“After Reading that Merriam-Webster’s 2023 Word of the Year Is ‘Authenticity’” by Dante Di Stefano

Dante Di Stefano


I wonder about the future poems
I will read, generated by AI,
the imperceptibly pixelated
tulips pushing through the rich soil in them,
the deepfake MFA bios attached
to them like deflated orange balloons,
the shining metaphors crowing from them
as I open the App of my eyelids
and scroll lithely from stanza to stanza.
I wonder if I’ll be able to notice
in their red wheelbarrows full of roses,
how a chatbot has damasked every stem.
I found the poem I’m writing now, tucked
in the galley of a tiny schooner
circumnavigating the four chambers
of my heart. It was wedged under a cask
of lime juice. It was written in the scrawl
of a mad captain hellbent on shipwreck
or treasure or unspecified glory.
It was found, it was wedged, it was written
to explain a flower growing in me,
a blue bonnet sprouting from my boot print,
gently stretching skyward to touch the stars,
but like all poems we humans fashion
from want and need and yes and must and what,
it ended up saying something else beyond
the arc of unsaying, something fevered
and cut, rizzed up against the scurvy dark.

from Poets Respond
December 3, 2023


Dante Di Stefano: “Often lately, I have been teaching and reading and thinking about generative AI. Despite all I’ve read about Sam Altman, ChatGPT, etc., it’s hard for me to imagine how this technology will transform our world. Reading the article about Meriam-Webster’s word of the year further confirmed how enmeshed we are in this transformation already. Authenticity is a fraught term in poetry anyway, so I think this poem wandered into some of the fraughtness and complexity that comes with the terrain of lyric saying. For me this is less a poem about AI than it is a poem about the ancient technology of poetic utterance in all its mystery. The word rizz that I use at the end of the poem is an internet neologism added to Meriam-Webster this year, meaning ‘romantic charm or appeal.’” (web)

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