Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Greenwich Avenue, Sept. 2007


You’ve seen that annoying e-mail spam that contains a string of nonsense words as well as an advertisement (probably for Viagra). All those nonsense words are there to confuse spam filters, to convince them that the e-mail is legitimate communication.

Well, yesterday I got one of these messages. But the nonsense turned out to be a sort of found poetry. It didn’t mean anything taken all together, but the lines were quite beautiful:
Wide, whited fields, a way unframed at last
Glimmering of light:
What is there in the depths of these walls
Wind, sleet. The branches sway,
into early blooming. Then, the inevitable blizzard
The surge of swirling wind defines
So, startled, quivering,
At four, the spectators leave in pairs, off
A salamander scuttles across the quiet
Covering the land
Down the road, at Cypress Gardens, a woman
XII. The Mystery of the Missing Ships: The Franklin Search
As it sits there like an eventual
Empty streets I come upon by chance,
Between the vertex that the far-lit gray
As if your absence now concluded long ago.
on their own little seat cushions, wearing soft caps
Glimmering of light:
Coextensive with everything? How could they know?
As I read it, I thought, "What IS this?" These were definitely snippets of someone’s real writing. I was especially intrigued with the line mentioning Cypress Gardens, since I lived in Winter Haven, Fla., for several years - the home of Cypress Gardens. So with Google’s help, I began searching.

I learned several things. First of all, apparently this is a really common spam poem! Many other bloggers have written about receiving these same lines, or varying mixtures of them. But I was also able to trace the words back to their original source, which turns out to be here.

All but one of the lines in my spam poem were stolen from this University of Chicago Press Web page, from the work of poets like John Hollander, Gail Mazur, Robert Pack, Yves Bonnefoy and even Paul Verlaine and Victor Hugo. The only line not from this page is the one about “the mystery of the missing ships,” which turns out to be a chapter title from this book, by Jeannette Mirsky, mentioned on another page on the same Web site.

So let's give credit where it's due. Here’s a code to the authors of each line, by initials:
(JH) Wide, whited fields, a way unframed at last
(PV) Glimmering of light:
(YB) What is there in the depths of these walls
(VH) Wind, sleet. The branches sway,
(GM) into early blooming. Then, the inevitable blizzard
(RP) The surge of swirling wind defines
(VH) So, startled, quivering,
(GM) At four, the spectators leave in pairs, off
(GM) A salamander scuttles across the quiet
(PV) Covering the land
(GM) Down the road, at Cypress Gardens, a woman
(JM) XII. The Mystery of the Missing Ships: The Franklin Search
(JH) As it sits there like an eventual
(YB) Empty streets I come upon by chance,
(JH) Between the vertex that the far-lit gray
(RP) As if your absence now concluded long ago.
(GM) on their own little seat cushions, wearing soft caps
(PV) Glimmering of light:
(JH) Coextensive with everything? How could they know?
Do I have too much time on my hands, or what?!

5 comments:

Reya Mellicker said...

(laughing)

How delightful!! That spam could lead you on a wild goose chase ending up on a poetry web site.

How cool!!

Merle Sneed said...

That is really an interest journey. I'm a little concerned that you took the time to read it though. You may have a bit too much free time.

Do you suppose these people ever actually sell Viagra using this method? I probably get ten of these a day.

patrick said...

unreal!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Steve said...

I always wonder that, Merle. Does anyone really buy Viagra (not to mention stocks!) based on a spam ad? But I've heard that spam requires such a low rate of response to be profitable -- something like one in a million messages -- that there must be just enough to make it worthwhile.

Pod said...

you nerd!
;0p