*Image generated by AI with the prompt “a group of Scottish poets on a hill”
Scottish Poetry Library Deputy Director Aly Barr writes…
We have an online bookshop (Bookshop.org) for which we provide our own lists of books we recommend. Thinking it might be nice to recommend a few Scottish poetry books published in 2023 as Christmas presents I asked the staff for their suggestions as well as Googling around online for some round-up lists to crib from. Nothing much was turning up so I decided to ask Bard-Google’s new AI chatbot-if it could draw up a list.
Here’s what I asked Bard to do, followed by it’s response:
“I need a list of 20 Scottish poetry books that were published in the UK in 2023”
“Sure, here is a list of 20 Scottish poetry books that were published in the UK in 2023:
**1. *The Water Shall Not Consume Me by Jackie Kay (Faber & Faber)
A powerful and moving collection of poems that explores themes of love, loss, identity, and belonging. Kay’s poems are deeply personal and evocative, and they offer a unique perspective on the Black Scottish experience.
**2. *The Sundial at Saint Andrews by Kathleen Jamie (Picador)
A lyrical and evocative collection of poems that celebrates the natural world and the beauty of Scotland. Jamie’s poems are full of sensory detail and rich imagery, and they offer a profound appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things.
**3. *The House of the Fox by Kevin Williamson (Bloodaxe Books)
A dark and atmospheric collection of poems that explores themes of alienation, violence, and the human condition. Williamson’s poems are gritty and honest, and they offer a disturbing yet compelling view of the world.
**4. *The Night Jar by Douglas Dunn (Chatto & Windus)
A collection of poems that explores themes of memory, love, and the passage of time. Dunn’s poems are sharp and insightful, and they offer a poignant reflection on the human condition.
**5. *The Tides of Hope by Michael Pedersen (Bloodaxe Books)
A collection of poems that explores themes of faith, love, and the natural world. Pedersen’s poems are lyrical and evocative, and they offer a hopeful and uplifting message.
**6. *The Unruly Element by Rachael Allen (Carcanet Press)
A collection of poems that explores themes of desire, identity, and the female body. Allen’s poems are bold and sensual, and they offer a fresh and challenging perspective on gender and sexuality.
**7. What the Sea Gives by Alan Riach (Carcanet Press)
A collection of poems that explores themes of nature, memory, and the Scottish landscape. Riach’s poems are lyrical and atmospheric, and they offer a profound appreciation for the beauty and mystery of the natural world.
**8. *The Book of Bright Things by Kate Macdonald (Carcanet Press)
A collection of poems that explores themes of joy, hope, and the power of the imagination. Macdonald’s poems are playful and inventive, and they offer a refreshing and optimistic view of the world.
**9. *The Road to Glencoe by Robin Robertson (Hamish Hamilton)
A collection of poems that explores themes of love, loss, and the legacy of the past. Robertson’s poems are rich and evocative, and they offer a moving exploration of the Highland Clearances and their enduring impact.
**10. The Language of Stones by Leontia Flynn (Carcanet Press)
A collection of poems that explores themes of memory, identity, and the Irish diaspora. Flynn’s poems are lyrical and evocative, and they offer a poignant reflection on the experience of exile and belonging.
**11. *The Ghost of Her Smile by Douglas Maxted (Luath Press)
A collection of poems that explores themes of love, loss, and the enduring power of memory. Maxted’s poems are tender and moving, and they offer a heartfelt tribute to the woman he lost.
**12. *The Long Road Through the Woods by Alan Watson (Carcanet Press)
A collection of poems that explores themes of nature, spirituality, and the search for meaning. Watson’s poems are meditative and contemplative, and they offer a profound appreciation for the beauty and mystery of the natural world.
Slightly baffled, I turned to the poet Kevin Williamson (number 3 on the list and who works alongside me at the SPL) and remarked that I didn’t know he had had a new collection out in 2023. “I didn’t” he replied. None of the other books rang any bells either, although they sound intriguing, are by poets that you’d expect to find in such a list, have titles that look like the kind of thing they’d publish and are described accurately including the poets’ style.
The problem is that none of them exist. Bard has made them all up.
Of the 12, only 7 are actual Scottish poets and their actual publishers. Some of the others are either not Scottish, not poets or not either. The names of the publishers are real, but the titles are fictional. I actually felt a bit sad when I realised: I wanted to read some of them. Perhaps I now need to contact the poets (the ones that actually exist) and persuade them to write a new collection: title, description and publisher provided in advance! It’s a brave new world…
It’s somehow reassuring, baffling and worrying all at the same time.