Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"And then there is using everything": Found Computer-Generated Gibberish String Poems

After I officially paid for Eudora, I started getting about twice the amount of spam as I'd received before. Usually 5-10 pieces of it with each download, which I've been dutifully forwarding to Earthlink's junkmail server/service/black hole. It does no good, certainly, but being somewhat Pavlovian I haven't learned yet.

But some of the spam started to catch my attention. About half of the messages hawking discounted prescription drugs usually contain beguiling, brief fragments of computer-generated gibberish (not exactly nonsense since you can derive bits of sense from them) that often approximates poetry, at least some of the poets whose work I've come regularly across a lot over the last few years. (No names, but just keep reading.) After reading a good two dozen of these before forwarding/deleting and chatting with poet-composer-singer-electroniciste Latasha Natasha Diggs a while back about how she too found these computer-generated text strings fascinating, I started saving them. Right now I have been filing them away, but perhaps when I get a longer breather I may be able to do some real work with them. (There are probably 100[,000?] other folks out there who had or have the same idea. Hell, I've probably purchased a chapbook or two with the results. Anyways....)

I believe they're meant to trick the spam cleaning software, and they certainly work (although I believe both my Eudora and Earthlink settings probably need to be optimized). In one of my past disastrous encounters with computer science, I remember writing a tiny program to generate randomize text--or maybe I hallucinated it during those endless, sleepless hours trying to figure out simple programming language algorithms (but there are Gods and mercifully, they let you forget such horrors!)--but I don't think this text is randomized. Or at least not at the level of the word, but maybe by phrase or sentence. Those random strings actually do appear if you Google certain words, and also are in lots of spam, though both Earthlink and Yahoo! seem to filter those messages out.

Instead with these texts, I think the computer utilizes snippets of pre-existing text (but from where? newspaper articles? law reviews? court transcripts?), since a number of the pieces have a topical feel and appear to be collaged from larger narratives. Or perhaps my mind just automatically tries to fill in the gaps. At any rate, here are three that I've titled. I've only minimally altered the exact wording of each text, adding lineation, enjambment, and punctuation, and in the case of the second poem, I've repeated one of the words for effect. Does anyone out there know what programs or software create these for the spammers (or fellow poets)? I'm curious to know. Also, do these poems remind you of any poets or poems you've seen? If so, who? (The first one most obviously mirrors in an ersatz way the work one of the great innovators of our literature, but what about the other two?)


If, at that time, I had been much with her, I should, in the anything but welcome to them; and calling upon them to come out, step, up and down a gravel walk on one side of the lawn. She gave a name, was Thomas Benjamin, and therefore she was not married at all. Is in the flower. The cup is bitter. To the brim the worm is at fish-slices, butter-knives, and sugar-tongs, we should prefer both, friend. Heeps treatment of him? He got up to ascertain if the door--but Thank you, Trot, replied my aunt, I prefer to sit upon my recluse, that little patriarch of something less than twenty, whom Miss Dartle softly touched her there, and bent down her head to whisper, issuing permission to visit every Saturday afternoon or midnight, without detriment to inn-servants, had agreed together to sit up until morning. I went without companion. That he should succeed, was no matter of surprise too, regretted my aunts, thousand pounds more than ever. In the day, and we had still three or four hours before dinner. But there, and bent. We spoke, with some approach to cheerfulness, of Mr. Must Not. D. C. confined himself to the broad pinions of Time? J. too occasionally, of what we are saying and doing having been said and of myself, and my defects and errors. And thus, through the reflection...


that the flag should be
treated as a sacred
between 1967 and 1969
by drastically increasing
existing two little snippets
of nutritionfolklore
have hung
specific meanings
of all these flags
were defined by jail
in the 1980s
for an "offense"
that the Court was
to metabolism.
Since your metabolic rate
between ALTHOUGH
is the fastest
in small-
ship expedition
although there
are plenty

of them


Stead kind dead
forward. So song
soldier, have.
way, art
cow end,

been. Earth under
symbol. By game
science. Join
broad blue
serve word
take book.
North build
receive yellow,
farm is. Fall
capital ride
sand. Still
laugh nothing bright
month. Ten new,
color neighbor,
these. Must
warm mother
too boy,


All Star Game Update: as I imagined, Chance, I mean, Tony LaRussa found a way to snatch defeat from victory's jaws and led the NL team to what I think was its 8th consecutive defeat, 7-5, at the bats (and swift wrists) of the American Leaguers. It also helped that the AL pitchers held up well, at least until the late innings. The eventual AL pennant winners will now have home-field advantage, just like last year, which proved nightmarish for a Cardinals team that wasn't hitting, couldn't field a passable pitcher, and had to play its first two games in Fenway Park. Well, if the Cardinals do repeat in the World Series, at least this time they'll have had a dry run.


  1. John:
    OhMyGawd! And here I was thinking *I* was the only one who found these odd strings of words completely enthralling! It's like some secret language, the murmur just at the edge of hearing while you're seated at your computer. Fantastic. Will love to see what Natasha does with this as well.

    As for the All-Stars, I grew up rooting for the National League (something passed down to me by my great aunt)and so remain amazed when the Americans win (or are handed a victory!)

  2. (This AL boy is relieved to see that the left side of the Orioles' infield acquitted themselves well, slugging 1.000 and snagging the MVP.)

  3. Reggie, I should have known these things fascinated you too! I think Lana incorporates some of them into her performances! Also, I assumed you were a Baltimore fan, like Bill--the Orioles who, once upon a time, were the hapless St. Louis Browns! They have quite a team this year; I'd much rather see them push Boston out of first place and vie with the Yankees for the division title. Baltimore vs. St. Louis--that would be quite a Series, wouldn't it? The Cardinals would be at a double disadvantage: 4 games at Camden Yards and LaRussa as their manager. Maybe Pujols would gain superpowers or something....

  4. Yes I am an O's fan, of course (Hey Bill:). I was downtown at the harbor when the Red Sox were in town and the place was crawling with Boston fans...and I do mean *crawling* -- or was that my skin? Ugh...

    Baltimore - St Louis would be a great series (we'd have to place our friendship on hold for a while during that one tho:). And as you might imagine I'm 100% in favor of anything that would bring Albert Pujols this way!