A famed poet gets an offer to collaborate with an advanced AI on a book length poem for a large sum of money. She accepts. This exhilarating novel explores what it really means to be an artist, a parent, and a consciousness. Anyone anxious about AI should read this book. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
I'm honestly tired of hearing or thinking about AI, but this book about an aging, accomplished poet (modeled after Marianne Moore, tricorne hat and all) being asked to co-write a poem with an AI engineered to write poems enthralled me. What is the inherent power of language and what of art relies on the fact of an artist, a human being who has lived a real human life and creates with intention? This book takes up these huge questions to fascinating effect, creating a propulsive portrait of a life as it does so. Dazzling, tender, surprisingly light — one of my very favorite books of 2023. Recommended By Claire A., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Sean Michaels's moving, innovative and deeply felt novel about an aging poet who agrees to collaborate with a Big Tech company's poetry AI, named Charlotte
Marian Farmer is a world-renowned poet and a legend in the making; only now that she's 75 years old, in the tender half of her life, can she finally believe in the security of her hard-earned successes. But for a poet, these successes don't necessarily translate to capital, and as her adult son struggles to purchase his first home, she's left to ponder the impact of her choices. Marian's pristine life of mind--for which she's sacrificed nearly all personal relationships, from romance to friendship to motherhood — has come at no insignificant cost.
Then comes a cryptic invitation from the Tech Company. Come to California, the invitation beckons, and write with a machine. The Company's lucrative offer — for Marian to co-author a poem in a 'historic partnership' with their highly intelligent poetry bot, named Charlotte--chafes at everything she believes about artmaking as an individual pursuit... yet, it's a second chance she can't resist. And so to California she goes, a sell-out and a skeptic. But as unexpectedly welcome to Marian as suddenly being a financially reliable parent is her generative, growing fascination with the strange, inquisitive, and artificially but emotionally intelligent Charlotte.
Both a love letter to and interrogation of the nature of language, art, labor, capital, family, and community, Do You Remember Being Born? is Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Sean Michaels's empathetic response to some of the most unsettling questions of our time--a defiant and joyful recognition that if we're to survive meaningfully at all, creative legacy is to be reimagined and belonging to one's art must mean, above all else, belonging to the world.
"A timely work reminiscent of Richard Powers' Galatea 2.2 (1995), Michaels' tale shows how AI can, paradoxically, stymie creation through its limitlessness and need for human guidance. This is also a compelling portrait of a tricorne-wearing poet famously dedicated to her craft." — Alexander Moran, Booklist
"A tender and moving character portrait full of sharp scenes and memorable observations. While the novel might have a timely premise, it's a jumping-off point for timeless meditations on art, family, connection and the meaning of a life. These topics will always speak to us, at least until we're replaced by the machines." — Lincoln Michel, New York Times
"Michaels merges modernist poetry with contemporary technology in this inventive outing...[Do You Remember Being Born? asks] probing and humane questions about what it means to be an artist." — Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Sean Michaels is a novelist, short story writer and critic. He is the founder of pioneering music blog Said the Gramophone. His debut novel, Us Conductors, received the Scotiabank Giller Prize. His second novel, The Wagers, appeared in 2019.