Arts & Culture

Bound Astarte Talkatively Tallness–Recent Spam Poetry

Perhaps you’ve noticed that a lot of the email spam we receive every day has, in very small print, all sorts of nonsense text, together with the usual advertisement for more inches or real estate in Nigeria.  The reason spam … Read More

By / July 23, 2009


Perhaps you’ve noticed that a lot of the email spam we receive every day has, in very small print, all sorts of nonsense text, together with the usual advertisement for more inches or real estate in Nigeria.  The reason spam is couched in nonsense-text has to do with statistical methods devised by the 18th century English theologian-mathematician Thomas Bayes. Bayesian filters rank each word in an email according to how likely it is to be spam. An email containing nothing but the words "Viagra, mortgage, and porn" will almost certainly be filtered out. But if the email also contains a high number of non-spam words, it can elude such filters.

Until recently, however, I used to read my email in an all-text mail client.  As a result, the nonsense-language had the opposite of its intended effect: I never saw the images advertising Viagra, but did see the text, which in Outlook and similar clients renders invisibly as white text on white background.

The result is often striking poetry. Sometimes it reminds me of Pound, other times of the cut-ups of Burroughs or the experiments of the L*A*N*G*U*A*G*E poets. Once in a while, as with most word salads, the juxtapositions are remarkable. There are times where I even discern a narrative, hidden within the almost opaque text.

The following spam poems are truncated in some cases, but otherwise unedited from the emails I received. You might try reading the text very slowly, one word at a time, as a sort of mental visualization free of conceptual logic. Or try reading it aloud. Or you might, as Burroughs advised, allow your eyes to wander across the textual field and become caught by surprising strings of letters.  Whatever your procedure, I hope you’ll find these poems as captivating as I do. – jm

1. brainwashing targeting postprocessor scum powdered acted boyishness plotting scholastically terming sarcophagus asiatic playthings milker meddled hurrying crept termini adverse exemplar boors crasher terrorist immature plump teaspoon porker expressive boastings hypoactive cradle technocrat schemer bowel messiest scantily menus expected temporary admissible algonquin adrian evens bootlegged seated appleton portmanteau accuser memberships midnight augustine ignorantly booth illegalities poplar crowd scribbles evaluations hunger angora ideolect scorch excreting bookkeeping couching humbling illustrations braved tad metamorphism baxter polariscope exile ignorance acetone plumbago eventuality andorra microstore advisers excessive talkie postorder 2.  abelson crashing scraper metallic seafood praises ethic polarography exciting advantageous huge accuracy populated scoured practicable mien crescent ignorance humanness crayfish ether teethe tensely anglicanism scrambles bounded boring acerbity adulterer beckman humans metabolic scarcely sauce midstream acolytes mayonnaise expounds idolatry adorable adhered scorch alpheratz idiosyncratic accreditation exploit saturday hostility televisors scantiness migrated cotyledon teachers schemers braced bible merriest tautly tasked adagio hungriest expected actual plumed possessional adult plunder exhaustedly expounded meteor poorer sawtooth atreus actuating plummeting credenza correspondents poisoning idiomatic idempotent cravat pollutes boxing accountability expect aches millenarian evolve tech expectedly hued scramble ethnic postgraduate country evicts meaningful poach activator tappet hypothesizing aphrodite testifying scuttled bernhard boost brawl pleasant existent countrymen crackles mightier iconic sauterne midpoints bayesian ache playwrights boldness screened practicing expunged admired countermeasure bluebush terroristic mentally activists boxtop cotton acclaim taxicab telegraphing plundering brainchild bogs albrecht brazing policing ethnography politico sanely ponies practitioners memorabilia imbalances arianism tetrafluoride menstruate bottlers bernard exogamy sane tariff exponentiates scraps exclude barrett telltale pounder adept boyhood militate 3.        bound astarte sarcasm estrange tactic seaport exerting scents memoryless playhouse matriarch courtesies tantalum meditations humiliations bobolinks bouffant corrupted acolytes boldest posthumous teller tar terminology boss tantalizingly textual eunuchs blundered alcoa posts bony booted postoffices technical adults et scalable postlude admixed mill tautologies covenant brave evildoer icings measured alton hypocrisy breachers math husky 4.        talkatively tallness bluntest midsection hutch expressively tad microcomputers tending addle tangible microscope thallophyte examiner courting atalanta covalent baltimorean baird meanly boat hydrology pornographer boca bonder adoptive angelica mendacious telegram aztec aides execrate bermuda excrete baden adorable horsepower cranelike book cracking schoolgirl cotton hyperboloidal tempters beethoven mediocre microword hypothesis exploiter meanings huzzah postmark bootes crisscross screams excite explosive terse seaquake scalded adoptive abramson mercurial taking amoco crawlers pleasant correspond meat acidic accountant critter plutonium posy boletus poets tank boone midshipmen immediacy tame teething bangor