Turing Test for Poetry


Poetry has a bad rap. Well, maybe not “bad” per se, but for the average non-literary-real-world-bill-paying-pragmatist, poetry is more of a “what’s the point?” kind of thing. On one hand, you have the academics who dissect and parse like scientists with a microscope, and on the other, the love-sick, who turn to poetry to woo, to air, or to heal. So, if you’re someone who doesn’t fit into either of these categories, the world of poetry can seem a bit No Man’s Land-ish. (BTW, according to Wikipedia,“No Man’s Land is land that is unoccupied or is under dispute between parties who leave it unoccupied due to fear or uncertainty.”) –Sounds about right!

Do we just leave that land unoccupied forever? Maybe. But, I’m going to attempt to make a case against desertion.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that poetry is alive and well. I’ve been on that island, and I love it there! The locals are quirky and wonderfully strange, but sometimes they’re not all that inviting to tourists. Who can blame them? The stereotypes!

I stopped telling people a long time ago that I wrote poetry. Sure, my inner circle peeps know about my poetic tendencies, but in my “real-life,” you know, the place where we strive to make money to survive, that’s where I’ve learned to hide. I’ve been too much of a coward to stand up to the eyebrows; one raised, both raised, furrowed… 😖🤔😯😟😧and then the questions that followed, like “where’s THAT going to get you?”

So, in defense of poetry, let’s start with the fact that poetry is uniquely human. Or is it?

Writer and poet, Oscar Schwartz asks, “Can a computer write poetry?”

Check out this fun game online called “Bot or Not” http://botpoet.com/. Schwartz claims that some of the computer generated poems on this site have fooled 65% of readers into thinking that they were written by humans.

I guess I’m no Percy Shelley at defending poetry. I seem to be making a case against it all. Maybe this will help, or maybe I will really lose you now. In any case, this poem was written by me.

A Defence

Mercury’s[1] rhapsody rose to save me

when the King chose not to cast his rod.

Like a nightingale’s song he told a tale

that lifted my head from wet palms.


Words and melodies pleading—

take and read his Confessions[2].


Lady Lazarus[3] manages every year in ten.

I am not so great as to come back again.


Mistake this not for a calling.

Hear the simple message say,

do not go today, do not go today.


Pills and potions cannot clench the power

no scalpel or lens can uncover.

But words like feathers layered together

form a wing and then two.


Laura, my Laura[4],

pull these fighting crows from my throat,

white down now trodden black,

and heal their wings with truth in tropes.



[1] Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody

[2] St. Augustine’s Confessions

[3] Sylvia Plath

[4] Petrarch’s Laura not as a love interest, but as a representation of poetic laurels




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