Visualizing Poetry using DALL-E

Harlem

This poem by the Harlem renaissance poet Langston Hughes speaks of what happens to a dream postponed — the American dream presumably. It’s 70 years old, but rather relevant.

Harlem poem
Harlem

Memories of Holland

This poem by Hendrik Marsman reaches back to a version of the Netherlands that we’ve mostly forgotten about. It paints a picture of a rural, conservative country that is flat and always threatened by the sea. In these times of climate change weirdly relevant of course.

Memories of Holland

Shall I compare thee to a summers day?

Probably Shakespeare’s most famous sonnet and it felt wrong to do something about English literature without including something from England’s national poet. I have to say it seem he’s a bit full of himself.

Shall I compare thee to a summers day?

She walks in beauty

The number one romantic British poet, Lord Byron can’t be left out in a project like this. The title of this work alone immediately conjures up images of a mysterious lady and the rest of the poem continues with good imagery. The AI mostly played along, except arguably for:

She walks in beauty

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

This fine poem appears in Irish passports and describes Yeats’ longing to escape the city for a lake and an island. DALL-E plays along very nicely, showing the island and lake and then suddenly switching briefly to the urban grayness.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost’s first line “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” begs for visualization of this poem. The more contemplative bits are harder for the AI to work with, but I think it does ok. Humans seem to have trouble understanding it too.

The road not taken

Resources

You can find a javascript animation version of this at douwe.com. I also created a youtube playlists with the animations as videos.

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Douwe Osinga

Douwe Osinga

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Entrepreneur, Coding enthusiast and co-founder of Neptyne, the programmable spreadsheet