The Bard vs Artificial Intelligence

By Don Kenton Henry


Every child has their heroes. For many, it’s a sports figure. In that context, mine was Jim Thorpe, “Indian Athlete”. Today, you couldn’t even call him that. I’m certain, if alive, Jim would say, “Piss off. I can handle it.” But mostly, I read books about geniuses. They fascinated me. My favorite biography was of Thomas Edison, “The Wizard of Menlo Park”. While my brother read Hardy Boy Mysteries, and my sister, Nancy Drew, “Girl Detective – I collected the entire series of Tom Swift books. They were about a boy scientist whose multi-millionaire father financed his incredible scientific inventions which took him into deep space or the center of the earth on some fantastic adventure. He was what I imagine Elon Musk’s childhood would have been had he had millions of his father’s dollars at his disposal. 

While I’m on the subject of Elon Musk, he appeared the last two evenings on Foxe’s Tucker Carlson for an in-depth interview on the subject of Artificial lntelligence (AI). It’s in all the news of late and I am fascinated by it. Elon’s focus was to address the risks he feels it poses to humankind.

I am more interested in its potential usefulness. I go by “The Bard”, on my creative writing blog, thebardofthewoods.com. Of course, if you are on it now, you know that. For years, I have wanted to ultimately ally myself with an artist to create sketches to illustrate my poems and short stories. I have not been aggressive in this pursuit as I am not yet ready to publish and am avoiding any expense in commissioning an artist, for this purpose, until then. But when I heard AI could create artwork, in the style of the great masters, based on my instructions—at little or no cost to me—I had to give it a try. The results were interesting but fairly crude and awkward. It seems the edge of my imagination extended further than AI is capable of going (at this time).
But then, Elon said AI could write poetry and that it was pretty good. And added that is something the average person couldn’t do. Well … I took that as a personal affront and a challenge. I thought, “My ego is really going to take a beating if AI can write a better poem than me”. So I went to AI app, ChatGPT and issued the challenge to write two poems (prose or otherwise) with one minor variation between the two. 

I thought if my AI is going to become The Bard’s competition, he (I decided my AI identifies as a “he”) should have a name. I initially considered, “The Barf” but decided that was disrespectful when I haven’t even given him a chance. So, I settled on, “Bart”. The sketch which accompanies the photos of Elon and me is Bart. Now that he had a name, I determined he deserved a face. So I asked DALLE-E2 to create a picture of AI as a human being. I did not dictate gender (which indicates AI may already be gender biased). The sketch shows Bart at work at his desk, trying to out-do The Bard.
So this is how it went down between Bart and The Bard. I let him go first: 

Challenge 1 to Bart: write a poem about a love lost (in general)

Bart’s Opus 1

Love once bloomed, a tender flower bright, A flame that burned with passionate delight, Two hearts entwined, a perfect harmony, A bond so strong, it seemed eternity.
But fate can twist and turn, and hearts can change, Love once so pure can slowly rearrange, What once was perfect now feels so wrong, Two hearts that beat as one, now singing different songs.
The love that once lit up the darkest night, Is now a fading ember, a distant light, Memories of what was, now haunting ghosts, A love that's lost, a treasure turned to toast.
The pain of love lost, a heavy burden to bear, A weight that feels too much, too hard to share, The tears that fall, a bitter-sweet release, A love that's gone, a heart that's now at peace.
Love lost, a lesson learned, a chance to grow, A chance to find love anew, to let love flow, For in the pain of loss, a new hope can be found, A new love waiting, a new heart to be unbound.

The Bard’s Rebuttal Poem 1

Like Frost On A Window
By Don Kenton Henry

Your heart is a stone
Cold as one in a hearth whose fire has gone out
Long since
Your eyes have become as dark and frosted as the window in which I sit
In a home as empty as your conscience 

Echoed laughter from these walls I try to forget
With them, I share only the quiet of regret ―
They have forgotten what I cannot
And I envy all things that have no heart

Better to burn this home of dead dreams ―
Burn my dreams to the foundation
Help erase my world that once seemed
Two true hearts honest unbreakable creation

Help me, beautiful dream killer
You of broken promises 
You the unfaithful; I of lost faith

Together we can set sins and failures ablaze
And erase all memory of us, the failed
And unworthy benefactors of a love
Like a once white dove
Now charred . . .
And smoldering in ash and dust

Challenge 2 to Bart: write a poem about love lost in a subway station

Bart’s Opus Poem 2

At the station platform, he stands alone Watching the train depart, with a heavy moan 
His heart aches with a piercing pain For he knows he won't see her again
She was his love, his life, his soul Their bond was pure, their love whole 
But fate had other plans in store And she had to leave, forevermore
He remembers the way she smiled And how her laughter filled the aisle Her touch, her scent, her loving gaze All lost in a bittersweet haze
He tries to hold back the tears As memories flood his mind, his fears He wonders if she'll ever return Or if his heart will forever burn
The train disappears in the distance of the subway tunnel
Taking with it his only existence He stands there, numb, and forlorn In his heart, the love is still born
The station echoes with his pain As he slowly walks away, in the rain 
His heart still longs for her embrace But his love has left without a trace.

The Bard’s Rebuttal Poem 2

by Don Kenton Henry

In languid moments by an idle stream
In a pasture where the grass waves with green of spring
In the seconds that follow when you put down a book
In that unguarded moment you forget to look
Over your shoulder and watch for me
That’s when I come back

In that subway where we last kissed goodbye
In that four-poster bed where we used to lie
In the park where you watch a small child play
And her hair is red and her eyes stare back
As if she knows she could be yours
That’s when I come back

When the winds blow from out of the mountains
And bring the leaves of autumn tumbling down
And you kick them and watch as they slowly spin round
And you see yourself in them and know your time’s passed
And you desperately wish for another undeserved chance
That’s when I come back

When you look in the mirror and see the lines on your face
When your heart cries for company and you reflect on what’s lost
And your misspent youth and all that it cost
When you think of the years that we could have had
As you hear my words when I asked you to stay
And you reach to stop your young self as you walk away
That’s when I come back

And you remember a love you thought you’d find again
But it was not to be found in that autumn wind
Nor in the grass of the pasture or by idle streams
Not in languid moments or among crowds in the streets
In subways or parks or the eyes of young children
You have looked as you lived
And it’s not to be found
And you remember my words when you let us down
Walked away from our life
And they ring and they echo in your ears to this day
“I gave the best I could give you, all you could want
And the day will come when you awake in the night
Sit straight up in your bed and the cold of your sweat
You will know the best thing in your life has been replaced with regret”
That’s when you will know the stark truth as it stares back from the night . . .
I’m not really there
I haven’t been since I cried by that subway track
I’m just your heart’s memory
I’m not ever coming back


In summary, I must give credit where due. Bart represented himself better than I expected. And he had none of my life experiences to draw upon. (Or did he? Yikes!) I will let you be the judge of whose work you prefer. And I will close by saying, I will never let Bard’s words substitute for my own. (Although I may ask his opinion from time to time. Like, “How much will I have to pay a freelance artist to create an illustration to go with this?”) I rue the day when Bart thinks he feels hurt, anger, jealousy, or the need for retribution. It is then we will want to be certain we have a plug we can pull before Bart can act, against all humankind, on his emotions.

The Bard

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

2 comments on “The Bard vs Artificial Intelligence

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post about the potential of AI in creative fields. Your rebuttal poems were engaging and thought-provoking. I’m curious, do you think AI will eventually be able to create works of art and literature that are indistinguishable from those created by humans?

    Yoy Edib

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: