Can a computer write poetry? | Oscar Schwartz | TEDxYouth@Sydney

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If you read a poem and feel moved by it, but then find out it was actually written by a computer, would you feel differently about the experience? Would you think that the computer had expressed itself and been creative, or would you feel like you had fallen for a cheap trick? In this talk, writer Oscar Schwartz examines why we react so strongly to the idea of a computer writing poetry -- and how this reaction helps us understand what it means to be human.


Poetry test #1

Poem 1
Little Fly
Thy summer’s play,
My thoughtless hand
Has bush’d away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

Poem 2
We can feel
Activist through your life’s
Pauses to see, pope I hate the
Non all the night to start a
great otherwise

I’ll snake swirling
Vastness guess
Totally mental hamsters if I
Know I put on a year a crucial

Poetry test #2

Poem 1
A lion roars and a dog barks. It is interesting
and fascinating that a bird will fly and not
roar or bark. Enthralling stories about animals
are in my dreams and I will sing them all if I
am not exhausted and weary.

Poem 2
Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas!
You really are beautiful! Pearls,
harmonicas, jujubes, aspirins! All
the stuff they’ve always talked about

still makes a poem a surprise!
These things are with us every day
even on beachheads and biers. They
do have meaning. They’re strong as rocks.

Poetry test #3

Poem 1
Red flags the reason for pretty flags.
And ribbons.
Ribbons of flags
And wearing material
Reason for wearing material.
Give pleasure.
Can you give me the regions.
The regions and the land.
The regions and wheels.
All wheels are perfect.

Poem 2
A wounded deer leaps highest,
I’ve heard the daffodil
I’ve heard the flag to-day
I’ve heard the hunter tell;
‘Tis but the ecstasy of death,
And then the brake is almost done,
And sunrise grows so near
sunrise grows so near
That we can touch the despair and
frenzied hope of all the ages.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at