The uniquely contemporary art form known as “spam poetry” — amusing, occasionally creepy “found poems” assembled from phrases in junk emails — has spawned numerous fan sites such as the Spam Poetry Institute, Spam-Poetry.com, and the Anthology of Spam Poetry (notable for the fake bios of the poems’ “authors”). I find this art form so fascinating because it captures the absurdity of the competing messages hurled at us by mass communication, a random data stream of tragedies and trivia in which all information has equal (and therefore no) significance.
As someone who has tried in vain to appreciate some of today’s more experimental poets, I also appreciate the questions spam poetry raises about language and meaning. Can a poem be enjoyable even if it has no “meaning”, no narrative thread or logical connection leading from one phrase to another? If so, what characteristics distinguish interesting nonsense from inanity? Good spam poetry, I think, does more than joke about Viagra; it teases us with the ghost of meaning, triggering our minds’ compulsion to “make sense” of any string of words we encounter.
So I was excited to discover an entire chapbook of spam poetry, E.V. Noechel’s Get the Rollax Replicas You Watned, Vermin: Poems, Directly Marketed (Assume Nothing Press, 2007). A quick and entertaining read, these poems also have a sinister tone, like secret communications overheard by the wrong person, or dream conversations that seem terribly important yet impossible to retain. Perhaps spam poetry taps into the paranoia of the Internet age, where information is plentiful yet unreliable, and our privacy can be violated without us ever knowing.
Below, samples from the chapbook:
Drugs Advised for Rape Victims
I decide to tender you, perfectly fresh.
What would happen
To your family if you died?
Please don’t think it’s an easy question, wastrel.
Nude angelfish, buttercup, Libya,
Breathtaking image: no place like home.
No place like home.
Soap and water, best germ-fighters.
Should the Government be Involved?
Woven ketosis, Polaroid convoy
The squeaking wheel doesn’t always get
The grease. Sometimes it gets replaced.
My friend, you are in trouble. You
Have nothing to lose.
I think this will intrigue you, mournful
I hope you are doing okay. Are you hurting?
I’ve been depressed with my magnitude
Lately. What and you.
first published in Blotter magazine
Don’t Forget Your Superman Pill
Do you want your dick to be wallpaper for a computer?
Surely you only dream of it, delight in
Pop quiz hardship,
My oh my,
It’s heroic to be mammoth,
As clean as beef?
Increase your testosterone
with this new Caucasian.
Why didn’t you
Those college chicks don’t know anything.
(Tiger in Sanskrit)
You have a pretty house,
Sleep soundly and awake rested.
Visit Noechel’s website at www.evnoechel.com . Read her Honorable Mention poem from the 2006 Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest sponsored by Winning Writers here; Jim Neill’s second-prize poem is another fine example of spam poetry.