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Found Poetry in my Email

timv's picture

Kinda slow here lately posting-wise so... I've been keeping a file of odd phrases in spam emails when they caught my eye for a while. Together they made a little random poem. (No "poetry" tag for InlineCafe?)

I think your girlfriend doesn't like it

No horse, no hoof

I smiled and let the silence stretch before I spoke

A creaking door hangs longest

People who live in glass houses have to answer the door

Different sores must have different salves

Reference to baseball and its anatomical incorrectness

And the neighbor upstairs trying to convince himself he can play guitar

Washington, Flax Art, and Trident Seafood

That whatever is desirable is just out of grasp

I can see in your eyes, the way they move

These things keep me conscious just long enough to curse their intrusive existence

Bachelors, Masters, Associates. Bachelors, Masters, Associates.

One with rolled up ankles, and scissor wielding hands.

Ones that swing and move in paths of destruction


eebee's picture


It doesn't count as plagiarism if you compiled the poem out of unsolicited spam messages :-)


I think you have discovered a masterpiece, Tim. Just think, millennia from now, long after humans have extinguished themselves, some poor classroom full of teenaged cockroaches will have to interpret that poem.


Roll on Floor, Laughing. I hereby request you to compile more and post another poem. The Glass Houses line is hilarious!

timv's picture

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Thanks for the comments, Elizabeth. Much appreciated! i probably should have added that a friend and I started doing this kind of thing back in college, at the time pulling books off the shelf at random, opening to a random page, and looking for any sentence or phrase that seemed intereresting. It's fun but it never really unlocked the gates to hidden stores of creativity as well as we had hoped it would.


As for the issue of plagiarism, I gotta say that it never even occured to me to wonder. The idea that the concept of authorship is overemphasized and all that. But I'm pleased nonetheless to learn that I'm in the clear on this one.


And yes, the line about glass houses made me chuckle too. Heaven only knows why they put that stuff in spam messages. I'd suppose that it's there to try to fool spam-detectors, but that doesn't explain why it's so surreal and demented. And it apparently doesn't work since I found them all in my Gmail spam folder.


I'll get going on the next one. Might take a while as the good stuff shows up on its own schedule. For starters, here's one from a message I just deleted a couple of minutes ago that seemed appropriate in this context:


expect funny looks while attempting this
eebee's picture

Demented, and how it Relates to (not) Skating

Surreal and demented sounds about right for me these days in the absence of skating 4+ hours at a time.

Tim, I think as long as you're not making money off your junkmail-oeuvre (sounds like an indie band name), or giving it to your professors, you're ok plagiarism-wise!


Now for something completely self-absorbed...

Not skating or doing any exercise other than climbing the 3 flights of stairs to my apartment with groceries, is starting to take its toll on my sanity, and overall sense of hope as a human being. I know that sounds drastic. Please allow me to pour out my pathetic guts in an embarrassingly public way.

Such hopeless moments in a person also devoid of alcohol, drugs and mind-altering exercise, can be validated and soothed by the sheer absurdity of abstract art. So I got a kick out of an article on the Yahoo! headlines today, about Tomma Abts, a German artist living in Great Britain, who won this year's Turner Prize.

First of all, as a person who appreciates art, likes to create her version of art, but who doesn't really know a thing about artists, eras, styles, art history, colors or techniques, I haven't even heard of this award before. So I can't tell you anything about how this contest even got started. I know it's been going now for 22 years, and a female won it for the first time this year.

What really cheered me up, however, was reading how Abts goes about her work. She "...starts work with no idea what she will create and allows the canvas to evolve as she paints". I'm sure many artists, poets, writers, sculptors, etc., also use this mind-set, otherwise it would be craft rather than art, in my opinion.


What's my point?


I think I've made a complete botch-up of this posting. I could bring so much into it, like beautiful movies people miss because they expected to be entertained instead of touched, or unconventional music styles that never reach people's eardrums. However, to really get my point across would mean work, rather than the happy freedom and truth of self-expression. I would never even get started writing this silly post. It would become a school essay, meaning I'd have to worry about whether it'd get an A, or five wheels :-). Is art about representing your essence, or about how well you represent your essence? I'm probably not doing either, right now. Where are my skates?!?


I guess my point is that I consider art to be worth experiencing when instead of proof of human skill, it is an imprint of the human soul.



timv's picture

Reggatta de Blanc

Thanks for the reply, Elizabeth. I've been holed up working on a final class project and have barely even stepped outside all week, so I'm going a little stir-crazy here myself. Plus we're getting another of these cold, windy, bone-dry days that make my head feel like it's about to explode.


I know what you mean about approaching writing as though it was a school essay, and in my case these days it often is! Even when it isn't, I seem to need to have a detailed outline to be able to get started, or at least to have spent a couple of days rehearsing it in my head. There's the classic creative-writing exercise of getting a blank sheet of paper and just starting to write whatever, but I can sit and stare at that blank sheet of paper for hours and not come up with anything. Unline Ms. Abts, I'm pretty well lost if I don't start with some kind of a plan. (E.g, it's taken me three days to come up with a reply here.)


OTOH, I guess I do pretty well at the editing and rewriting and rearranging stuff that writing coaches seem to want to teach. That's the easy thing about starting with those email snips. I can skip right over the whole tedious creative part!


But I think I know kinda what you mean by "imprint of the human soul." Way back in the day when Blake and I were both working at the computer magazine publisher, a book came out that was supposed to be a series of stories entirely written by a computer program. (The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed) The stories were pretty silly and full of odd non sequiturs, and the first few I read were entertaining. But I got tired of it before I finished the book when I started to realize that there wasn't a person behind the stories speaking to me through them. And even when the work is full of cleverness and skill, I think a key point is that someone felt the desire to show off his/her cleverness and skill.


(Incidentally, I just looked up the program RACTER and The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed and it seems that there's some controversy about how much of the book was actually written by computer as claimed. Some say that the author of the program, William Chamberlain, in fact did much more than just type "RUN" and collect the program output, and actually heavily edited and re-wrote the computer-generated stories--making it a lot more interesting from my POV, not so different in spirit from my spam email poems I suppose. So maybe I gave up on it too soon.)


So yeah, it probably is mostly about connecting with another human spirit, the Message in the Bottle from someone stranded on a desert island other than our own, as Walker Percy put it (several years before The Police, and subtitled How Queer Man is, How Queer Language Is, and What One Has to Do With the Other, which is a pretty rich line.)


OK, back to schoolwork I guess. Getting close to being done for the semester...

roadskater's picture

Message in a Babble

Right exactly, eebee. Art is expression and when it is mostly focused on expression it can be very healing. Roadskater.net was created from pain I felt and I deliberately chose to create something from that pain, something with no intrinsic meaning necessarily, and specifically, no verbal explanation. I also made as a way of diverting my focus outward instead of so deliberately inward at the time, but without forgetting it was me doing the focusing and framing and cropping.


Songwriting and magazine writing and programming and other ways of expressing had become things I rated myself or was rated on by others. At times I had benefited greatly from 15-minute freewrites that I would throw away, an idea from composition class but made more powerful and brilliant by adding the throw it away feature, based on reading in the famous book, Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. I read very little of that book (which is often available at used book stores) but the small portion I managed to work through was very helpful. I should go look for that book and read some more!


This part was writ before reading timv's take, and clearly the 15-minute freewrite is for those who can put the pen and move it constantly even if writing "I hate this" or "Forgive me" over and over until a poptart pings out of the braintoaster. And knowing I will throw this first piece of the day away (indeed destroy it to illegibility) changes what I am willing to write. It frees me from the requirement that a piece must come out at first (or ever) in the quality of published greats past and present. It also lets me without fear, since no one, not even myself, will ever see those words or discover them later. It is all expression and no revision or publication. That may be why it helps some get past the writer's block and artist's block...that fear of the blank canvas, page, piano keys, guitar frets.  


But I find it easier to be free with taking digital photos than with writing sentences, no matter how I try to convert the realizations from one to the other.


Not long ago I let a well-intentioned (I believe) and very polite email from a "busy skater" completely convince me of the uselessness of much of what I've worked on this year, and what I was working on at the time. It resonated the possible truth of many others and of course set in motion my own strings of fear, and I am sure that was not the intent. But I let myself get out of my daily pattern of expressing (in writing) and it became easier to work on other things behind the scenes. Well behind the scenes is great but if there's nothing in the scenes it's a dead play. I wish I had not been so ready to fear.


Some say fear kills love (not always because I surely love that mild fear we find on skates and roller coasters) and surely it can kill expression as well. I have done the same to others I am sure (here on the site even), stifling their expression without meaning to, but nonetheless stifling it. Even four wheels instead of five can stifle it seems! (Please give yourself five wheels any time you like!)


What I learned from Roadskater.net and from digital photography is how to go ahead and grab the expression or make the expression by grabbing the image, and grabbing lots of images, then reviewing later, editing, deleting. But even this extra step becomes work of course, reviewing and editing, and can sometimes get in the way of publication. I have not been able or willing to translate that photographic freedom back into journaling or blogging but it is a goal.


I guess Leaves of Grass is a great model for me to keep in mind. Make it once, publish it, revise it and publish it again! Since it is possible to edit here, perhaps I'll get a bit more free. But having said that I have now had this piece saved for three days waiting for a review.


What is definite is that whatever I don't write can not be read, here or anywhere, and it can't be misunderstood, disloved or ridiculed. But it can't be enjoyed either, and it can't serve as inspiration, can't feed another soul.


I've been encouraging others to go ahead and write even when they think it not interesting, but i have done less of it myself lately too. So here's to expressing a bit more. I hope to contribute more meaningless, irrelevant, insignificant, time-wasting to some, material, especially because I am not skating much.


It is all the more important.

sommemi's picture

Email poetry is awesome!

Holy cow Timv! This is a riot! I love it. I want to hear more too!!! This is too good. I can't even pick out one line that isn't hilarious on its own too.

I can just envision you reading this on a stage, in front of a microphone, while some snare gently brushes out the beats of the words in the background... while wearing your skates.

I am thoroughly entertained and amused.

timv's picture

Thank You Very Much, I'll Be Here All Week

Thanks, Misty! I'll be watching my spam folder for more gems, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to equal those.


As for reading on stage in my skates, anyone who's skated with me could tell you that I hate standing still in skates as much as anything. I want to be rolling, not standing around yacking. I whine about that all the time.


But I'm sure I'd get the biggest laugh of all if (when) I fell down.


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