A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Qual question: What is the worst poem?

Daughter Jane has an assignment to “savor [the] awfulness” of a very bad poem, so we got to read some one unto another. Seamus Cooney has a Bad Poetry page, but there isn’t much that’s truly awful there, except perhaps, Kalamazoo (bottom of page) by JB Smiley:


On the outskirts are celery marshes
Which only a few years ago
Were as wet as a drugstore in Kansas
And as worthless as marshes could grow,
Well some genius bethought him to drain them
And to add in a short year or two
About eighty-five thousand dollars
To the income of Kalamazoo.

The Michigan Insane Asylum
Is up on the top of the hill,
And some irresponsible crazies
Meander around there at will,
And they frequently talk to a stranger,
And they sometimes escape, it is true,
But the folks are not all of them crazy
Who hail from Kalamazoo.

I tried to convince Jane that the Sacred Harp poem O Come Away was truly awful, but she so dislikes Sacred Harp, she can’t even think of it as bad:

Oh come, come away,
From the labor now reposing,
Our jubilee has set us free —
Oh come, come away!
Come, hail the day that celebrates
The ransom of th’inebriates
From all that does intoxicate,
Oh come, come away!

We welcome you here!
With heart and hand wide open,
Ye gallant sons of temperance —
We welcome you here!
Heav’n’s blessings on your plans, we pray!
Ye come our sinking friends to save,
And rescue from a drunkard’s grave;
We welcome you here!

We welcome you here!
Ye who with taste perverted
Have seized the cup, and drank it up —
We welcome you here!
Come, join us in our holy aim,
The poor besotted to reclaim,
The broken heart to cheer again,
Oh come, sign the pledge!

(It does have a rollicking tune, though).

Among people trying to write bad poetry, we liked Love guppy, too long to repeat here. But I prefer the lyrics to “Hump my hump“:

Hump my hump,
My stumpy lumpy hump!
Hump my dump, you lumpy slumpy dump!
I’ll dump your hump, and then just hump your dump,
You lumpy frumply clump.

(Though the rest of the article isn’t fit for pure eyes). Ok, qual takers out there: what’s the worst poem?


2 responses to “Qual question: What is the worst poem?

  1. Natalia April 21, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    Heh. I think Kenneth Koch’s “Mending Sump” just brings out all that is awful and banal about Robert Frost. In that way, it is a bad poem that is a good poem. Who can top the immortal line, “Something there is that doesn’t hump a sump”?

  2. Natalia April 21, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    By the way, if you’re interested in plain lameness, Witter Bynner is a good option.

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