Human or machine: can you tell who wrote these poems?

By Mirko Tobias Schaefer [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

NPR has a quiz that invites you to guess which of six poems were written by a computer program, and which were written by humans. A group of 10 judges weren't fooled, but I had trouble correctly guessing all of them. I appreciated the computer-generated poems as much as the human-written ones.

SONNET #2

The dirty rusty wooden dresser drawer. A couple million people wearing drawers, Or looking through a lonely oven door, Flowers covered under marble floors.

And lying sleeping on an open bed. And I remember having started tripping, Or any angel hanging overhead, Without another cup of coffee dripping.

Surrounded by a pretty little sergeant, Another morning at an early crawl. And from the other side of my apartment, An empty room behind the inner wall.

A thousand pictures on the kitchen floor, Talked about a hundred years or more.

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Enormous Smallness – Work hard and you can become a poet (not a message kids often hear)

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Enormous Smallness: The Story of E.E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess Enchanted Lion Books 2015, 64 pages, 8.4 x 11.5 x 0.7 inches $12 Buy a copy on Amazon

Enormous Smallness, written by Matthew Burgess and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo, details the life of poet E.E. Cummings for fans of all ages. From Cummings’s fairly ordinary childhood in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to his adventures in Europe and New York City, the book spans the decades of writing, working, and experiencing the world that made Cummings an extraordinary artist.

The story that emerges is one of a boy who loved observing the world as much as he did participating in it — a boy who said “yes” to everything. As Burgess writes, “Yes to the heart and the roundness of the moon, to birds, elephants, trees, and everything he loved.” But the story doesn’t shy away from the good or the bad, including both the praise and support young Cummings got from his parents and teachers, as well as the negative criticism his first book of poems received.

The message to kids is twofold and clear: one, making art is hard work that requires the same dedication and persistence that any other job does for success. And two, so long as you put in the work, you can be a poet or an artist, too. It’s not a message kids hear often but it’s important. As Cummings said in his Harvard graduation speech, we need artists to challenge the way we see and think. Read the rest

German court bans Erdogan insult poem

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When German chancellor Angela Merkel allowed the prosecution of a comedian who had insulted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, some thought it was strategic: that by doing so, it exposed the country's ancient ban on insulting heads of state to broad legal scrutiny.

A court in Hamburg, however, has now banned most of the insulting poem from being read in public there, further rattling those worried about free speech in Germany.

In Tuesday's ruling the court found that "Erdogan does not have to put up with the expression of certain passages in view of their outrageous content attacking (his) honour."

The court found that such material overstepped the boundaries of decency in attacking the Turkish leader.

[Comedian Jan] Boehmermann has indicated his poem was a response to Ankara's decision to summon Germany's ambassador to protest a satirical song broadcast on German TV which lampooned Erdogan in far tamer language.

This line, from the court, really sums up the problem: "Through the poem’s reference to racist prejudice and religious slander as well as sexual habits, the verses in question go beyond what the petitioner [Erdogan] can be expected to tolerate.”

"Germany's Ai Weiei," Boehmermann's clever self-appellation, has a good ring to it, but is surely inaccurate. How often does China interpret its laws for the tolerance of a foreign head of state? Read the rest

A Fairy Friend: storybook illustrated by a Disney animation legend

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Claire Keene is a legendary Disney animation artist whose work has appeared in Frozen and Tangled; she provides such lively illustrations for children's author Sue Fliess's poem A Fairy Friend that readers are transported to an enchanted world where play and imagination can take you out of this world.

Convincing machine-generated Shakespearean sonnets on-demand

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Tristan Miller and Dave Morice created a website that produces highly-authentic Shakespearean sonnets. The trick: rather than randomly-generated Markov gobbledygook that evokes the flavor while crudely hitting the meter, each generated sonnet reuses whole lines from the body of Shakespeare's poetic work. The results are more convincing, at the cost of more commonplace repetition.

Writes Miller: "unlike some other poetry generators, this one ensures that the poems have the correct rhythm, rhyme scheme, and grammar. Dave first published the method for generating the poems back in 1991, but this is the first time it's been implemented on the Web." Read the rest

Among a Thousand Fireflies: children's book shows the sweet, alien love stories unfolding in our own backyards

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Rick Lieder -- painter, illustrator, photographer, husband of the brilliant novelist/playwright Kathe Koja -- waits ever-so-patiently in his suburban Detroit back-yard with his camera, capturing candid, lively photos of bees, birds, bugs, and now, in a new book of photos with a beautiful accompanying poem by Helen Frost, fireflies.

Watch: AMAZING slam poem about policing women's speech habits

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Melissa Lozada-Oliva's spoken word piece "Like Totally Whatever," performed at the National Poetry Slam 2015, in Oakland, CA. Kick ass. (via Pro Choice America) Read the rest

Morgan Parker's "Other People's Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night"

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The title grabbed me in such a way, I had to buy Morgan Parker's Other People's Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night without reading a single line. I tore through about half the poems, before realizing I was exhausted and emotionally drained.

Parker is an accomplished poet, publisher and creative writing instructor. She builds vivid pictures, and transmits such strong feelings, in so few words, I am thrilled! Parker shares a vivid portrait of life in America, pulling no punches and guided by an unerring moral compass. This collection of poems observes life, from how we use social media to outright discrimination, with an immediacy and power I've rarely found in modern American poetry.

Here one of my favorites (via Pank Magazine):

If My Housemate Fucks With Me I Would Get So Real (Audition Tape Take 1)

I didn’t come here to make friends. Buildings spit their stomachs at me and I spit back, down the sidewalk into a bitch’s hair. I am a forehead careening in clouds, a dirty tree branch brushing against the shingles of the production room. I am groundbreaking: two as one. Brooding tattooed over my art. Otherwise, black. Can do angry, can’t do accents. I need little coaching, provocation. Opinionated and Everything a man wants. Lips and boobs camera-ready. If I hear you’re talking shit about me in your confessional interview, please know seven birds have fallen dead at my feet right out of the sky. I learned this right hook here when I was only six.

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Someone at the Chaos Communications Congress inserted a poem into at least 30 million servers' logfiles

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On December 30th, someone using an IP address from the 32nd Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg sent a probe out to every IPv4 address with an open connection on Port 80, consisting of a poem exhorting the reader to "DELETE your logs. Delete your installations. Wipe everything clean, Walk out into the path of cherry blossom trees and let your motherboard feel the stones." Read the rest

Poetry from a polymath games legend: Raph Koster's "Sunday Poems"

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Game designer Raph Koster is a polymath. A legendary game-designer (Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online, etc), author of one of the seminal texts on game design (A Theory of Fun), visual artist, musician -- and poet.

Listen to William S. Burroughs read Edgar Allen Poe for a PC game

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In 1995, William S. Burroughs was recorded reading of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" and "Annabel Lee" for a PC game called The Dark Eye. (He also was the voice of a character in the game.) Hear those recordings below and read this post at Open Culture for more details.

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The poetry in game-making

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From the stylish and courtly competitions of old Japan to the vital and evolving independent game development scene.

Zeiss lens cleaning wipes, like I used to steal from work

Quite literally splattered with everything from seal poop to motor oil, my eyeglasses are frequently filthy. These packets help.

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Explore worlds generated by poems

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Astaeria is a "first-person poetry visualizer" by Emma—select a poem, and an abstract world of colors and shapes blossoms around that poem, with procedurally-generated music. Read the rest

On Allen Ginsberg's 89th birthday, read his FBI file

Mike from Muckrock sez, "'My name is Allen Ginsberg and I sleep with whoever I want.' So noted the FBI, in its 89 pages tracking the life, lovers, and political activism of the American poet, who was born this day in 1926." Read the rest

Try performing in atmospheric Norse slam poetry competition

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MadameBerry has made us a neat toy: EDDA, An atmospheric slam poetry battle based on a collection of Old Norse poetry. Alongside warm firelight in a great hall, you choose how to complete phrases in response to your challenger, with the aim of besting four different types of poets. Read the rest

Pop Sonnets, the book -- the Bard meets Backstreet Boys

The Shakespearean delights of Pop Sonnets, one of my favorite reads, are being collected in a new book to be published in October. Read the rest

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