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posted: 10.26.09 by archived

by Carolyn Lengel

Poems can be fun, and sometimes they can even be funny. For proof, look no further than the haiku collected in the SPAMku archive.

Most of the poems on the site are really senryu, which is parodic, rather than haiku, which includes a seasonal reference—both types, however, require the same five-syllable/seven-syllable/five-syllable form.

Curated by John Nagamichi Cho of MIT, the SPAMku archive grew from a collection that filled a small paperback (SPAMku: Tranquil Reflections on Luncheon Loaf, Harper Perennial, 1998) into a gelatinous, porky giant with more than twenty thousand contributions.

Although the SPAMku archive no longer accepts new verses, the poems contributed by volunteers and enthusiasts are a revelation. Everyone, it seems, loves a poetry challenge—and what could be more challenging than crafting a poetic ode to a prosaic canned meat?


Here are some favorites among the archive’s many, many delights:

Roseate pork slab,
How you quiver on my spork!
Radiant light, gelled.

—L. Sheahen

Zen Buddhist SPAM quest:
“What are the ingredients?”
What do you desire?

—Alex Dunne


Give your students the poetry challenge they crave. After a class discussion of the appeal of combining formal Japanese poetry with a not-very-dignified pork product, ask every student to write a SPAMku. (Vegetarian/vegan students can write Tofuku if they prefer.) Who knows—perhaps you’ll end up with a SPAMku archive of your own.



Carolyn Lengel is a senior editor for English at Bedford/St. Martin’s, where she works mainly  on handbooks. She is not a poet (although she did write a YouTube sonnet about Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan for the National Day on Writing), and she generally does not eat Spam, though she admires Spam both as a word and as an aesthetic object.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Creative Writing, Joelle Hann (moderator), Popular Culture
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One Response to “SPAMku!”

  1. Mary, poet at large Says:

    Spam and the Anxiety of Influence

    I wonder if John Cho’s website is aware that it is part of a revered spam poetry lineage?

    A very long time ago–the 1980s? When tvs didn’t have remote control?– the comedian Andrea Martin had a spot in the Second CIty TV workshop where she played a poetess who had written a book of haiku entitled “The Spam Dagger.” I am not much for memorizing poems, but I still half remember one of them:

    Love: painful, gut wrenching, heartbreaking
    leading to heartbreak and despair, and it never works out–
    but what if it does?

    Does anyone actually know the correct text of this Spam Dagger Haiku?
    Is Cho scamming the Spam Dagger consciously, or is it the universal spam poetry subconscious at work here–or am I just the only person who remembers and loves the “Spam Dagger”?