I am Spam
by Larry O. Dean

(Fractal Edge Press)

How many times have you checked your inbox and found those annoying messages claiming you can "Earn your college diploma in less than 10 days" or with a quick click of the mouse find "Bored housewives waiting to meet you"? I've managed to develop carpal tunnel in my wrists just from deleting the messages over and over. So, what is to be done about spam? We can set up firewalls and anti-spam devices on our computers. Or be creative with it.

This is Larry O. Dean's method in his poetry collection I am Spam. Each poem's title is taken from spam email subject lines, which are then used as poetic springboards. The tone throughout the collection is humorous and I pokes fun at our obsessive natures.

The introductory poem, "I ate Chocolate and lost 20lbs," sets the stage. The speaker in the poem eats "bowls of hot fudge" for breakfast and Hershey's Kisses in the afternoon and for dinner its "Easter bunnies and eggs, shelled M&M's and Toblerone." After weeks of surviving on chocolate the narrator starts hallucinating and sees her dead mother bringing buckets of Tollhouse chips and revealing that in the afterlife everyone eats chocolate. At the end of the poem the narrator drops pounds and becomes a born again Christian. Somebody needs to invent chocolate that makes you lose weight; it would definitely be a big seller—I can speak for myself and other fellow chocolate lovers out there on that!

Other poems take on a wry, funny view of modern life that show how society has changed. In "Online Cheating Wives" the narrator states

gone are sordid discreet rendezvouses at out-of-the-way motels, hidden in shadows off the interstate. Electronic orgasms are now the rage. Candlelight virtual dinners; weekend getaways via Travelnow.com; instant-messengered I love you's disguised in a jiffy with the click of the mouse.

The poem not to be missed in this collection is "Modern Miracles take years off your face". It reads like something the Three Weird Sisters in Macbeth would throw into their boiling cauldron. The ingredients to youthfulness is as follows:

The blood of kittens
Stolen from mobile homes
At the stroke of midnight, boiled with frankincense
And Vitamin E supplements.

The speaker swears that the Shroud of Turin washed in Woolite, the blood of kittens boiled with frankincense and Vitamin E, or pieces of the Berlin Wall and World Trade Center rubbed counter-clockwise across your face it will make you look 30 years younger.

Stylistically the poems as a whole are written in simple free verse, but what they lack in lyricism is made up for in humor. This is a short chapbook that you can read it while riding the bus or waiting in long lines. It's quirky and zany enough to pique your interest, though not as tasty or satisfying as the real Spam product.

- Rhonda Niola