An Interview with Leonardo Chung

Ode to ChatGPT

i think a glass of sparkling, simulated empathy would

be great; now let me swell my admiration before someone

shrieks into my ear—we’ve opened a Pandora’s box!—

but you’re actually just a glorified Google 

and some 100101011001 that might string

some words together 

and call it an essay—but that AI writing detector is catching on!

i can’t say too much, of course. i sure admire

how you can’t conjugate Spanish correctly,

how you can’t solve any—i mean any—math equation,

how all your essays are three paragraphs:

introduction, evidence, conclusion;

but i’m proud of you. i am. and in return

i want you to write an ode to ChatGPT.

         don’t give me your classic four stanzas of four lines 

with AABB rhyme scheme—

                i apologize, but i’m not able to 

                fulfill that request. can i assist you in anything


         actually, no, you can’t.

Leonardo Chung is an avid writer from Phillips Exeter Academy who has been previously published by Hyacinth Review, Across the Margin, Sweet Literary, Sheila-Na-Gig, Clackamas Literary Review, and many others. He was awarded first place in a Poetry Society of Virginia competition and a finalist for the Rash Award in Poetry sponsored by the Broad River Review. He takes inspiration from distinguished poets such as Langston Hughes, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Louise Glück.

Daniel Gernant: Do you have a specific place where you do most of your brainstorming? What does that place look like and why is it so conducive for thought?
Leonardo Chung: My preferred time for writing poetry is late at night, in the quiet solitude of my bedroom. My room, a small space with light blue walls and a single window, becomes a sanctuary after dark. I work at a wooden desk, which holds just my laptop, a notepad, and a few scattered pens. The room is illuminated by a small lamp, casting a warm, golden light. Outside, the world is silent, and inside, the only sound is the soft tapping of keys as I write. This nightly ambiance, in the solitude of my room with the lamp’s gentle glow, offers a peaceful place where my creativity flows most naturally. My thoughts and words find their rhythm, enabling me to craft poems that are deeply personal and reflective.

DG: I thought that your poem Ode to ChatGPT was fascinating. Can you expand on what led you to write this poem?
LC: I wrote “Ode to ChatGPT” at a time when the emerging AI tool was causing widespread attention for its seemingly human-like writing abilities. Amidst the growing excitement, my poem intended to sarcastically discredit the idea that ChatGPT could rival human creativity in poetry and prose. I aimed to highlight the creativity inherent to the human mind—a quality that AI, at least for now, struggles to replicate authentically. Yes, it’s true: ChatGPT can’t generate any poems that aren’t in stanzas of ABAB rhyme scheme. “Ode to ChatGPT” was my playful nod to the limitations of AI in capturing the full spectrum of human poetic expression.

DG: In your bio you mention that you take inspiration from poets like Langston Hughes, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Louise Glück. How have these poets inspired you?
LC: Hughes’ ability to capture social issues in simple yet powerful language taught me the importance of accessibility in poetry. Nye’s work, which often turns mundane moments into interesting narratives, inspired me to observe and find poetry in everyday life. Lastly, Glück’s raw and honest exploration of personal themes encouraged me to delve deeply into my own experiences. Their influence is evident in my thematic choices, the narrative style of my poems, and the way I strive to blend personal introspection with broader themes.

DG: How have your experiences with getting published changed the way that you write?
LC: Having my work published has significantly boosted my confidence as a poet. Initially, I often questioned the value and appeal of my work, but seeing my poetry in print validated my creative endeavors. This acknowledgment from the literary world encouraged me to take bolder risks in my writing. With each publication, I’ve grown more assured in my voice and style, feeling inspired to explore more in-depth themes and experiment with various poetic forms. The positive feedback and constructive criticism from editors and readers have been vital to this growth, helping me to see my work from different perspectives. This journey of being published has transformed me from a hesitant writer to a confident poet, proud of my work and eager to share it with a wider audience.

DG: The way that a poem is structured is a very important part of how it is made. Will you elaborate on how you decide on the structure of your poetry?
LC: The structure of each poem I write is directly influenced by its theme and emotional tone. For example, when writing about loss, I might choose a sparse, free-verse structure to reflect the sense of emptiness and disarray. Conversely, for a poem about a joyful, rhythmic experience, I might use a more structured, repetitive form with rhythm to capture the movement. The decision is always a balance between what best serves the poem’s message and how it resonates emotionally.

DG: What were some challenges that you faced getting into the writing community? Can you shed light on how to navigate these challenges for other potential writers?
LC: Navigating the writing community initially felt daunting due to its competitive nature and the challenge of finding my unique voice. I started by attending online workshops, which helped me build confidence and a network of fellow writers. Submitting poems regularly to journals and magazines, despite facing rejections, taught me the importance of persistence. I also attended several summer writing camps, which helped me work with others to peer review my work. My advice to new writers is to actively engage in writing communities, seek constructive feedback, and remain persistent in honing and sharing their work. Building a presence in the literary world takes time, but consistent effort and a willingness to learn from both successes and setbacks are important.

Daniel Gernant
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