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Very Bad Poetry

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Writing very bad poetry requires talent. It helps to have a wooden ear for words, a penchant for sinking into a mire of sentimentality, and an enviable confidence that allows one to write despite absolutely appalling incompetence. The 131 poems collected in this first-of-its-kind anthology are so glaringly awful that they embody a kind of genius. From Fred Emerson Brooks' " Writing very bad poetry requires talent. It helps to have a wooden ear for words, a penchant for sinking into a mire of sentimentality, and an enviable confidence that allows one to write despite absolutely appalling incompetence. The 131 poems collected in this first-of-its-kind anthology are so glaringly awful that they embody a kind of genius. From Fred Emerson Brooks' "The Stuttering Lover" to Matthew Green's "The Spleen" to Georgia Bailey Parrington's misguided "An Elegy to a Dissected Puppy," they mangle meter, run rampant over rhyme, and bludgeon us into insensibility with their grandiosity, anticlimax, and malapropism. Guaranteed to move even the most stoic reader to tears (of laughter), Very Bad Poetry is sure to become a favorite of the poetically inclined (and disinclined).


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Writing very bad poetry requires talent. It helps to have a wooden ear for words, a penchant for sinking into a mire of sentimentality, and an enviable confidence that allows one to write despite absolutely appalling incompetence. The 131 poems collected in this first-of-its-kind anthology are so glaringly awful that they embody a kind of genius. From Fred Emerson Brooks' " Writing very bad poetry requires talent. It helps to have a wooden ear for words, a penchant for sinking into a mire of sentimentality, and an enviable confidence that allows one to write despite absolutely appalling incompetence. The 131 poems collected in this first-of-its-kind anthology are so glaringly awful that they embody a kind of genius. From Fred Emerson Brooks' "The Stuttering Lover" to Matthew Green's "The Spleen" to Georgia Bailey Parrington's misguided "An Elegy to a Dissected Puppy," they mangle meter, run rampant over rhyme, and bludgeon us into insensibility with their grandiosity, anticlimax, and malapropism. Guaranteed to move even the most stoic reader to tears (of laughter), Very Bad Poetry is sure to become a favorite of the poetically inclined (and disinclined).

30 review for Very Bad Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roland

    The greatest book of bad writing I've ever read...even better than Atlas Shrugged!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    It's hard to rate a book that's purposefully bad. I enjoyed the introductions to each author, and I appreciated the research that went into compiling these poetic fails. There were definitely funny poems, ones that made no sense, one that made me angry, and a couple that sounded just like every poem I read in high school! I read this straight through in order to accomplish a reading challenge, but I think I might have enjoyed it more if I read a section here or there as the mood hit. It's a lot It's hard to rate a book that's purposefully bad. I enjoyed the introductions to each author, and I appreciated the research that went into compiling these poetic fails. There were definitely funny poems, ones that made no sense, one that made me angry, and a couple that sounded just like every poem I read in high school! I read this straight through in order to accomplish a reading challenge, but I think I might have enjoyed it more if I read a section here or there as the mood hit. It's a lot of bad poetry to read in one sitting!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Aleksi

    Everybody has read conventionally bad poetry; many of us are guilty of writing it ourselves. In some rare instances, however, the awfulness reaches such levels that it becomes noteworthy not despite it, but because of it. This amusing little volume is filled with examples of just how many ways there are for poetry to suck. From the nauseating baby-talk poems to uptight Victorian moralizing delivered in stilted rhymes, from banal attempts of decadence, grandiosity or wholehearted compassion to ode Everybody has read conventionally bad poetry; many of us are guilty of writing it ourselves. In some rare instances, however, the awfulness reaches such levels that it becomes noteworthy not despite it, but because of it. This amusing little volume is filled with examples of just how many ways there are for poetry to suck. From the nauseating baby-talk poems to uptight Victorian moralizing delivered in stilted rhymes, from banal attempts of decadence, grandiosity or wholehearted compassion to odes to such idiosyncratic poetic objects as cheeses, ditches and dental hygiene, each poem is a slightly different image in this kaleidoscope of atrocity. Despite some hard challenge from artists like the potato-salesman-turned-poet Joseph Gwyer or the infuriating Julia A. Moore, my favourite still is the incomparable William McGonagall, whose terrible verse constantly makes all the right mistakes to stay unintentionally hilarious.

  4. 5 out of 5

    C Mac

    life was a empty shell till this book showed up at my store life now is full of joy worship great William McGonagall and James McIntyre thank god for bad poetry blessed my life hope it will do the same for you yours truly mac

  5. 4 out of 5

    SaraKat

    I've had this on my shelf for a while now and finally got around to reading it. I am mad at myself for waiting so long! The poems are funny and so bad, but the authors' descriptions of the poets' backgrounds are hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud frequently during this book and heartily recommend it to anyone who needs some humor in their life. The authors maintain that there is a lot of bad poetry out there, but it takes a special gift--an "inverse talent" to make Very Bad Poetry. They I've had this on my shelf for a while now and finally got around to reading it. I am mad at myself for waiting so long! The poems are funny and so bad, but the authors' descriptions of the poets' backgrounds are hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud frequently during this book and heartily recommend it to anyone who needs some humor in their life. The authors maintain that there is a lot of bad poetry out there, but it takes a special gift--an "inverse talent" to make Very Bad Poetry. They included stories about reception at the time of publication as well as reviews from other poets and critics. I found myself surprised at the subjects covered by these poems (the one about dental diseases comes to mind) and the dark turns that some of them took (a lover being bit in half by a shark.) These poets were uniformly convinced of their greatness and often twisted any criticism into something positive in their minds. I am in awe of some of their abilities to turn negatives into positives. This poem struck a chord with me as I am not a fan of mornings myself: Go away, Death! You have come too soon. To sunshine and song I but just awaken, And the dew on my heart is undried and unshaken; Come back at noon. As did this one: O that the lilies and roses were mine Instead of the oak and ivy of life.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elevetha

    An Ode to Very Bad Poetry To talk like a baby, some thought quite keen One thought a padded bra the worst crime he'd seen Some get their kicks from gruesome dead death While others think dentistry the best of the best (No, Cheese, quite large, beats all the rest) The themes, the meter, the rhymes all quite awful Not to change subject, but who wants falafel? Plop

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steve Scott

    TRULY bad poetry. I knock off two stars as it becomes tedious after a point.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Danny Reid

    Suffers when it condenses poems to highlights. There is some rather bad poetry here, though. Plop.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    This made me feel better about some of my own poetry. The editor's definition of bad is quite wide and doesn't relate to form alone. Yes there are those which don't scan or rhyme properly (all of mine that are meant to do that - at least when I recite them), and others which stretch the boundaries of the English language to make sure they do (guilty as charged); but there are plenty in there that, on the surface, do both. There are surprisingly few - their top prize-winner one of the few excepti This made me feel better about some of my own poetry. The editor's definition of bad is quite wide and doesn't relate to form alone. Yes there are those which don't scan or rhyme properly (all of mine that are meant to do that - at least when I recite them), and others which stretch the boundaries of the English language to make sure they do (guilty as charged); but there are plenty in there that, on the surface, do both. There are surprisingly few - their top prize-winner one of the few exceptions - that don't even try. Does that mean it is harder to write bad free verse? Or just that it is a modern enough form for copyright holders to still exist and to have refused permission for inclusion? Anyway, other characteristics that entitle a poem to a place in the collection include being morbid, bathetic (Bryan and Pereene: A West Indian Ballad made me laugh out loud), or on mundane or weird subjects right from the start. There are poems in here about dissected puppies, teeth, a brick and the potato - mind you, another poetry collection I'm reading at the moment (Matt Harvey's Where Earwigs Dare) also includes a couple of poems about potatoes, but he has the excuse of being commissioned to write them. Another sin that made me smile were poems with copious footnotes, sometimes even in the text itself. I remember writing a Halloween poem when I was 10 where I felt the need to make up a word in order to get a rhyme (thus does one crime lead to another) and then had to explain the meaning beneath. In my defence, that poem embarrasses me still - even though the only place it exists is in my memory - and I have never committed footnotecrime since. However, if you are not me reading this, you don't care about that and it only remains for me to say this is an enjoyable collection marred only by the - understandable - lack of recent examples. For that I would recommend the letters page of the Coventry Evening Telegraph.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Elaine Meszaros

    I did so enjoy Here Speeching American that I grabbed another one of the Petras’ books. Through what must have been painfully arduous research, the duo managed to out together a collection of the worst poetry ever. No really, it is that bad. Godawful, in fact. Poems include: The Dentologia- A Poem on the Diseases of the Teeth Whene’er along the ivory disks, are seen. The filthy footsteps of gangrene; How Strange Are Dreams How Strange are dreams! I dreamed the other night A dream that made me tre I did so enjoy Here Speeching American that I grabbed another one of the Petras’ books. Through what must have been painfully arduous research, the duo managed to out together a collection of the worst poetry ever. No really, it is that bad. Godawful, in fact. Poems include: The Dentologia- A Poem on the Diseases of the Teeth Whene’er along the ivory disks, are seen. The filthy footsteps of gangrene; How Strange Are Dreams How Strange are dreams! I dreamed the other night A dream that made me tremble Not with feat, but with a strange reality; My supper, though late, consisted of no cheese. Other fantastic poems include odes to: cheese, really really big cheese, carrion crows, a girl with one eye, the happy cripple, the potato, Kansas, earwigs, my last tooth and other horrors. The book culminates on the poem that Petras decide is truly the worst ever. You decide. Vogons, eat your heart out.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    The only thing that I found out from this book is that I like some bad poetry. There was an ode to "A Holland Brick", but our family has a running joke about liking bricks. There were the poems about cheese, and our family likes cheese. Several of the poems, however, dealt with some macabre subject matter that got a giggle out of me in the light of "are they really going there?" I can see how several of these poems are bad if the poet was trying to do serious work, but if their goal was a tongue The only thing that I found out from this book is that I like some bad poetry. There was an ode to "A Holland Brick", but our family has a running joke about liking bricks. There were the poems about cheese, and our family likes cheese. Several of the poems, however, dealt with some macabre subject matter that got a giggle out of me in the light of "are they really going there?" I can see how several of these poems are bad if the poet was trying to do serious work, but if their goal was a tongue-in-cheek humor, they succeeded. I enjoyed the little biographies of the poets if they were known before their poems and the heads up on their poetry. Some qualities of bad poetry is the attempts of rhyming or use of inappropriate words just to make the rhyme or meter work. I recognize that I have done that before...but I am glad that I didn't find any of my bad poetry in this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    KA

    This would be wonderful in a poetry-writing class or workshop, since you feel challenged to pinpoint exactly what's wrong with the poems. Also a good book for a road-trip; when I moved from Beverly, I read these poems to my dad as he drove the U-Haul. They were much appreciated. My favorite poems are "The Railway Bridge on the Silvery Tay," "The Tay Bridge Disaster," and "An Address to the New Tay Bridge," all by the same poet. Then there's "Ode to a Ditch," and "A Tragedy," which the editors cal This would be wonderful in a poetry-writing class or workshop, since you feel challenged to pinpoint exactly what's wrong with the poems. Also a good book for a road-trip; when I moved from Beverly, I read these poems to my dad as he drove the U-Haul. They were much appreciated. My favorite poems are "The Railway Bridge on the Silvery Tay," "The Tay Bridge Disaster," and "An Address to the New Tay Bridge," all by the same poet. Then there's "Ode to a Ditch," and "A Tragedy," which the editors call "The Worst Poem Ever Written in the English Language." That last begins: Death! Plop. The barges down in the river flop. Flop, plop Above, beneath. Great stuff!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christina (Boupie)

    Poetry OMG, I had no idea poetry could be this bad! I was laughing most of the time but a few times the poems were so bad it actually hurt to read them (baby talk, really?) I think this may have been the funnest book of poetry I have ever read (I am not too big on it) and I am so glad I did. However, I seem to be writing horrible poetry myself now... that totally sucks, but it is funny and is making DH's day(that was almost a forced rhyme... I was going to change funny and day so they would sort Poetry OMG, I had no idea poetry could be this bad! I was laughing most of the time but a few times the poems were so bad it actually hurt to read them (baby talk, really?) I think this may have been the funnest book of poetry I have ever read (I am not too big on it) and I am so glad I did. However, I seem to be writing horrible poetry myself now... that totally sucks, but it is funny and is making DH's day(that was almost a forced rhyme... I was going to change funny and day so they would sort of rhyme... this book does bad things to usually sensible people). Enjoy! ;)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Brilliant anthology, my only complaint--it was too short. I laughed so hard I think I busted my diaphragm. Although I have to say, the premise of this book is a little misleading. About half of the poems here are clearly intentionally "bad". Maybe the editors just don't get the idea of dark or macabre humor, or even satire? I don't know, but I personally think they're playing dumb to make the whole thing even more funny.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tyrannosaurus regina

    Reading a volume of Roger Ebert's reviews of movies he hated reminded me how much I enjoy this book, no matter how many times I read it. I mean, is it possible not to enjoy a book that brings into my life a masterpiece like "Ode on a Mammoth Cheese"? It never pokes fun at any amateur poets, or even living poets--only people who once got paid (or at least chosen) to publish the truly awe-inspiringly bad poems within.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Allison Hawn

    This book delivered as promised, the pages were filled to the brim with very bad poetry. With filler about fillings and odes to cheese, the book proves that not everyone can truly be a poet. My particular favorites were the poems that had footnotes that were longer than the poems themselves. Overall it was an enjoyable just-once read through.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Kukwa

    I was somehow hoping for more; it's a surprisingly sedate collection that is best described as "weird/eccentric/awful" rather than "very bad". Far more interesting and amusing were the witty, dry introductions to each poet. Certain sentences in particular are sardonic comedy gold, and much more amusing that the actual poems.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Spencer

    It was mildly entertaining. I liked the idea of it more than the execution. I have read worse poetry. I was imagining it was going to be more contemporary; much of it was several hundred years old. Maybe the authors would collaborate with me on a modern adaptation. May highlight some favorites in a separate blog post.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Karetchko

    After attending and hosting several bad poetry readings in my art dorm at college, I had to buy this book the very first time I saw it. The poem that stands out most in my mind is "The Stuttering Lover." Pure torture.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Picklefactory

    Magnificently bad poetry contained within. Of course the unavoidable question is: how does one become acquainted with such a wide range of bad poetry? Word of mouth, like the appreciation of truly "good-bad" movies, or was it serendipity?

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    I don't know if these "poets" are covered, but William McGonagal, Julia A. Moore, and Florence Foster Jenkins (singing, not poetry) seem like they belong here.

  22. 5 out of 5

    J.F. Riordan

    A collection of hilariously dreadful poetry written throughout the centuries--with the Victorian era being, perhaps, the worst--all completely in earnest. No English major's library is complete without it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Aric

    I hope to avoid the paradox inherent in rating this by giving it three stars.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Thomas

    If you like poetry and have any level of sense of humor, this is a book you cannot miss reading!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lorna

    Hilarious- lives up to the title.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brendan

    Yes.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Imagine poems about dental disease, or inpraise of a pig's grunt, convoluted syntax, obacure vocabulary...well, you get the idea. If you need a laugh, there's one on every page.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Priscilla

    Love it, love it, love it. Anyone who very much loves or very much hates would find something to enjoy here.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    My sister gave me this book for Christmas. Because she loves me very much. A fun book to dip into. My "favorite" is the ode to the giant wheel of cheese.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Martha

    Ever wanted to read a poem about a potato? Then this book is for you. Some weak, some hilarious and many truly awful poems. Great for a laugh.

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