Can AI actually write poetry?

Will machine learning ever be able to recreate the creative impulse? 

Trying to speculate how advanced AI will become can be quite the rabbit hole, but in the meantime there's a poetry-writing AI having a good go.

The project, entitled 'Poem Portraits (opens in new tab)', lets you 'donate' a word of your choice to an poetry-writing algorithm, trained on over 20 million words of 19th century poetry. You chosen word is then "instantly incorporated into an original two line poem" written on the fly by the algorithm.

For those of you who like sharing photos of yourself, you can also snap a selfie to share alongside the poem, which appears to make use of Google's Deep Dream (opens in new tab) image processing software (or something similar) for a trippy text overlay on your face.

You can see our own attempt at some AI poetry below. It's not quite Wordsworth, but the fact that the lines still come across as 'poetic' and vaguely grammatically correct is still an achievement – and points ahead to a future where machines understand the syntax of creative writing as well as we do.

The project was created by UK artist and stage designer Es Devlin (opens in new tab), in collaboration with Google Arts and Culture (it's their website you're visiting) and 'creative technologist' Ross Goodwin (opens in new tab)

Poem Portraits

Home Tech Writer Henry St Leger donates the word 'hyperdrive'. (Image Credit: TechRadar / Google Arts and Culture)
Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist. Before going freelance, he spent more than three years at TechRadar reporting on TVs, projectors and smart speakers as the website's Home Cinema Editor – and has been interviewed live on both BBC World News and Channel News Asia, discussing the future of transport and 4K resolution televisions respectively. As a graduate of English Literature and persistent theatre enthusiast, he'll usually be found forcing Shakespeare puns into his technology articles, which he thinks is what the Bard would have wanted. Bylines also include Edge, T3, and Little White Lies.