June 8, 2023

Our Random Poetry Line Generators Are Not AI

Image: Mohamed Hassan

On the main  Poets Online website, we used a tool back in 1999 that I called a "random poem generator." They were two pages that had code that could generate a random line that can be used to start a poem or just give you an idea for a poem based on the line. You could even generate multiple lines and try putting them together as a poem. (We had a few poems submitted that used the tool in 1999.)

I thought about that again recently because of all the talk about artificial intelligence chatbots, such as ChatGPT, and how they can "write a poem." My own experiments with that AI produced some terrible "poems" full of bad rhyme and no emotion. My little random line generators - so crude they cannot be called any kind of AI - were meant more like our writing prompts.

If you have been in writing workshops, you probably have had a leader suggest some words or lines as a starting place. The idea is that this will be a line that you would not have thought of, and because there is some randomness in the process, you will get some interesting combinations of words and phrases that might take your writing to a new place. 

I went to the generators and asked for two lines today and I rather like these that came up for me:  "After the rain of our imagination, young lovers sing, Before the moment of longing the old ones sleep,"  I don't know where that would lead me and maybe I would only use fragments such as "the rain of our love" or "in the moment of longing" or some other variation. 

The pages are still online, so give them a try if you need a little prompting to trigger the Muse. Perhaps try it for our current call for submissions for the next issue of Poets Online.


  1. Pretty cool tool. I click both a few times, copied the lines and did some cut and paste to get:

    Beneath the surface of questioning
    the old ones turn.
    On the bed of summer,
    the seasons seek rest.
    In the water of death,
    the spirits vanish below the surface.
    Amongst the shadows of summer trees
    sleeps the meaning of death.
    Only the leaves escape,
    find desire
    and breathe.

  2. Interesting result, Penny. One limitation is that it produces lots of lines that begin with prepositional phrases, so it's probably more useful to cut up lines and uses bits and pieces.


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