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Spoetry or spoems are poetic verses made primarily from the subject lines of spam e-mail messages.

What is spoetry?[edit]

It is unknown as to when the first spoem was started as several writers and bloggers have claimed to have created the form. However, it is estimated that the idea began in 1999 as Satire Wire [1] held their first spam poetry writing contest in 2000 [2]. Animator Don Hertzfeldt began writing spam poems in his production journal in 2004 [3]. Translator Jorge Candeias wrote a “spoem” a day during a whole year, between the 5th of May 2003 and the 5th of May 2004, using spam subject lines as title and inspiration; these are in Portuguese, based on spam bylines mostly in English [4].

A book entitled Machine Language by endwar was published in 2005 by IZEN and was followed by Machine Language, Version 2.1 also by endwar in 2006. The latter edition includes a CD of spoetry read by Microsoft Sam and set to ambient musical sounds by Michael Truman who also tweaked the automated readings. Each edition indicates endwar as editor, but in the second edition he has admitted to using cut-up technique and having combined shorter pieces from the first edition, which lends more authorship to him in his creation. These pieces were also read at the opening of Blends & Bridges, a concrete and visual poetry show at Gallery 324 in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 1, 2006, by endwar with the sounds by Truman backing. The experimental poet, endwar, cites his own collaboration with Ficus Strangulensis, the experimental poet, in 1995, The Further Last Words of Dutch Schultz published by IZEN as an earlier experiment in generating random text poetry, in this case, the software altered text of the bizarre last words of Dutch Schultz as published in The New York Times in 1935, as well as the cut-up influences of Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs and even the musicians Throbbing Gristle and David Bowie.[1] The useful bits of spam for purposes of endwar's variation of spoetry, i.e., the part that is not the advertisement, but the random words assigned to trick spam filters, endwar calls "paratext". Interestingly, endwar indicates that, in his view, "the effect of the evolution of paratext is that computers are learning to talk to each other by in some sense imitating human texts." [2] The advertisements are the human-to-human conversation in the same email sources.

A book entitled 'Spam: E-mail Inspired Poems' by Ben Myers was published in 2008 by Blackheath Books [5] Myers claims to have been writing spam poems since 1999.

The creation of spoetry is similar to Gysin and Burroughs's cut-up technique in that individual subject lines of messages are pieced together in poetic form; making the creation of spoetry an exercise not in creativity as much as in having an eye for the unexpected.

The end result can be crafted into any literary form the author desires: haiku, concrete poetry, limerick, dada, and so on. Thus, spoetry is not a literary form but rather a means of creating poetry.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [intro to Machine Language, Version 2.1, endwar, IZEN, 2006]
  2. ^ [intro to Machine Language, endwar, IZEN, 2005]

External links[edit]