There’s a lot of it about. I’ve written some myself, and I usually keep it to myself. But I’ve also written some deliberately bad poetry. In fact, I think writing bad poetry might be one of my strengths.
A few years ago, talking to Russ Talbot, one of us said “Have you read any McGonagall?”, and we dragged out McGonagall’s poem about the Tay Bridge disaster. This is surely the worst poem ever written. I’ll give you an excerpt (you can find the whole, sorry epic at: http://tinyurl.com/7nhg6gr)
Extract from “The Tay Bridge Disaster” by William Topaz McGonagall
Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.
‘Twas about seven o’clock at night,
And the wind it blew with all its might,
And the rain came pouring down,
And the dark clouds seem’d to frown,
And the Demon of the air seem’d to say-
“I’ll blow down the Bridge of Tay.”
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.
See what I mean? Who but McGonagall would ever have thought of rhyming buttresses and confesses. That’s a special kind of brilliance.
McGonagall was quite a celebrity in the late 19th century. His recitations were very well attended. Maybe he was the first comic performance poet. But it seems he took himself quite seriously, being unaware of his true awfulness.
Inspired by McGonagall, I offer up a few of my own really, really bad poems in which I imagine McGonagall visiting Adelaide. The first is about Unley, the council area where I live. (Unley Council refers to the area as a “City of Villages”). In the second McGonagall buys into the rather petty rivalry between Adelaide and Melbourne.
McGonagall Visits Unley
City of Villages, Unley
I admire your facilities, which funnily
Cost your ratepayers much money
But they are generous people who lovingly
Water their nature strips when it is sunny
Oh Unley you are the fairest council area
In Adelaide. Your male residents chests are hairier
Your females’ cleavages cause me to stare at ya
Unley is the best place in Australia to reside
Far better than Mitcham or Marion or Burnside.
© Mike Hopkins 2011
McGonagall Visits Adelaide (after visiting Melbourne)
Beautiful City of Adelaide
They say that in heaven you were made
You sit upon the Torrens
And can be viewed from Mount Lofty through a telescopic lens
One million people live on your plains
And mostly are happy, though some do have pains
Your western boundary is the briny water
Your eastern is hills which make my legs falter
Oh Adelaide we praise you, fair city
And look upon Melbourne with nothing but pity
© Mike Hopkins 2011
Got any really bad poetry of your own, or someone else’s you’d like to share?