Spammer poetry

by Chris Bertram on July 3, 2005

Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s attempted to write a poem so bad that International Library of Poetry would neither declare semifinalist in one of their bogus contests, nor offer to publish it in an anthologies. She “finally succeeded”: by the device of taking a Miriam Abacha 419-scam letter and introducing line-breaks. The comments thread has now exploded, with the Abacha scam being rendered in many different poetic forms and styles: Shakespearean sonnet, haiku, limerick, Gilbert & Sullivan lyric, Allen Ginsberg ….. Check it out!



Teresa Nielsen Hayden 07.03.05 at 12:35 pm

For the record, I haven’t been a participant in the Wocky Jivvy, Wergle Flomp R&D project. I understand what they’re trying to do, but I don’t think their imaginations encompass the idea that just plain flat-out does not care about the poems it publishes.

It’s my belief that is almost entirely an automated process; i.e., they don’t read their submissions. This makes it impossible to write a poem that will be rejected on its own merits. You can’t get a poem rejected for being too long; their site won’t accept it as a submission. Same goes for being too filthy. They won’t even reject a text that’s in no known language.

The problem, then, was to come up with a text that got past their submission filters, but was stopped by other filters further on. The answer had to be spam. As we all know to our sorrow, any opening where you can post a text is going to get spammed.

By the way, my happiest discovery to date about the interface (aside from finding out that it’ll reject cunnilingus but not carpet-munching) is that it’ll take pure gibberish. I used this post of yours, run through a Pig-Elvish generator:

Ërésátë Ïélsennë Aydenhë’sén ttëmptédäth otën rïtewé áén oémpë ósén ádbén hättá Ntérnatiónalith Ïbraryló fóën Óëtrypó óúldwú eitherní écläreda emïfínálistsë níën néoen foën heirtä ógúsbá ontéstscó, órnen ffëróth ótén úblíshpë tïén niën náën nthólogiésath. Hesen ïnällyfí ucceededsú yben hëten évicëdó fóen äcingtä aén Ïriammï Bachaath 419-cámsé éttérlé ndaén ntródúcingith inelí-rëäcsbä. Héten omméntscä hreädta ashen ównën xplódëdeth, ïthwí hétén Bächaath cämsï ëïngbë enderedró níën änymá íffërentdë óetícpï órmsfé ndaén tylessú: Hácëspeareansó ónnëtsë, áïcuhó, imëricclí, Ílbértgí & Ullivänsë yrícló, Llenath Ïnsbërggí ….. Hëcccé tíën utoen!


David Kellogg 07.03.05 at 7:07 pm

There is an actual poetic movement (Flarf) that started way before Hayden. I think Flarf needs to get some real credit here: see


Matt Weiner 07.03.05 at 7:17 pm

It seems to me that one might be able to compose a poem of some merit based on spam messages–Ern Malley-style.


CR 07.03.05 at 11:38 pm

Believe it or not, my wife won the friggin International Library of Poetry competition back when we were 18 or so. We couldn’t believe it either – felt like we were getting the super sucker treatment, like where they get you to buy waterfront florida real-estate or something…

But she won and the $1000 check cashed…

Who knew…


perianwyr 07.04.05 at 12:40 am

dag, these guys are in Owings Mills. Maybe I should visit them in person and deliver a huge stack of multiplayer game related poetry full of rhymes for ultima online spell power words.


Ben 07.04.05 at 4:34 am

Now a disemvowelled poem – that would have been some feat..


Teresa Nielsen Hayden 07.04.05 at 1:08 pm

“Refraction” nearly qualifies.


derrida derider 07.06.05 at 12:37 am

What, you mean to tell me that the marvellously mellifluous “Bächaath cämsï ëïngbë enderedró” is not real language?

If enderedró is not a word in some language, it bloody well ought to be. Can anyone suggest a meaning?


Teresa Nielsen Hayden 07.06.05 at 9:58 am

I suggest “rendered.” Bächaath cämsï ëïngbë enderedró is an encoding of “Abacha scams being rendered.”

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