Can AI Write Shakespeare? I ask artificial intelligence to write me a sonnet


Can AI write Shakespeare?

For, sometime now I’ve wanted to write my own Shakespeare Sonnet. I keep putting it off. Why? Perhaps I love Shakespeare too much? When this week’s W3 Weekly Prompt hosted by Denise DeVries invited us to use AI to write the first line of a poem up to 19 lines long. I thought, aha! Now might be the hour when I ‘doth’ write my sonnet? With the help of a computer, I shall write it!

Poem Generator

The first site I try is a Poem Generator suggested by the prompt.
There are several poetic options on the Home page. I click on the Sonnet icon as I want to write a sonnet. 
I want to write a poem about sailboats sailing downwind in a pink sunset. The colour pink is important to me as you can see from my photo—the sky is a deep pink. Okay, it has orange hues in it as well, but my memory from standing on the beach watching the yachts with their spinnakers under full sail… is that the sky is pink!

Sailboats at Sunset, Normans Bay | Photo©️Lesley Scoble

I enter some simple details into the poem generator, asking it to write a sonnet about sailing boats in a pink sunset.
Here is one quatrain that it came up with:

An Ode to a Sailboat

How do I love you? Let me count the ways.
I love your rough colour, water and salt.
Thinking of your pink water fills my days.
My love for you is the stink anawalt.

Shaky William January 2023

Stink isn’t a word I had in mind for my first sonnet. Is stink the only word that rhymes with pink? (I don’t think so). I won’t ask what anawalt is.

Powerful writing tool

I realise AI is a powerful tool. Writers and artists are in danger of being usurped and replaced by AI. It can do a lot of writing (and painting). All in a blink of the cursor. 
It is fun reading the variations it comes up with, but I spend so long with the technology and lose the will to live (not a Shakespeare pun). In the end, I decide I’m not keen on the Poem Generator. I hear of another programme called ChatGPT and investigate it.

WRITE ME A SONNET

I sign up and ask ChatGPT to write me a sonnet. I type this instruction into the new programme on my computer:
Write a Shakespearean Sonnet about a Pink sunset, golden sea, blue spinnaker sail on a sailing boat.
… within seconds I get this response (the title is my own).

Blue Sail in the Pink Sunset

Pink skies at sunset, golden sea below,
A blue spinnaker billows in the breeze,
A sailing boat that dances to and fro,
A sight that takes the breath and heart with ease.

The pink hues of the sky are like a bloom,
That spreads its beauty far and wide above,
The golden sea reflects the setting moon,
A scene of splendour, pure and full of love.

The blue spinnaker, like a bird in flight,
Adds movement to this tranquil, peaceful scene,
A symphony of colours, all so bright,
A canvas painted by the master, serene. 

Oh, let this moment linger in my mind,
A memory of beauty, pure and kind.

Shaky William January 2023

I quite like this version but I don’t like the use of serene. It also adds one syllable too many. To me, serene may rhyme with scene, but it ruins lyrical flow.
I click the regenerate response button again, and within a blink of the cursor it comes up with this:–

Upon a pink and golden sea, 
A sailing boat doth gently glide, 
With spinnaker sail of azure hue, 
Soaring towards the setting sun’s side.

The sky doth blush with hues of rose, 
As day doth slowly fade away, 
And in the gentle ocean’s prose, 
The boat doth softly seem to play.

The sail doth catch the wind’s sweet breath, 
And guides the boat on its fair course, 
Through waves that dance a graceful wreath, 
Towards the horizon’s distant source.

And as the sun doth sink below, 
The pink and gold doth softly glow.

Shaky William January 2023

Hmm, it has nice moments in it, but is there an overuse of the word doth? Still, it’s a sonnet of sorts, is it not? What dost thou think? Doth it compose a sonnet well?

How do I feel about this exercise in this amazing technology?

I have now read many versions of the brief that I fed the computer. How do I feel about the instant sonnets that are generating on the screen? How do I select the one line that will inspire me to begin my own hard earned, hand crafted human version?
I feel depressed. Confused, frustrated and bemused. Is the computer a better writer? Can it write a sonnet better than I can ever hope?
What do I do about it? Do I give up? 
I look at the computer screen. I tell myself that the AI programme is a tool. It is a writing aid to help me
I suspect that Artificial Intelligence is the writer and I am not.
Instead of it being my tool—am I a tool for it?

I gaze into the screen at the blinking cursor. It is waiting…

My choice for the first line of my poem

I’ve taken too long auditioning the many versions for my first line. I need to select a line to be the first line of my poem. At last, I narrow it down to a choice from this quatrain.

The deep pink hues of sunset paint the sky, 
A brilliant canvas for the sailor’ art, 
As they run before the wind, they fly, 
With beauty and with skill they play their part

Shaky William January 2023

I examine the third line. This line describes best how I feel when I go sailing my little dinghy under a full spinnaker sail. I think, yes, this is the line I shall use in my own original sonnet. Hang on a minute! Isn’t a sonnet supposed to have ten syllables per line? I count the syllables again. There appear to be only nine syllables. AI seems to allow lines of between 8 to 10 syllables. Have I discovered a flaw in AI? 

I look again at the AI quatrain. I like the other lines too. How can I change it to be my own? How can I write my own words without plagiarising or being influenced by AI? 
Anyway, I’m running out of time to write my sonnet. I select a computer generated line which is to be the first line of my poem and sit down to write my sonnet.

It’s time to write my sonnet!

I don’t write my sonnet (what a surprise). 
I begin by writing the computer generated first line… but then… I end up having a bit of a chat with the bard himself.

A chat with Will Shakespeare

A Chat with Will Shakespeare | Photo: B. Perkin
The deep pink hues of sunset paint the sky…

What next?

A brilliant canvas for the sailor’ art,

I sigh,
Is that a good start?
I put down my pen
Then, 
I try to think of what comes next?
I’m vexed.
I rant and I rave,
(‘tis no way to behave)
I eat my bonnet
and tear at my hair
I can’t write a sonnet!
it’s really not fair!
I don’t think I can,
And I never will.
Will I, will I, will I, Will?
Do you  think I might?
Will?
What d’ya say?

(to my surprise,
he replies)

Yes you can, yes you will! says Will.

(Oh, right!)

Maybe not yet, 
Maybe not today.
Maybe not tonight.
But I’m willing to bet
That you will, somehow.
Anyhow,
I will tell you how.
It’s not hard
Sayeth the bard
But hey! 
Why are you writing on a computer?
What type of teacher is that!
What sort of tutor?

You’re right, 
I hear what you say, Will.
I will shop today without fail.
Go get some parchment, 
A large quaff of ale,
And an old feathered quill.

That’s good, said Will.




Lesley Scoble    January 2023

Oh, no! I’ve just realised my poem, A Chat with Will Shakespeare, is over 19 lines. Oh dear. This means I disobey the rules of the prompt. Apologies Denise. I’ve spent so long on the computer playing with AI it has addled my brain. Can I ask AI to shorten this overlong rhyme into 19 lines? What might it come up with? Hmm?

I have an idea! I’ll ask the computer to write me a haiku! A haiku is only three lines. I might have time to write two of them?

WRITE ME A HAIKU

This time, I type my instructions into the computer asking the AI to write the first line of a haiku.
Write the first line of a haiku poem about a pink sunset, golden sea and sailboat with a blue spinnaker
The cursor blinks and then comes up with this line:— Pink sunset on sea
Now all I need to do is write two lines! How hard can it be?

Pink sunset on sea
Golden sea reflects the hues
Blue sail catches breeze

Lesley Scoble in collaboration with artificial intelligence. January 2023
Spinnaker sails in a pink sunset | Photo: Lesley Scoble
My thanks to David, W3 Weekly Prompt and my thanks to Denise DeVries, Poet of the Week for her most challenging prompt.

13 responses to “Can AI Write Shakespeare? I ask artificial intelligence to write me a sonnet”

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