Our 10 Best: SPAM Haikus
SPAM was born in 1937, when Hormel meat packers of Austin, Minnesota, decided that their canned product called Spiced Ham needed a zippier name. But it wasn't until the early 1990s that the SPAM haiku was born. No one has a convincing explanation of why it arose, except that some wag noted a mystical correspondence between SPAM and the poetic form. SPAM was pink, mucoidal, shiny, and cryptic, a perfect metaphoric subject for a three-line poetic form that introduced philosophical questions, then left them hanging.
The first SPAM haikus allowed the mystery meat a modicum of respect, treating it as an object for contemplation:
Little slab of meat In a wash of clear jelly Now I heat the pan.
But, as the decade wore on, the poems became derisory and sarcastic, delving deep into the actual nature of the product rather than treating it as a solid pink cipher:
FDA approves Seventeen rat hairs per SPAM Do they shave the rats?
Of course, once the preemptive meaning of spam as unwanted email took hold, it totally eclipsed the need to contemplate or satirize the potted meat product. Nowadays, the term Spam haiku is more likely to refer to a poem composed from the subject line of an advertising email:
Play Texas Hold'em Your future is in your hands Never type again.
To assemble Our 10 Best SPAM Haikus, the staff of Fork in the Road digested over 3000 examples from a dozen archives. In the spirit of the original SPAM haikus, they are presented as anonymous compositions, though in the second half of the 1990s amateur poets often took credit for them. (If you want to find the ostensible authors, you might try Googling one line with quotation marks around it. You may get conflicting answers.)
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