Pop Quiz! Is This Poet a Beat? A Bot? Or a Birnbach?

To inaugurate National Poetry Month, we present the perfect way to test your ability to discern art from technology. It’s harder than you think!

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Aristotle said “Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.” Maybe that is why the art form has fallen into disfavor. A group of Brazilian poetry lovers has tried to reverse the course of this horrible trend by helping anyone … nay, everyone transform their tweets into structured poems by creating an app called poetweet. Not to worry, you don’t actually have to write a poem yourself. You can sip a caipirinha and let the Brazilian poetry lovers’ algorithm do all the heavy lifting.

Their algorithm isn’t half-bad, if you ask me. It shuffles one’s tweets into a pretty credible poem. So credible, that in fact, we’re going to play a little guessing game.  Below are seven poems. Three are excerpts from poems written by Beat poets. Three poems were constructed from a bot. And one was written by me, a human woman with an English degree from a reputable New England university. But not to give me the upper hand, my poem comes verbatim from my iPhone memo app. Let’s see if you can determine which is which. (Answers below. Please: No cheating!)

In the meantime, I’ll be here trying to find a bot that can deliver some Cachaça for my caipirinha.


1. Untitled

The smiling Schenley poster will always smile

Impish death Satyr Bomb Bombdeath

Turtles exploding over Istanbul

The jaguar’s flying foot

soon to sink in arctic snow

Penguins plunged against the Sphinx

The top of the Empire state

arrowed in a broccoli field in Sicily



2. Untitled

Bullrings look like runny noses

But I’m savoring my tonight.

Hosts look like Disney princesses


Mall in the winter in England

Second grader’s T-shirt design

I’m pro-Totalitarian

The usual career path, to be sure

It’s Messieurs et Madames



3. Dunkin Donuts

Like a many mile Slip ‘n Slide

They don’t mean “Anti-Aging?”

Is already a line formed outside

on her recorder is overreaching.


Evening to talk about bad manners

Cameron Mitchell is a revelation.

Sparks scramble to fill orders

“An epic week for fashion.”


Of Fairfield County’s nicer girls

Was on hold for twenty –two minutes

And infuriating traffic snarls.

My heart on my dolman sleeve

Someone’s boyfriend take note

Anthony Weiner, I believe.



4. Underwear

Have you ever stopped to consider   

underwear in the abstract   

When you really dig into it

some shocking problems are raised   

Underwear is something   

we all have to deal with   

Everyone wears

some kind of underwear

The Pope wears underwear I hope

The Governor of Louisiana   

wears underwear

I saw him on TV

He must have had tight underwear

He squirmed a lot



5. Hungry

Naproxen 500 mgs. A typical day

They didn’t have baggies then

Before people drank coffee on the streets.

We didn’t stretch.

Makeup bloggers

Fashion bloggers

Mannequins look hungry

What do you know?

A middle-aged woman is a houseguest

Early chapters devoted to everything

And everyone

How refreshing, Rupert

Who do you know?



6. Untitled

Concert on the last day of school.

That’s my hero, Lillian Ross.

No one ever calls me cool.

Celebrity “is perfectly gross.”


Perhaps I spoke too soon.

At an independent book store

Bank robber of “Dog Day Afternoon”

Pre-Halloween much much more


Out of Night Glow ™  Toilet Seats.

The setting made us look smarter.

One of Emmet Kelley’s clown coats?

The bestseller: Before or After?

Relieved that she actually eats.




Answer key: 1. Beat (Gregory Corso)  2. Bot  3. Bot  4. Beat (Lawrence Ferlinghetti)  5. Birnbach  6. Bot


Original photo of Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso by Elsa Dorfman



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