Friday, May 2, 2008

Poetry Friday: Bad

It's all in how you see it.

From the ars poetica site, by Alice Pero:

Bad Poem

Anything can be excused away,
even a bad poem
Just give it the title, “Bad Poem”
and it won’t matter,
syntax chopped, stilted meter,
improper number of syllables
in each line
A poem with clich├ęs,
a love poem that smears itself

Read the rest here. Then come back to discuss: what makes a poem bad?

Poetry Friday is hosted by She-Who-Started-It-All-and-Now-Keeps-Us-Organized (that would be Kelly) at Big A, little a.


  1. Interesting, shifting the worth of the poem to the reader. The writer begins, the reader finishes -- all writing is collaborative that way.

    A bad poem doesn't provide any way for me to enter it -- whether it's emotional resonance, words that sing or startle.

    What of all the poems others have loved that I have hated? Subjective, of course.

    This must mean there are no bad poems.

  2. I agree with this poet - I think bad poems are the ones that smear themselves, that use cliches, that rhyme too predictably. But I know other people like them and sing along with joy... so how can that be bad? I think a bad poem doesn't say anything. As long as one reader finds something meaningful in it....

  3. Yes, Jama---no way to enter it is exactly why I abandon some poems. And I've gotten ruthless about it, too.

    Cloudscome---I know! How can it be all bad if it makes someone sing?

  4. Bad Person

    Anyone can be excused away,
    even a bad person
    Just give him the title, "Bad Person"
    and it won't matter

    Here's a cliche
    "Beauty's in the eye
    of the beholder"
    Most love the poet
    but I love the soldier.

    But that's an imperfect rhyme
    and it doesn't scan
    well either.

    Oh Alice Pero
    What's a meta for you?

  5. A bad poem doesn't ring true.
    Even an outlandish fiction's gotta ring true at its heart...

    Isn't that why we sing along?

  6. Great poem, and thought-provoking question! I've been wondering along these lines a lot lately, because I'm considering starting to write my own poetry again but I'm petrified of writing bad poetry. I'm actually considering a "Bad Poetry Experiment" in which I deliberately try to write the worst possible poetry imaginable. If I write enough bad poetry, will it eventually become good poetry? Will I even be able to write truly bad poetry or will it simply be humorous or mediocre?

  7. John, you've taken meta to the mth degree. :) Love it. Clever and true. (I hope Alice sees your poem.)

    And Liz, you've got a heart that can hear the tiniest song, don't you?

  8. Um. We had a few Bad Poetry Nights at college, which were a lot of fun--some of the poetry written for the occassion was brilliant, in its bad way. Here's a line from a bad feminist rant that I'll always remember:

    "My breasts are twin mountains.
    And they are both angry."

  9. a. fortis, I'm sorry, but you've just committed yourself to that Bad Poem Experiment. Inquiring minds want to know what will happen!!

    P.S. I've written a lot of bad poems. Some of the older ones, I rescue and remake into decent ones. They can be redeemed---sometimes.

  10. Charlotte, that's hilarious. It takes prodigious talent to be THAT bad. :)

  11. Did anyone else see M.T. Anderson's excellent bad poem here? Eisha and I are currently composing a bad poem for Lynn, since she ever-so kindly asked us to do so (and we decided to do a sort of poem-in-two-voices). It's too much fun to write, but it will be very difficult to follow M.T.'s delightfully wretched one.

    Jules, 7-Imp

  12. Oh, and because I know Sara's a fan, Lynn also interviewed him here.

  13. Jules, that was awesomely BAD. I mean, using unipedal in a poem? Not to mention the resurrecting of a chicken.

    I think he should do poetry now that Octavian II is finished. (I didn't want anything to distract him from that.)

    I have faith in you and Eisha's bad poem. You'll be wicked bad together. I know you will.

  14. Bad poetry is like pornography - I know it when I see it. MT Anderson's poem doesn't count as bad as in "dreck-like" because it has tremendous wit and humor. And I adored the poem you posted today, which manages not to be bad because it's critiquing bad poetry while being bad, and the double negative is a positive. John Mutford's response was freakin' genius.

  15. Kelly: Yup. Freakin' genius. And I love the poem I posted too. It takes you by the hand and walks you right into the middle of paradox and you stand there, thinking and wondering and totally engaged with the poem---adding sprinkles in your head, just like she says.

    And I don't think M.T. can write badly even if he were bribed.

  16. I'm almost certain that there have been poems written that brought no joy to anyone, reader or poet. Can we safely call those bad?

    And Sara, you flatter Jules and me. Or wait... do you?

  17. Just had to swing back by to check this discussion. First and foremost: John Mutford's reply? Brilliant. Made me laugh.

    I think bad poetry is like bad literature. I hate historical romance, but who am I to say historical romance is bad when so many people like it? For me, I hate when syllable counts are off and the poet doesn't know it...if that makes sense. I can take or leave rhyme, depending on the subject matter.

    I also dislike too much angst and navel gazing in poetry, but, then again, I don't like it in life either :) Again, subjective.

    Sarah: Please do bad poetry day! And Jules and Eisha: I can't wait to see your poem in two voices.

  18. Boy Howdy! I wouldn't want Pero to examine MY life, because I'm sure that what I think is my own ingenious uniqueness is tacky cliche to someone else. (No, I don't have any crocheted toilet paper holders, but what would she make of the "dress the Simpsons" magnets all over the front of our refrigerator? John Mutford sees Bad Person in this poem; I see Bad Life.

    I'll end by quoting Kelly, "Who am I to say?"

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