What’s on our Shelves: What’s on our Shelves- Machine Learning Irish Poetry

31st March 2023 | PTFS-Europe

Eilish McLaughlin

You love our WOOM videos, now enjoy our new WOOSH blog posts, where you can find out what the PTFS Europe team have on their bookshelves! First up, Eilish tells us about an AI generated book of Irish Poetry. 

This week, I’ve been dipping into my copy of Machine Learning Irish Poetry which I picked up last year. It’s a slim collection of poetry and imagery generated by AI that was trained on Irish poems, folk songs, plays and myths. Irish-born, London-based artists Oscar Torrans and Kristian Glenn published the project in 2022 through Passage Tomb.

I love Irish poetry. I’m also terrified and intrigued by AI and like to keep abreast of emerging tech culture. It’s particularly interesting to encounter convergences of creative and technological enterprises, though it can be a touchy subject. Just last week an online creator named Roberto Nickson released a video where he used an AI model of Kanye West’s voice to make a West-style song. The video was roundly derided for its lame lyrics and for including a tasteless shoutout to West’s deceased mother. Beyond the tackiness, the video generated anxious discussion amongst commenters who envision a cynical future in which artists/artistry are “replaced” by AI tools– the same kind of discussions that have become ubiquitous on forums/think-pieces/comment threads since Open AI’s release of the DALL-E 2.

This collection doesn’t suggest a contention between human and AI creativity. We all know that we don’t need AI to make art for us. That’s not to say, however, that AI can’t be utilised for artistic purposes. Machine Learning Irish Poetry mines the possibilities to be found in Irish history, tradition and myth-making without the attachment of any particular cultural significance. In working with AI, Kristian says she delighted in “…the weird places the technology could take me; how it could reveal surprising paths and unconventional perspectives to tell old stories in new ways.”

As well as being an enjoyable, interesting read in and of itself, I think what’s so exciting about Machine Learning Irish Poetry is its exploration of the potential for creative collaboration with AI. Indeed, in our own library sector, there’s increasing discussion about the “4th industrial revolution” and questions raised around what incorporating AI into workflows means for our day-to-day working lives. There are huge ethical, technical and practical implications to account for when we envision this near future. However, Machine Learning Irish Poetry presents a different and more nuanced way to look at tradition and sub-textually, its relation to the future. The past and future don’t have to be seen to be in opposition. It’s a fascinating and multifarious perspective that makes this collection worth checking out!


Eilish McLaughlin, Sales and Marketing Consultant


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