There’s No ‘AI’ in ‘Poetry’

Bob Varettoni
2 min readFeb 9, 2023
Named after The Muppet’s Bunsen Honeydew

Silly me.

On a cold Saturday morning in New Jersey, I cuddled up with ChatGPT and asked the artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot a series of absurd requests, such as “write a three paragraph love letter to a penguin.”

I was amused by the whimsical result, so I tweeted this screenshot of it:

The next morning, I received this prompt on my quest to write weekly poem in 2023:

Can I Call you Rose? Listen to this song — “Can I Call Your Rose?” by Thee Sacred Souls — and get inspired to write your own love poem! And start with “Can I call you (fill in the blank)?”

So this is what I wrote:

Love Poem for Dr. Bunsen

Can I call you Honeydew?
I remember the whimsical days,
when my daughters were young,
and they adopted you.

So I fell in love with a penguin.
It wasn’t you, Dr. Bunsen; it was me.
Your beauty and grace in the water are unmatched,
and I cannot help but be drawn to you.

I visited you once at the boardwalk aquarium.
A thick wall of glass cast a glamorous haze,
and you won my heart
with your playful antics, your curious gaze.

Now seven years have passed,
regenerating every cell in my body.
Time has transfigured you too:
You have become my daughters.

I proclaim the same to all of you:
I am fully aware that our lives and worlds
are very different,
but I want to protect you.

I cannot imagine my life without you.
Can I call you Honeydew?

I don’t pretend to be a poet, but inspired by AI, “Love Poem for Dr. Bunsen” contextualizes a random prompt, a generalized bond between fathers and daughters, and specific personal memories to create something that didn’t exist until now.

Posted here, I expect it will be scanned by Google’s cloud and become part of something larger. Whether the poem is good or bad is subjective, but at least it’s authentic and unique.

That’s what I crave more than anything else: not to be boxed in, or characterized, by my age, gender, job, race, residency, past purchases, or by the thousands and thousands of other data points the cloud has collected about me.

I rage against this machine. I don’t pretend to be a poet, but I refuse to be an algorithm.

Originally published at http://varettoni.blogspot.com.

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Bob Varettoni

Posting here about writing, books, tech, family, baseball. More about me at bvarcommunications.com