Can Spam Comments Help Me Teach Creative Writing?

Note to self:

Next time I’m confronted with students who want to “keep things general so everyone can identify with them,” I should trot out my blog’s latest spam comments. It will have to be the latest ones, unless I remember to keep copies of some on file. I just threw out a few, then realized what great examples they would make. Invariably they “Really love your site,” because it is “one of the best we’ve ever seen on this topic.” But they don’t mention the topic, or if they do, it comes straight out of the post’s title and doesn’t fit the rest of the comment. I could just hand them out as little rewards, or tape them to the drafts that students turn in and then ask them how they like being told that:

They are “the greatest at creative writing because this piece handles its subject impressively well,” and I have “never seen such emotional writing on a topic like this,” so I will “definitely come back when I need more information on this topic.”

What impresses me most about the “best” spam comments are the lengths to which they go to be so general they could apply to virtually any context. Why anyone would believe that the comment was actually written in response to something they wrote, is beyond me. If someone wants to praise me, they ought to be able to be a little specific about what I’m being praised for. And if that someone wants me to click on a link in their comment or check out their blog, then they’d really better let me know that they actually read mine! I value those real comments, but the spam has always seemed worthless and futile, at least until now. Maybe I can recycle it into an object lesson in specificity.

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

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