested, do visit the Google blog at https://blog.google/technology/ai/verse-by-verse/

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