I wrote on the blog in February about my first attempt to check into all the hype over writing with artificially intelligent chatbots, like ChatGPT. I couldn’t break through the waiting line then. I’ve now gone back to see what the buzz was/is about and test out a few things.

I used ChatGPT at openai.com to write a poem. My simple instruction to the AI engine was, “write a poem about basketball.” This is what it came back with in an instant:

In the arena’s hush, the court comes to life,
As players prepare for their spirited strife.
A symphony of sneakers, a bouncing refrain,
Basketball’s rhythm, a passionate game.

The hardwood beneath, a stage set to dance,
Where athletes take flight with each daring advance.
With precision and skill, they dribble and pass,
Weaving through defense, like a swaying tall grass.

The ball, like a comet, arcs through the air,
The net sways in homage, as the crowd starts to stare.
A crescendo of cheers, an electric display,
As a three-pointer finds its home far away.

The shot clock is ticking, the tension so high,
In the final seconds, the game’s on the line.
A buzzer-beater’s kiss, a collective elation,
In that glorious moment, pure jubilation.

But basketball’s more than just points on the board,
It’s the teamwork, the heart, the passion poured.
The camaraderie formed on the court’s sacred ground,
In the brotherhood of players, a bond so profound.

From the streets to the arenas, the love remains strong,
For this beautiful game where heroes belong.
It teaches us lessons, both young and old,
About discipline, effort, and stories untold.

So let’s celebrate basketball, this wonderful art,
Where dreams take flight and fill every heart.
In the world of sport, it truly stands tall,
A timeless and thrilling, unforgettable ball.

I didn’t want rhyming verse in my poetry. That’s not how I write. I wrote in February that I am skeptical that AI can replace whatever is special to me as a writer, that it can replicate my quirks and preferences. But maybe it can with enough prompting and practice.

So I gave ChatGPT another go, with this instruction, “write a free verse poem about basketball.” It came back with a poem it titled, “Basketball: A Graceful Symphony.” This:

In the realm where hardwood whispers secrets sweet,
Where giants leap and swift dreams take their flight,
There lies a dance, a symphony of grace,
In the heart of every court, under the glaring lights.

The court, a canvas, lines drawn in white,
A battlefield where warriors strive for heights,
Their sneakers squeak in rhythmic harmony,
As they chase the orange orb, so bold and bright.

A basketball, a globe of dreams untamed,
Bounces, rebounds, and echoes through the air,
In the hands of a maestro, a dribbling king,
It weaves a tale of triumph, despair, and flair.

From beyond the arc, a shooter takes his aim,
With steady hand and focused heart aflame,
The net, a portal to a world of points and pride,
As spectators cheer and players ride the fame.

In the paint, where giants clash and battle fierce,
They leap and reach for glory in the skies,
A slam dunk, a thunderous proclamation loud,
As the crowd erupts in joyful, tearful cries.

But ’tis not just the points that fill the soul,
It’s the camaraderie, the teamwork, and the goal,
To pass, to steal, to block, and to assist,
Each player’s role, in this game, a precious twist.

The clock, it ticks, the seconds winding down,
The tension in the air, a silent, collective frown,
In these fleeting moments, legends are made,
As buzzer-beaters leave their mark, a serenade.

Oh, basketball, a ballet of strength and grace,
A symphony of passion, in this sacred space,
Where hearts and spirits soar to heights unknown,
In the game of dreams, where heroes are grown.

64° 9′ 21.56″ N, 21° 56′ 53.22″ W (Samsung Galaxy S9+)

That started surprisingly well. For three lines. By the fourth line, it started leaning on its rhyming capacities again. By the sixth stanza, it gave up and went all in on rhyming couplets.

I tried to refine the search a little further, using my wife Becca‘s suggestion. She’s more amped, aware and engaged with these technologies, professionally and personally. She sees the possibilities. I asked ChatGPT to “write a free verse poem about basketball in the style of Adam Williams at humanitou.com.”

At first, ChatGPT returned a rhyming poem. I clicked on the “Regenerate” button in the lower-right corner of the screen and … fell speechless. The poem it returned might not quite be like I’d have written this poem. But that “might not” qualifier is enough to get me wondering about all this when the speechlessness wears away.

Here’s the free verse poem ChatGPT came back with in a vein of “Adam Williams at humanitou.com”, which it titled for me as “Basketball: A Poetic Game”:

In the cathedral of the hardwood court, we gather,
A congregation of sneakers squeaking hymns,
Echoing through the rafters of a silent crowd.

The ball, a sacred sphere, bounces with purpose,
A dance of leather and air, a heartbeat’s rhythm,
In the hands of disciples, sculptors of movement.

The court, a canvas of dreams and aspirations,
Where giants and poets collide in elegant chaos,
Painting the story of victory and defeat.

Sweat drips like holy water, baptizing the faithful,
As players carve their names into the annals of time,
Legends born in the crucible of competition.

The scoreboard keeps score, but it’s more than numbers,
It’s the poetry of motion, the art of the possible,
A reflection of passion, heart, and soul.

In the dying seconds, a prayer is whispered,
The ball soars, an arrow seeking its mark,
And the crowd holds its breath, hoping for grace.

In the end, it’s not just a game, but a testament,
To the human spirit, to perseverance and unity,
A celebration of the beauty of basketball.

33° 59′ 8.37″ N, 118° 28′ 23.33″ W (Samsung Galaxy S9+)

The religious metaphors are a reach for me. Actually, they’re a non-starter. I don’t care for the references of “prayer,” “baptizing” and “disciples,” for example. And frankly, I’ve heard (and said) a lot of things on a basketball. Not one of them has ever been religious in nature.

Other words in the poem are well enough on-point, though. Words like “human spirit,” “passion, heart and soul,” “a heartbeat’s rhythm,” and “a sacred sphere.”

I can see how ChatGPT might dig up words like passion, gods, spiritual, sacred, meditation and yoga from within my years of writings at on the Humanitou website, and conclude a religious metaphor would be appropriate. I published a blog post in June called “Thoughts & Prayers,” and one in May titled “Dear Dead God.” So, yeah. ChatGPT gets a little … grace(?) … on this one.

Next, I asked ChatGPT to “write a non-religious free verse poem about basketball in the style of Adam Williams at humanitou.com.” It came back with a poem it titled, “Secular Basketball Poetry”:

In the heart of the concrete jungle,
Beneath the unforgiving glare of fluorescent lights,
The court awaits its congregation of believers.

They gather in hallowed spaces,
Where hardwood meets asphalt,
Where echoes of sneakers and heartbeats resonate.

Not a church, nor a temple,
But a sanctuary of sweat and ambition,
Where faith is measured in rebounds and assists.

The ball, a sacred orb of possibility,
Passed from hand to hand,
A vessel of dreams and destiny.

In the rhythm of the game,
There’s a symphony of motion,
A ballet of bodies defying gravity’s grasp.

And on this stage, they dance,
With crossover dribbles and fadeaway jumpers,
Each movement an ode to human potential.

No prayer or sermon needed here,
For the court itself is the sermon,
Preaching the gospel of resilience and teamwork.

In this cathedral of competition,
The scoreboard keeps no tally of sins,
Only the score, an honest reflection of effort.

They chase a victory that’s more than a win,
It’s a testament to dedication,
A triumph over doubt and limitation.

So, let us bow not to gods of old,
But to the spirit of the game,
And the players who make poetry on the court.

I dig that a basketball can be “a sacred orb of possibility.” And I thought ChatGPT was headed in a more accurate direction at first. By the third line, we were back to a “congregation of believers.” The sixth line, “Where echoes of sneakers and heartbeats resonate,” is pretty sweet.

“Rhythm of the game,” “symphony of motion” and even “let us bow not to the gods of old / but to the spirit of the game” all work for me. But ChatGPT tried to put the game (and me) back in a sanctuary. And though “not a church nor a temple,” it put me in a big-ass cathedral? And talking about sins? C’mon.

I hit the “Regenerate” button for one more go. I wanted to see what it might come up with as an alternative for a poem titled, “Secular Basketball Poetry.” I think I’m stirring an inner conflict for ChatGPT. It just can’t get out of its way with the religious stuff. It can’t be secular without shouting, “I’m secular!” either. To wit:

On the blacktop’s canvas, we create our art,
Bodies in motion, a symphony of sweat,
In the dance of a ball, where grace and grit entwine,
We find our rhythm, our momentary escape.

The court’s expanse, a realm of endless dreams,
Where the mundane fades, and the extraordinary gleams,
In the thud of the dribble, the swish of the net,
We taste the essence of freedom, we’ll never forget.

It’s not a religion, but it is a devotion,
A temple of teamwork, a secular notion,
The ball’s not a scripture, the hoop’s not a shrine,
But within this arena, our spirits align.

The bounce of the rubber, the echo of cheers,
We’re bound by the passion that erases our fears,
In the clash of opponents, in the heat of the game,
We find our humanity, our essence aflame.

In this non-religious sanctuary we find unity,
Different stories, backgrounds, and communities,
Yet when we step on this court, we’re all the same,
Chasing a dream, playing the game.

So let us celebrate this secular delight,
In the world of basketball, where day turns to night,
No dogma, no creed, just the love we create,
On this court, in this moment, where we congregate.

The debate of ethics, legalities, and creative and problem-solving possibilities surrounding the use of AI for content creation roars on in the world. And will for years to come, I imagine. Will it replace us? Will it be a smart tool to aid us? Will it this, will it that?

I am impressed by ChatGPT, in general, as a technology. I’m sure this isn’t the end of my experimentation with it or of its capabilities to refine its understanding of me and my creativity.

But at this point, my flawed human relationship with words still feels worthy enough. And my ego feels like saying, “ChatGPT, ye hardly knew me.” I feel like saying, “I was right,” that AI can’t replicate me.

For now. … (whisper AIs everywhere)

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