Real Poetry or Spoetry? You Decide

Did you ever pause to read one of the slabs of meaningless verbiage which pad out spam emails, and did you ever find guilty pleasure in doing so? “Spam poetry,” or “spoetry” as devotees like to call it, has been around for years, but remains, it’s fair to say, a minority literary taste. It’s purpose isn’t artistic: It was originally introduced into spam email as an attempt to avoid Bayesian filters, which redirect incoming messages to junk mail by identifying common patterns of commercial language. There’s nothing common about the language of spoetry.

Spoetry does has a cult following. There’s even a Spam Poetry Institute, dedicated to “preserving the fine literature created by the world’s spammers.” But of course, the difference between this random nonsense and the work of serious modern poets is obvious. Or is it?  Just for fun, here are six passages—three from spam emails, three from works by noted poets. Can you tell the difference?  Answers on page 2.

Excerpt 1:

Combat portrait true warrior complete overview! Pretty much bringing Los Angeles integrates scientific. Over people using service, are favorite.
UFOs nature ecology internet somatics Alexander.
With case studies hands on, activities gives?
That have violators must leave sit site meant. Football surfing tennis ordering.
Remote access, sharing ftp adapter. Eastern traditions herbalism history. Sit, site meant purposes only affiliated way previous owner.
Food gourmet pronoia when game.
Contact feedback form catalog request retail, store. Approaches into fresh on.

Excerpt 2:

Fault plane under treading lacks rip indelicate path to its line, to the furnace. Soon by mistake gains overfill commander to mother up fewer or single nerve balances in averted along elate for normal, drastic. Newer finding up reefs you see slice first partition. Why should that work. Mean passed over no vigil no truce grab for best there and service altered runway. Truck hurt failed list incident pacific not civil, render back on principal hinterland allurement. Afferent side ripe on track refix as, rose up in mossy fibres attuned, brimmer won’t mix hand even extend. How could also not be lesser. Stand nearby went off its oil trap refined.

Excerpt 3:

You soften inside the to, harden in the craniofrontonasal Berkshire
Disappointed AmEx to the phlogiston, or make up your own (using “to”).
Each is delivered and to each,
transverse adamantine.
Unnecessary examples followed, gunned out from
the heterodyne r trap transhumanced into OTC peroxide argument,
cf. want to go to the windfarm.
Photoreceptors Against Cruelty to Landmines!
The Made-Whole Johnson Lee to easySaltMeInFire!

Excerpt 4:

On your team. Something more fun. Support in your own code (and impress cocktail party guests) somewhere in the world you don’t want to brain in a way that sticks. the latest research in support in your own code.

In between sips of a martini. somewhere in the world you don’t want to (and too short) to spend who’ve faced the
You’ll easily counter with your on your team. The latest research in who’ve faced the challenging. Something to use them (and when to learn how those up a creek without (or worse, a flat tire), You’ll easily counter with your
patterns look in challenging.

Excerpt 5:

An exit remnant dicing
with the guild of death
clenched un
like wan
local brain pink
under bellies of dark
gulls on wet tar
flapping a ripped kit wandering harbour neon having worken from dull–sleep–step
webbing puddles on this
point sea ghostly fished-out dock.

Excerpt 6:

Madly in love with her. Your passion for her drove the other
way by fear then he stole to the door items in the catalogue.
i was quite excited about its last and loftiest possibility,
its utmost that is all right, said poirot, he is a friend.


Ready for the answers?  Turn the page.

Let’s clear up the confusion, then.  But first, this really is just for fun.  These short extracts from serious poetical work are reproduced here for purposes of comparison, not denigration: They should properly be read in the context of the poems from which their taken, and as part of their authors’ poetic practice. But there are some lovely phrases in the nonsensical spam poems too.

1.  Spam, of course, promoting a stock tip.

2.  From To Pollen (2006), a pamphlet-length poem by the eminent modernist poet J.H. Prynne.

3.  From Hot White Andy (2007), probably the best-known poem by Keston Sutherland, Professor of Poetry at the University of Sussex.

4.  That’s Spam again.

5.  A passage called “f o g s” from Part: Short Life Housing by multimodal and performance poet Cris Creek (preferred lower case: “cris cheek”).

6.  Oh, spam.  Plain old spam.  But quite pretty.

How did you do?

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