Bad Poetry Corner

 By Shamus Aug 18, 2007 23 comments

Star-Tribune columnist James Lileks tackles bad poetry this morning:

This is a real live actual example from “A Creed For All of Us”

We need to smell the clear air
after the rainfall
and appreciate the good in things
Each of us must be responsible and do our part
in order to help preserve a_beautiful world------
the waterfalls, the oceans, the mountains
the large gray boulder
the large green farms the fluffy pink clouds
the sunrise and sunsets, ladybugs
rainbows, dew, hummingbirds
butterflies, dandelions

It goes on. And on. I agree that we must all do our part to preserve the sunrise and sunsets, so all you people working day and night to stop the earth’s rotation: CUT IT OUT. That goes double for the Anti-Dew League, too.

Sigh. This is just typical of spin you get out of the pro-fluffy clouds, pro-boulder media. It’s really sad to see Lileks blinded to his own biases. I used to really trust him when he wrote the Backfence, but since the Star Tribune has given him more space he’s become drunk on power and is using his column to lampoon those of us in the ladybug and rainbow abolition camp. Hey pal: We vote too, you know.

There is also a story about a drunk vs. a bear in a hotel. Yes you read that right and no I can’t explain it to you. You’ll just have to read for yourself.

20323 comments. Highly cototient!


  1. Sartorius says:

    I guess I’ll take this opportunity to admit that I have never expended any effort whatsoever to help preserve the dandelions in my lawn. In fact, quite the opposite.

  2. Mari says:

    The part that I find most interesting is that the poet talks about preserving large green farms. The daft idiot has no clue that as long as some crops are green, they’re useless. You have to kill ‘em and turn ‘em brown to get the good stuff like corn and soy and cotton and such.

    PS I’m a card carrying member of the anti-ocean league. I think it’s a terrible waste for 85% or some-such of the surface of the earth to be under water. Destroy the oceans and all our problems are solved because there will be enough land for vast green farms and plenty of room for people to live without building high rises that touch the fluffy pink clouds or sleeping in tubes at the subway station.

  3. Marmot says:

    But what is the Anti-Dew league…? *puzzled*

    Otherwise, yeah, I’ve written bad poetry at this level, but man, I was 11 or so then. This one trumps them all… to rule them all.

  4. 10Kan says:

    I’m afraid that bad poetry alone isn’t going to be enough. Us anti-rotationists will not go gently into that good night.

  5. Zak says:

    Thanks for sharing this piece of power-hungry madman with us Shamus.

    These camps everyone is sitting in is definitely going to get us nowhere with the issues of cheap space travel and colonizing space.

  6. food4worms says:

    It saddens me to see there are people out there that think by throwing a line break here and there somehow turns your prose into poetry.

  7. P'kay says:

    “But what is the Anti-Dew league…? *puzzled*”

    The scourge of all (currently) uncaffienated gamers everywhere.

  8. Katy says:

    Ugh, that was a terrible poem. I agree that putting in random line breaks does not turn prose into poetry (and that was crappy prose)–it didn’t even rhyme anywhere!

  9. Not Dancing Butterflies says:

    You think that’s wacky, watch this video, “Let’s Save Our Environment.”

    http://blog.dreamhost.com/2005/07/29/lets-save-our-environment/

    The goggles, they do nothing!

  10. Seracka says:

    Ummmmm, question. The only pink clouds I have ever seen have been ones that are at sunup or sundown, when there is a really red sunset. Isn’t a really red sunset due to all the…er, Smog and junk in the air? And he wants to preserve them??

    All the clouds I have ever seen when the air quality has been good have been white. Sounds like it was penned by Lenardo DiCraprio

  11. Casper says:

    Not really. Sunsets are read just because of the atmosphere thickness. A large layer of smog might actually block it completely.

  12. Attorney At Chaos says:

    I, too, am puzzled by people who think some line breaks turn prose into poetry. If you look at the beginning as prose, it’s fine:

    “We need to smell the clear air after the rainfall and appreciate the good in things. Each of us must be responsible and do our part in order to help preserve a beautiful world.”

    But why this should qualify as poetry when it’s printed as if being spoken by William Shatner, I really can’t say.

  13. Dryhad says:

    For those who say farms aren’t green and clouds aren’t pink: It’s poetry. It’s horrible poetry, I grant, but it’s still poetry. You’re supposed to use flowery language like that.

    As far as horrible poetry goes, I’d have to submit that of John Foulcher, who’s work I had the misfortune of studying in high school. I can’t find any examples in the five or so seconds I could be bothered to search, but he does not use flowery language much. He writes exactly what he sees, and he sees death. And misery. And in the absense of both he sees the promise of death and misery. Which might not be so bad for a decent poet, but it is for him.

  14. Zaghadka says:

    My test for poetry. Read it aloud. (pat. pending)

    If you can’t read it aloud and get a metrical feel, an almost musical sense of rhythm, you don’t have a poem (or you’ve misinterpreted it). The line breaks are supposed to help you figure out that rhythm. Without rhythm, you’ve got attempted poetry, which is common.

    Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme, and it doesn’t have to have a standardized meter (like a sonnet), but in my mind all poetry, to be called such, must have some kind of “rhythmic sensibility.” The author must be aware of the rhythmic devices he or she presents and demonstrate a sense of the feel of the language.

    This doesn’t. The first four lines read like a rapidly building multisyllabic flash flood that wipes out a nearby village. There’s no reason behind that mouthful of a fourth line at all. There’s no rhyme either, but it doesn’t need that. It just needs the reason.

    So this is cheesy prose with funny line breaks thrown in, written for people who have never studied or cared for poetry. I doubt the author even knows what a caesura is.

    My 2 cents.

    Maybe you thought the blogger was slumming, but I can see why he’d be offended if this stuff got published.

  15. Frank says:

    Is it not amazing
    how inserting line breaks at random places
    but removing punctuation
    suddenly lends an artistic quality
    to otherwise quite unremarkable prose
    It delights the unenlightened
    but horrifies the rest of us
    It’s really quite sad
    but watch me do a haiku next time
    or maybe not

  16. Erin says:

    I don’t know, Frank, that was way better than the poem Shamus posted! Made me smile, at least.

  17. Mr. Blue says:

    Wow- I never knew what Vogon Hippie poetry would look like.

    Now I know…

  18. Myxx says:

    Good Lord. I’ve written batch files that have more poetic value than that.

  19. Mark Caliber says:

    You guys are killing me here! I’ve rarely encountered uncontrollable laughter but these replies are hilarious.

    Poetic Batch Files? You slay me!

    Anti Dew League? Thank goodness I wasn’t drinking any while reading these.

    And as for the red sunsets, it’s true that heightened levels of dust particles and other pollutants in the air DO make sunsets more vibrant. Indeed there was a fad in the 1883-1884 where artist worldwide got caught up in painting vivid and vibrant sunsets. (It was probably too much effort to try to wake up and paint sunrises, for those poor artists.) And coincidentally this “fad” was predated by a week by the eruption of Krakatoa.

  20. Arson55 says:

    Zaghadka, I’d argue that not all poetry has to have rhythmic feel (almost all of it will…and likely the vast majority of good poetry will). The poet can purposefully try and jar the reader by playing on that expectation and present something that is fragmented and not at all rhythmic…in most cases it won’t come off very well because at that point it has to rely almost entirely on the imagery.

    In this particular case…I don’t think the person was trying to do anything of the sort. I just think they lack a good understanding of poetry…and natural talent…or anything resembling skill with language…or…well…a lot of things.

  21. Clyde says:

    I’ll bet that “poetry” was written by one of those bong-addled people from the Seattle Hempfest.

  22. Takkelmaggot says:

    The Hitchhiker Guide’s entry on poetry will need to be updated- Paul Neil Milne Johnstone (aka Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings) will have to cede his position as the universe’s worst poet if this sort of thing keeps up. Perhaps this woman could be persuaded to write some stuff about dead swans, just to speed the process up? I’d hate to leave the Azgoths of Kria thinking that they can regain the title.

  23. Zaghadka says:

    Arson55:

    Exactly, which is why I left in the caveat “or you’ve misinterpreted it,” because there are some poems that will deliberately, as a point of style, have a random or jarring meter, or leave you twisting in the wind metrically because it complements the imagery. A poem might metrically imitate a bubbling brook, for instance, or evoke desolation, despair, or indecision through its lack of structure.

    But, as you said, this just isn’t one of those cases… :^D

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