Spam Poetry

In the early years of this millennium, spam emails would generally arrive garnished with a paragraph of nonsense text, blocks of meaningless words, created by a computerised random-word generator of some kind. This was apparently done to fool the primitive spam filters of the time into thinking that the email was genuine correspondence.

I was attracted to these incoherent, senseless accumulations of words, and began to save them, with the idea of creating something artistically worthwhile out of communications that were, at best, deceitful and underhanded, and, at worst, just plain criminal. I realized that these worthless transmissions might possibly be transmuted and transfigured into Surrealist poetry.

It is possible to see Poetry as a contest, a closely fought grudge-match between language and meaning. And, for contests to be worthwhile, they require rules. It is these rules, whether obvious and in plain sight, like rhyme-schemes, or more subtle guide-lines and protocols about line-lengths or assonance, that the worthwhile poet observes as he or she referees the antics of the words on the page.

I eventually settled on the following set of rules for the creation of what I came to think of as my ‘Spam Poetry’:-

1) Each spam email could be transformed in to one poem, not more.

2) I could discard any words I wanted from the text. However…

3) All the remaining words had to remain in their original order.

4) I was allowed to add additional words (but my skill as ‘spam poet’ would be judged by how little    supplemental language I had to add to create some form of meaning.)

5) Punctuation and capitalisation could be used at will.

The technique is demonstrated below, in a few sample lines from one of the many preserved spam emails not yet turned into poetry:-


detect buddhism regale aerospace boatyard nugget tipperary hung diesel catheter drool fictive basis attainder acreage nomenclature degenerate autobiography humboldt agate darling curfew diamagnetism subsidiary anticipatory congestion host replete shire repression readout cantilever.


Removing unwanted words leaves me with:-


detect buddhism aerospace boatyard tipperary hung diesel catheter basis degenerate autobiography darling curfew anticipatory congestion replete shire repression.


Now, I add as few additional words as possible as is necessary to create some sort of meaning, and this process allows the piece to read as follows:-


I detect Buddhism in that aerospace boatyard in Tipperary. Your wellhung diesel catheter is the basis of a degenerate autobiography. Darling Curfew, my anticipatory congestion is replete with shire repression.


 This technique differs from the Beat Movement ‘Cut Ups’ of Biron Gysin and William Borroughs, in that there is no re-ordering of the words that are to form the final work. In ‘spam poetry’ the randomisation process has happened earlier, in the original generation of the spam text, and the ‘spam poet’s task is simply to draw attention to the potent and magical energies that are released by the juxtaposition of these incongruent words.

In my experience, the technique generates bizarre, Absurdist poems that are generally quite strident and declamatory, though whether this is due to my choices of less vivid words to be edited out, I do not know. A long paragraph of random text produces a long poem, a short one makes a short poem.

My own additions to the texts are all very minor and small in scale, consisting of pronouns, conjunctions, articles, prepositions and simple, neutral verbs. Every wild conjunction of words was already there in the original spam paragraph. I feel as if these poems are asking to be recited loudly, through a megaphone, at a Surrealist Group ‘séance’ in the 1920s.

 None of the following 22 poems, which all date from 2000 to 2004, are titled, as I found I was unable to justify any sort of naming process.


A creepy cocktail
at the bombastic, stony launch.
Spidery, blackbody Bill (into sparkle decompression)
orders Edwardian beebread.
Tomorrow, astrophysical experts divulge
an intemperate enigma.
So hang carbohydrate,
Dear flood-wattle;
it’s gastrointestinal, evolutionary cock!
What carbon handicraftsman
fashions a nobelium driveway?


Can her occult antagonist abuse Juno, in Bucharest, with Ozark sparkle?
Can nickel deficient, screwbean Jerry, oft bold swigging ipecac,
direct the pewter hydrosphere?
“Darlene, use tube technique on the Rochester urethra.
Delia, lash the naturopath.”
Oh tuneful old beaver! Oh coppery, volleyball combustion!
The nihilist, conscientious, antiquated, convex clockwatcher
may toddle acquiescent,
but a bazaar blackbody will consult Baron Aquarium.
Electric Brindisi! I envy Concertmaster Bonneville
his inexplainable midpoint.


On Mont Lindberg, Paraguay,
the transcript woke Ameslan Gurkha.
“Batten my Zambia alpenstock
in the Arkansan preparation of greenwood caraway (I snub Goodyear).
Then, Dionysus, a snifter!”
A neater assassin will detect
the infelicitous raffia hireling in bluebonnet,
if he speaks anything beside Arabic.


Those thought handsome often lie.
A lead privilege was mentioned but looked like pie
(pleasure pounds).
To drink himself blue,
To dare to be peculiar and mischievous.
A careful husband will watch arms (favourite) with feelings (simple).
Could a round, cast, shining thing be bad?
Suddenly, five charge the study.
Their Cousin could shame a secretary suddenly.
Quickly foot that Sunday breath,
and bound ninety feet away.
Concentrate, Aunt, a swimming day.


Been tears?
Yes, years.
History will circle happy
those whose pronunciation is best.


Like a parsley coat antelope,
The Berlitz alumnus is a deadline away from socket afterglow.
“Simpson Corbel sounds farfetched.
Didn’t he go dragging Lark Warren for his diary?”
Oh, delicious suite-pin!
Expend your mauve quotation in a backhand sluice,
you informative Harpy.


Walt the subversive, continued to dredge
like an alien-filled, cassius tornado,
until his elfin, alveoli conveyance was forced to descend.
His confiscatory aptitude would nauseate
the demagogue, Latin churchwoman in her stripy Suffolk cafeteria.
Withdraw your Ecuador moccasin from octagonal Menlo Valley, Basil,
you bordello pioneer!
Yours is the gray town of the fifteenth dogfish,
viscous Claremont.


The rerouted Darwinian truck travels the coast
to match the trident that had been chosen.
But, with heliotrope bile,
my eldest, a bad atheist, shouts with certitude
“Auschwitz ovenbird!…
Inane efflorescence!…”
or “Jules Legendre commits adultery with automata!…”
My Manila beep album may be a custodial battlefield,
but is it egalitarian to portray a Southwest prognosis?
And why is inflationary Acapulco better than pollutant Yugoslavia?
Give those perfect townsmen valedictorian leatherwork.
Greenberg could adduce that the Pakistani was becoming affectionate.
Oh, calamity!


Did, or did not, Nancy Kristin, circa 1967,
shine over Moor Downs like a crinkle dahlia?
I take umbrage
that Astarte Raymond is Commandant of the illusionary bobble.
The next PM should be Cushman Rasmussen.


Your pamphlet on Slavonic garb is just border cheese,
I’ve had my fill of heterodyne, Edwardian pelvis and calf.
Albrecht Baldwin and some discrepant Chinamen
were in a brouhaha with Mimi.
Gag that streetcar monetarist!


“Anamorphic ABC ?
Anagram Autopsy?
A snappish concerto, Chuckwalla.
Let the indisputable arbiter brag,
he’s being mathematic, and goofy.”
Lincoln, in prominent sunglasses, is deferring the fourth agenda.
Be my ally, you gubernatorial, barbarous emissary.


A coarse snort, Professor,
but it’s brute catastrophe for the honeydew brothel,
where all and sundry bathe in galactose,
while you award credit for chicanery and scurrilous business necrosis.


Zoom, madcap Loki,
with wreath to the sanctuary,
and scorch a striptease image.
Daddy Plato abetted the Europe debacle,
so you, youngish ant, could carve.


“An adjectival orgy, you Swiss dunce!”
This was the Leeds esprit of ‘Alabaster’ Eddy Holm.
Oldster, grease your winkle, and carry that supine termite,
cranelike and authoritative,
to Babylon.


The armchair, flipflop deportee says “if coat squeal, substitute cayenne.”
An apostate stenographer by the Bogota canal,
on an oilcloth divan, cries
“Calcify that clitoris, Aitken, you prig!”
(A hyperbola to commemorate pacifism in the workspace.)
Are you conversant with the scarves of Bologna? They heighten the stitch.
Every vandal is dilatory, but Cornell ‘Cherry’ Sachs is beatific (and swingable.)


Noble lexicography will invalidate a backlog,
so let’s bop for beer with token precision.
Norfolk doctrine is brutal
and twice drowsy.


The pemmican gumshoe, an unamusing, primrose-beaked legatee
from clannish Aberdeen,
and the woozy Saharan (from some reeking enclave)
dance an allknowing quickstep in the vineyard.
Kharkov, your sarcasm is deplorably brainless!
Tamasha Bellwether, reeky with melatonin,
says the clannish herds have a function Satanic.


A mainline implosion might drive an idiomatic module,
but a deferred baccalaureate requires galactic credulity.
Bloat crewel? I diagnose catnip, so ingestible!


Helene Bonaventure would preoccupy an evensong trilobite.
In her cashew warren, at her bedside,
Cyril is adept.
Both play.


It difficult at least. I share home with full hungry, writing law uncle
who drink dare, and medicine pray.
He seem care health no more.
Seize doctor with delight. In month nephew will be ninety. Wonderful.
Straight, unless history really know poison.
(Sorry, like.)
Accident in high far places, scene is describe red.


“This automorphic manifestation”, cried the botanist, “Is a turnoff,
and the Haberman essay on serfdom is divisive and does not edify”.
Patti Wingtip wears a Bantu lithospheric robe (just a worthy, butch blanket).
If only the hailstorm weren’t bloody lava!
That’s Brandenburg objectivity for you.
Aging, arty, Mollycoddle Jeffrey
may joke that methyl will sooth a tungsten bowstring,
but the Andover signora, suspecting treachery, has an MBA in audio.
Agamemnon sucks equity candy,
and claims the Texas chrome thieves locale is the centerpiece
of chaste Bridgeport.


A teetotal timeout
for rubdown nihilist Martial Dirichlet
and Raymond, the truculent Inca competitor.
The dynamism of harpy Lee Johanson made Bartholomew grin,
And, for the fortieth time, adjust and moisten his levitt.
Torpor was on the breeze,
but a secondary urging cried
‘Come, bask in the consensus. Let Malraux brandish his pudding!’
In an atrocity, a coalition of aldermen knife the council in insurrection.
Christine was vowed to secrecy over Israelite nostalgic policy.
But in the future, she might squeal.