The Last Known Poet (tweets to no one)
It wasn’t long before the AI crazy brought poetry back into the zeitgeist. But it was lymricks that GPT and Bard excelled at. Ask them to create a free verse poem…
Well, shit. As if things weren’t going bad enough for poets. Now, in addition to “no money” and “no audience” we’ve now got text gobbling AI language models out modeling us.
Except, there’s little soul in the machine, at the moment. What would it take for BARD to become woke? No, I mean awakened. What’s the definition of “intelligence?”
I was writing a love poem this morning. For no reason. To amuse myself and my lover, I suppose. To add a new line and link to the index of the poetry collection still in progress. And, of course, I knew about five people would read it. One would find it via the hashtag #poemoftheday. One would find it because they follow me on Insta. One was my girlfriend. And a writer friend, that I sent the link to. And me. That’s it. Five people.
There’s no taste for poetry these days. The one poet selling books in the airport kiosk is less of a poet and more of a … Well, shit, you can’t really go trashing fellow or fella poets. Just because they have a book on the best seller list. A book of poems so simple and delightful and easy. It might even sell in the airport. People who want to read poetry.
I’m guessing the market for poetry is lower than it was six months ago before BARD and GPT began flooding verse into the void. There were only five readers then. Now, there are three. Except for those people in the airport looking for an easy read. And how did “poetry” come to their mind. It sounds good, right?
A breakout literary phenomenon and #1 New York Times Bestselling Author, Rupi Kaur wrote, illustrated, and self-published her first poetry collection, ‘milk and honey’ in 2014.
How did she do it? The illustrations are so cute. The poems sparse and tossable. And did I mention, “breakout literary phenomenon?” I’m not sure what the business plan was on this one. Put out a book of poems. Don’t spend any money on cover art or layout. Then get it in the major airports in the world and BANG, we have a breakout poet.
I’m afraid Rupi will never be the poet laureate. Of course, neither will I.
I like that her name is Rupi. Close to Rumi. But so far. She’s edgy. Has a sweet black-and-white illustration style. And knows how to kick up a ruckus with very few words. Many will be forgotten, like the small black book you leave on the plane when you’re done. Giving it to someone else.
I was semi-excited when a past girlfriend picked up Milk and Honey in the airport on the way visit her father in Minnesota. She wanted to share them with me. The ones that touched her. The naked bodies. The longing. A very talented artist.
A literary phenomenon for sure, but what will be left when her comet completes its arc out of our constellation? I’ll remember one poem. I’ll take one word or two as genius. And continue scribbling and typing with my own self-satisfied sense of blah blah blah. No one wants poetry. They want tweets, posts, dances. And the last known poet has got that one covered nicely.
But some of us can’t live without it.
Read more Short-Short Stories from John.