Volume 73, Number 45 | March 10 -16, 2004

Talking Point

I spam therefore I am: Dada poetry fills the Internet

By Andrei Codrescu

The pulses of spam are surging around the dams and walls erected by spam-assassin software, networks and government and producing eerie poetry. At first, I thought that avant-gardists had targeted me personally for their guerilla poetry, but I realized quickly that there was way too much of it and that even the most automatic generators of word-salad could not make as many strange combinations as stuffed my mailbox every morning. Still, Tristan Tzara, founder of Dada, would have been proud of this one: eerily perplex bookie cynthia aggression discretion bravado culture ghostlike introvert cybernetic christy bulgaria comedian condition jigsaw rome sketch romano cortex inflater sri hopkins nausea dirt laser bonanza charcoal orthopedic cellular

There are poets in this country who’d give their left foot for a poem like that, because it has everything that a poet requires: density, impenetrability, a dark sort of music and nearly perfect fodder for critics. “Jigsaw rome sketch romano cortex” would make Wallace Stevens’ day, not to speak of your average language poet working in the cellars of aggressive non-reference.

I now know that this spam poetry is involuntary, necessitated by the spammers’ need to get some product across border controls; but involuntary or not, the stuff is compelling and I hope that an anthologist somewhere is collecting and will make a book out of it. Aside from its intrinsic hermeticism, this poetry is symptomatic of our nation. The need to sell something has reached the frenzied pitch of art: entrepreneurs have stumbled into the secret of the postmodern brain in their rush to add banality to our oversaturated and overextended consumer selves.

And the strange thing is that it works. Everything from porn to nonexistent W.M.D.’s can be sold to us because we are perfect receptors for Dada poetry, made pliable by a relentless history of nonsense and nonstop pitching.

“Eerily perplex bookie cynthia” is us.



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