Sleep experiment poem

This is not what you think.

The poem you’re about to read is not about a sleep experiment.

It is an experiment in writing a poem about sleep, using Artificial Intelligence (AI).

On Day One of Ethical ELA’s OpenWrite, host Stef Boutelier invited participants to try AI for creating or modifying a poem, stating that “AI is here to stay. We might as well learn alongside and make sure our humanity isn’t disposed of too quickly.”

She shared these sites with the directive to “explore ways you might use, learn, or negate AI within the lens of poetry”:

So, as a test of AI vs. human creativity, I used the poem generator to write a villanelle.

My topic was sleep (I am coveting it in the throes of getting over a lengthy cold, going into week three) and as I was prompted to choose two characters, who better than Somnus and his son Morpheus, gods of sleep?

Confession: I did alter a few of the rhyming words but that is all…

Without further ado, the experiment results:

Somnus’s Torment: The Villanelle of the Sleep

Somnus couldn’t stop thinking about the sleep
It was just so elusive and desired
But he could never forget the sheep

That morning, Somnus was shocked by the upkeep
He found himself feeling rather wired
Somnus couldn’t stop thinking about the sleep

Later, he realized that the sleep was deep
He thought the situation had become rather uninspired
But he could never forget the sheep

Morpheus tried to distract him with a leap.
Said his mind had become too misfired
Somnus couldn’t stop thinking about the sleep

Somnus took action like a veep
The sleep was becoming required
But he could never forget the sheep

Somnus’s demise was cheap
His mind became dangerously tired
Somnus couldn’t stop thinking about the sleep
But he could never forget the sheep

And there you have it.

Give me “Do not go gentle into that good night” any day.

This is not to say that AI can’t inspire or help with learning form and composition. In fact, its greatest offering might be a lesson in the power of revision.

And while it can actually generate some alarmingly wonderful things, I don’t think AI can ever out-poet the human mind.

I shall have to write my own villanelle now…but I won’t be using AI.

Has it ever seen or heard the birds? Has it ever smelled cut grass or felt the heartbeat of a living creature? Can it experience anything?


Here’s to using the senses and the soul to capture the experience of being alive. Is this not the whole purpose of writing?

Meanwhile, sleep is still calling me…


with thanks to Stef Boutelier on Ethical ELA
and to Two Writing Teachers for the monthlong Slice of Life Story Challenge

9 thoughts on “Sleep experiment poem

  1. I am still around but busy. I have been taking a lot about AI, not wanting to be left behind. The Villanelle? Ah, no. Acceptable on some level perhaps, but nothing glorious. And glorious whether in an upbeat mode, or poignant one cannot not be felt by AI. Though who can tell what the future holds……. Have you thought of joining the Progressive Poem. Check Margaret’s blog, Reflection on the teche. There were spots open yesterday. It can be fun and enlightening! Hoping you will give it a go and that your cold departs soon. I battled the real flu in Jan. despite getting the shot. It was rough. I got “community” pneumonia” too because of the flu. And have had both kinds of those shots!!!! I finally got better. I wondered if I’d ever have energy again. But God is good.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Fran, this line… Here’s to using the senses and the soul to capture the experience of being alive.
    Yes, there’s a lot that computers can do and they’re doing more and more and helping more and more people, including those who struggle to write. But experience being alive? No. Have you read The Rover Story? I think you’d like it, and your granddaughter might love it as a readaloud.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fran, like you, I’m still grappling with the AI thing. I’m glad I’m not still teaching high school English trying to grade students’ writing that isn’t really theirs. And how do we cite articles written in AI? Whose “intellectual” property is it, anyway? Oh, sleep. Was it John Muir who said The mountains are calling and I must go? Someone did, but what they really probably meant was Sleep is calling and I must answer. I’m with you on this one. I need a nap already.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Denise K. wrote about running poems through an AI detector which said some poems composed by a human were likely composed by A and some composed by AI were likely composed by a human – adding to the alarm. What are educators to do – but stay informed??


  4. Oh, the AI’s offering had absolutely no voice at all–and that is the point, isn’t it? I applaud your sense of adventure in trying it out, though; I haven’t had even the slightest inclination to do so yet, although I’ve heard it comes in handy for lesson planning…


  5. I hope you get a good sleep soon and recover quickly from any lingering sickness.
    I do not understand why anyone has to introduce AI into the creative realm. I think a machine is a machine is a machine. A case in point to me is when you ask a computer to translate something into another language and it inevitably comes up with meaningless phrases strung together.
    I am glad you gave it a go!


Leave a Reply

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

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s