In 1682 or thereabouts the English poet John Dryden’s famous mock-epic, “MacFlecknoe,” was published (perhaps without the author’s consent). In it Dryden butchers his contemporary, the comparatively less talented Thomas Shadwell (who nonetheless became Poet Laureate later on), a man with whom Dryden had a series of disagreements (artistic, religious and political). The premise of the poem is that the poet Richard Flecknoe, characterized as the worst poet in history, is seeking the successor to that ignoble throne.
Guess who emerges as the ultimate candidate?
Whether Flecknoe was the worst poet in history is debatable, and maybe Sh** wasn’t as bad as Dryden would have us believe. In any case, history has nonetheless served up many writers who merited at least some consideration for the title of Worst Poet in the World (William McGonagall is always a popular choice).
I have my own personal nominees, though. There’s Ogden Nash:
This is my dream,
It is my own dream,
I dreamt it.
I dreamt that my hair was kempt.
Then I dreamt that my true love unkempt it.
Nash, of course, wasn’t exactly trying to be Yeats.
Then there’s Rod McKuen, who really was trying.
Thoughts on Capital Punishment
There ought to be capital punishment for cars
that run over rabbits and drive into dogs
and commit the unspeakable, unpardonable crime
of killing a kitty cat still in his prime.
It goes on, but you get the idea.
If it weren’t for the fact that I’d start a firestorm I’d add Ginsberg to the list, too.
So here’s a tribute to our bad poets: if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t appreciate the great ones nearly so much.
Categories: scholars and rogues