Generative poetry from a recurrent neural network filtered by emotional and external influences.
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Poetic Inner Join

If you were to take an author's works as the starting point for what they could potentially create if they continued to be influenced by their peers and their environment, it might sound something like the output of this program, where the words chosen reflect the author's inner voice as well as other influences on the author's work.

When relying on generative models to produce new work, it's worth remembering that the only data they contain is what has been created in the past. This makes it difficult to truly predict what someone would say next, to elaborate on what might be going on in an artist internally when they are creating something new and are part of the world. This program attempts to show how an artist's work could continue to evolve past the generative reworking of old words.

With this in mind, imagine stepping into a scene where Jane Austen, having dreamed of inivisible men, hybrid beings, and creatures from another world the night before, sits ruminating over the strange dream at breakfast. Rain falls softly outside, filling her with an irate sadness of not being able to go for a walk afterwards. She sits there, developing her thoughts, as you regenerate the production of a morning inside Austen's head.

I used a recurrent neural network (RNN) to build a language model of Austen's work to pick the most probable next sentence she would write, given her past work. The probability of a sentence is the product of probabilities of each word given the words that came before it. The sentence "Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings." would be the probability of "nothings" given "Life seems but a quick succession", multiplied by the probability of "busy" given "Life seems", and so on.

The way the RNN works is, given an existing sequence of words, we sample a next word from the predicted probabilities, and repeat the process until there is a full sentence. Context is often lost between sentences, so I chose to create haiku poems from the Austen-like sentences generated to tie the pieces together more easily without having them have to make sense all the time.

There are some excellent resources that go into greater detail on the process of creating and implementing RNNs that I highly recommend:

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Recurrent Neural Networks

Recurrent Neural Networks Tutorial

After generating Austen-like sentences and ensuring they fit into the 5-7-5 syllable structure of a haiku, the poems go through an evaluation process where internal and external influences are used to filter them. By building a map of words with associations to eight basic emotions (anger, fear, anticipation, trust, surprise, sadness, joy, and disgust), only the poems that contain words that correspond with the feelings I've described are kept.

The external influence of an additional author here serves as a way to look at the text with a different set of goggles on, where a variant of a Naive Bayes classifier is used to predict whether the text of poem falls more easily into the group of work from Austen or Wells. Since we already know that the sentences generated are based on Austen's work, this filter is used to find poems that could also fall easily into H.G. Wells body of work, meaning it is highly likely that both Austen or Wells could have written such a group of sentences.

These influences represent only a fraction of what could be built to shape the raw output of a neural network, providing a good starting point to create what could be seen as an overseer of unstructured thought.


Project Gutenberg

All associated files of various formats for Jane Austen's works:

All associated files of various formats for H.G. Wells' works:

These eBooks are for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with these eBooks or online at

NRC Emotion Lexicon

A list of English words and their associations with eight basic emotions and two sentiments. The annotations were manually done by crowdsourcing. Version 0.92 is the latest version as of 10 July 2011 and can be found at:


Copyright 2016 Emily Daniels

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