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Using ChatGPT personas to write sonnets

OK, so maybe my title is slightly off, but bear with me. I’ve been playing around with AI tools to see what they’re capable of in my spare time. I’ve also been going through the Coursera course on Prompt Engineering for ChatGPT. It covers a good deal of material I already knew, but I’ve found it useful thus far after getting through two of the six lessons.

Anyway, one of the useful functions is to have the AI take on a persona; one example is to prompt ChatGPT to emulate a speech language pathologist, provide it an example of a sentence a 3-year-old said, and have it provide an analytical report.

Part of this use case comes down to creativity, and part on the inputs. Thus, I wondered what it could do with a blog post I wrote in 2006 about getting diarrhea the week before Easter while I was a student in Madrid. I copied and pasted the story in its entirety (I’ll spare you the story by not linking), and ChatGPT immediately spat this out:

Thursday's dawn unveiled a chilling spree,
At 4:30, awoke in icy sweat,
My sanctuary, bed of homestay, see,
In shivers, drenched, a cause I must beget.
With every twenty minutes, woes did rise,
A dance with diarrhea, not sublime,
No comfort found, nor solace in disguise,
For illness claimed this body, cruel, prime.
No school today, my choice was clear and wise,
To spare the metro's stench, my dignity,
Yet errands called, 'ere Morocco's sunrise,
For haircuts, towels, meds, a litany.
In ISA's grasp, illness took its hold,
A tempest brewing, body's tale untold.
But forth I strode, to pharmacy's domain,
A simple task, to quell this bodily strife,
Yet language failed, my message to explain,
In tongues I stumbled, lacking normal life.
Diarrhea's plight, a tale so crude and vain,
Misunderstood, but understood too well,
In midst of sickness, language was my bane,
A moment of despair, I could not quell.
The day waned on, bedridden in despair,
A bowl of soup, my only sustenance,
In illness' grasp, life seemed so unfair,
A day of misery, in its essence.
Oh, Thursday's plight, a tale of woe profound,
In sickness' grasp, no solace could be found.

I wouldn’t call this a work of art, but an instantaneous first draft of a sonnet—two sonnets, in this case—beats the hell out of trying to write one myself. Writing in iambic pentameter was my self-flagellation of choice in undergraduate creative poetry courses because it forced me to think about form and function.

My poetry was largely terrible, and I would assume still is. ChatGPT isn’t stellar, but again, grinding up prose and churning out sonnet sausage in under 30 seconds proves that these tools can a lot if you get creative. The limits are only your own imagination.

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