Literature, poetry, and other forms of noncommercial creative expression challenge the techno-instrumentalist approaches to language, the predictive language generation, informing NLP (large natural language processing models) such as GPT-3 or -4 as well as, more generally, generative AI (text to image, video, audio). Claims that AI systems automate and expedite creativity reflect industry and research priorities of speed, scale, optimization, and frictionlessness driving much artificial intelligence design and application. But poetry will not optimize; the creative process cannot be reduced to a prompt. Some have noted that literary creations generated or augmented by artificial intelligence at best can offer form without meaning; using a GPT creation prompted by Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise” as a case study, this essay argues that NLP’s predictive language generation and what I call algorithmic ahistoricity can also, more disturbingly, render meaning senseless. In doing so, GPT-3’s literary experiments are not “failed” because they do not meet some moving target of a literary standard, nor because of technological insufficiency, but because it can make it harder for people to name and navigate their realities. The coda explores an example of AI as literary interlocutor and creative engagement beyond optimization.

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