Magazine article Verbatim

Turning Spam into Haiku

Magazine article Verbatim

Turning Spam into Haiku

Article excerpt

At the risk of offending true lovers of poetry, a new form of versification has arisen, a structure that performs a kind of jujitsu on email spam, turning the very rawness of its attack back onto itself.

We are, in effect, "repurposing" meaningful texts--in this case, email subject lines--to create a kind of found verse much in the way that modern graphic artists turn ordinary found objects into objets.

In fairness, there are actually several forms of spam-inspired doggerel now snaking their ways along the byways of the Internet.

One format, dubbed spamverse by a correspondent who understandably wishes to remain anonymous (the better to retain his day job as a corporate lawyer), has a simple rule: you must take whole subject lines from a selection of spam messages, including wacky punctuation. These are incorporated into a poem having the desired verse form.

   amazing hover toy--limited stock only
   Matt Damon sex scandal??? Sarah Michelle nude!
   A woman and a man, naked ... havin sex!
   You are Approved.

Another format, called SpamKu by its apparent originator, Allen Hutchison, uses a software program to generate random haiku-like verses every fifteen minutes. Two examples will suffice:

   Paradise is
   wating for you Guadagno

   burn baby burn faster
   and better with nero Cars
   as low as Heat up

At the risk of seeming to disparage an inherently disparageable form, it might be pointed out that the traditional haiku 5-7-5 syllabic structure is not necessarily preserved and one needs to look very hard indeed to discern meaning.

More of these are available at http://

There is also a form called Spam Haiku which is haiku written about the much-maligned Hormel Spam[TM] product: spamhaiku/site/.

Turning, however, to the more serious endeavor of creating meaningful verse, let's revisit the concept of "haiku" to see why seemingly random bits of email subject lines can somehow make transcendent sense.

According to Jane Reichhold writing in the Journal of the Haiku Society of America (http://, haiku uses a variety of techniques, such as contrast and association, and often riddles, to convey a new experience of a well known situation, a nonmetaphorical first impression from daily life. …

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