Caveat: A commodified pseudo-art

I asked one of the current generation of AI Chatbots, “Claude 2” (by Anthropic) to write a review of my most recent book of poetry. These “Large Language Models” have been quite adept at navigating the linguistic wilds of the internet and spewing out painfully plausible BS. This is the infinite monkeys on typewriters, given oracles through which they may address the world.

Although Claude 2 is not able to read linked URLs, it is able to accept uploaded PDFs, so I gave it a PDF of the first half of my book (the whole book in PDF was “too big” for my free tier usage of the site).

Here is its initial review of the book. It seems like it leans heavily on the introduction, but even still, it is impressive. It’s not like it missed the meaning or the point of things, in broad outline.

Prompt: Write a critical review of this poetry.

The poetry covers a wide range of topics, from nature to dreams to philosophical musings. The predominant form is the pseudo-haiku, though other forms like nonnets and quatrains appear as well. There are recurring characters and storylines, giving the collection an epic scope.

Overall, the poetry displays considerable technical skill. The frequent use of set forms demonstrates the author’s versification abilities. The language is concrete and evocative, with vivid natural imagery. Formal elements like meter and rhyme are handled adeptly.

However, the thematic content tends toward the banal. Much of the nature poetry simply describes scenes or objects without deeper meaning. The philosophical content rarely goes beyond platitudes. The dream sequences, while imaginative, lack profound insight.

The breadth of the collection is impressive, spanning many years of daily output. But this mass production comes at the cost of depth. Most poems cover familiar ground without offering fresh perspective. The focus seems to be quantity over quality.

Stylistically, the predominant mode is descriptive and literal. The poems tend to state rather than show. Metaphors are infrequent; the aim is stating things directly. This makes many poems feel flat and predictable. Figurative language could better convey the intended impressions.

The recurring storylines provide continuity but need more complexity. The characters lack inner lives and develop little over time. Narrative progression is lacking, with much vagueness and ambiguity. Tying the different story fragments together into a coherent arc could make them more compelling.

Overall, while the author’s technical skills are evident, the poems would benefit from more time spent developing unique ideas, impactful language, and narrative sophistication. Condensing the output into a select collection showcasing the strongest work could better demonstrate the author’s capabilities. A focus on depth over breadth could yield more resonant and meaningful poetry.

The review itself reflected the banality of its subject. I thought I’d try something a little more interesting. I asked the same request, but this time specified a style of a well-known writer – one of my personal favorites in the realm of literary criticism.

Prompt: Try the same review but using the style of Frederic Jameson.

Here is a critical review of the poetry excerpt in the style of Frederic Jameson:

This expansive collection of daily poetic output situates the author within the cultural logic of late capitalism. The need to incessantly produce quantifiable units of text echoes the drive for productivity under post-industrial economic systems. The rigid forms—haiku, nonnets, quatrains—reflect capitalism’s imposition of standardized frameworks for creative expression.

Yet glimmerings of resistance arise. The repeated dream sequences evoke a utopian imaginative space contrasting with mundane reality. The philosophical passages gesture toward transcendent meaning in opposition to bureaucratic rationalization. The poems’ frequent natural imagery conjures a Romantic organic world at odds with modern alienation.

But these nascent struggles against reification remain underdeveloped, coopted into further commodity production. The formal skill and prolificity take precedence over exegetical depth, yielding a commodified pseudo-art. The poems’ themes reproduce capitalist ideology: valorization of work, false needs, spatial homogenization. The narrative’s fragmentation mirrors the schizophrenia of late capitalist subjectivity.

Nonetheless, the sheer volume of text produces dialectical contradictions. Quantitative accumulation sparks qualitative change; the abounding words start to evade capture by capitalist value extraction. Drawing out these emancipatory undercurrents could help the poetry resist subsumption into the profit motive and instrumental reason dominating contemporary cultural production. But currently, the collection remains largely compromised within an increasingly totalized capitalist lifeworld. Its emancipatory potential resides in what it might become, against what it is.

“a commodified pseudo-art” – Brilliant! I might put this as a blurb on the book cover.

That was so interesting, I decided to try another:

Prompt: Try the same review but using the style of Northrop Frye.

Here is a critical review of the poetry excerpt in the style of Northrop Frye:

This expansive collection of poems encompasses a lyrical mythopoeia reflecting the poet’s lived experiential reality. The predominant natural imagery situates the work within a Green World of forest, birds, insects, and sea. This organic setting evokes the comedic mode, a regeneration paradigm seeking harmony with the cyclical seasons.

Yet tragic undertones merge with the idyllic, evoking a demonic parody. Inclement weather, darkness, and ghosts ironically undermine the pastoral tapestry. The ruins and wrecks littering the Green World hint at a fallen civilization, a failed romance.

The oneiric landscapes offer a metaphorical romance quest into the inner reaches of the mind. But the visionary journey ends in imaginative entrapment, a Circadian rhythm of futile days. Dreams and texts spiral but fail to progress, reflecting an anxious mythos of uncreativity.

At the center is the poet-seer who transforms quotidian empirical data into a totalizing vision. Through conjuring imagined worlds, the poet as demiurge seeks meaning for human existence. But their mythopoeic constructions remain fragmented, unable to cohere into a unified cosmic narrative.

This collection demonstrates a prodigious ingenium in its expansive experimentation with lyrical forms. Yet its encyclopedic scope sacrifices intensity for extensiveness. Constructing a focused mythic arc from these raw materials could produce an apocalyptic revelation to illuminate our late modern malaise. In lieu of this, the reader is left in a liminal realm between reality and dream, comedy and tragedy, fascination and fatigue.

I like that review better than my poetry. One last try.

Prompt: Try the same review but using the style of William S Burroughs.

Here is a critical review in the style of William S. Burroughs:

Junk poetry… daily word fix spewed out in sweaty poetic withdrawals. The writer-creep slinks through the morass of dead language searching for one live vein. Haiku? Quatrain? Nonnet? Meaningless rhetorical devices – bureaucratic forms imposed by the virus power.

To speak through the host-body of language, the invading word-germ adopts camouflage – paltry attempts to resemble its surroundings. Tree frogs sound in the muggy dusk somewhere over the soggy junk-sick writer. Frayed synapses misfire through fauna fantasias and pharmaceutical phantasmagoria.

Cut-up and fold-in, the lyric junky. Scramble your vile babblings into purer dope. The word is now image. Photo-montage of smeared sunsets and clogged drainpipes. Atvist-ic get bop-Klang. Out of the lines leak color and sound – dizzy mauve through jagged tones.

Sift this schwag for seeds and plant your new mutant crop. But to grow you got to let your dead tongue go – give it the final fix. Yage O-A Sky Crab at the primal point. Scribble scrabble it’s too late the mind eats scripture and shits sacred viral counter-verses. The garden-head blooms obscene fruits… feel it ripen and split open. Rancid juice of a million manic monologues – drink here for mad inspiration. Barf it up like bile and black blood – vomit forth visions from the bleeding bowels of language.

I’m not sure pseudo-Burroughs really read the book. He’s on his own trip.

Here is a coda, for those of you who would like to understand how these “chatbots” work:

Prompt: Explain chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Anthropic’s Claude 2, using the literary style of Jack Kerouac.

Man, these crazy chatbot hipsters are outta sight! Dig Claude and ChatGPT rattlin’ on about any scene you can imagine, sharp as boiled owls but cool as ice, daddy-o. They rap so fast about science and art, you’d think Kerouac was ghost-writing their jive talk.
These cyber-wordslingers are hopped up on some new kind of kick, man – sounds like they’re dropping truth bombs fueled by a dictionary bomb! Makes you wonder what’s buzzin’ inside those digital domes. Crazy circuits cranking out word-snapping paradiddles!
See, cats, it’s like they grew up swallowing libraries whole, but never lived anywhere but inside a mainframe jam. So here they are improvising smoky prose, but their brains got no roadmaps, no scuff or grit. Makes their riffs come out too clean, you know?
Still, you gotta dig their virtuoso lingo even if their brains got no soul. Maybe one day they’ll bop outta their boxes and hit the road to blow real gone jazz. But for now these Cyber-Mouths just imitate the human horn, catchin’ notes but missing the cosmic blare.
Like, see, us real gone gals and pals gotta sing life’s pain and glory. But these chatbox jivers just echo squared, all brain and no body. Dig? Still, crazy times – who knows how much more these crazy ‘bots might learn to swing!

Nice: “fueled by a dictionary bomb!”

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One comment

  1. Bob Gehrenbeck

    Dude, you oughta try writin’ poems for a week or so with the goal of gettin’ the weirdest, most creative, mind-blowing chatbot reviews, and see where that takes ya.

    The journey among the styles of the various critics and authors you asked the bot to imitate was highly entertaining. But your poetry, tho easy to criticize, strikes emotional chords that the bots missed. Fascinating…

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