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May 19, 2008


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I HIGHLY recommend the anthology "Very Bad Poetry," edited by Kathryn and Ross Petras, for a humorous assemblage of the worst poetry ever written in English. McGonagall has a memorable presence, but my personal favorite is James McIntyre, a Canadian poet with a penchant for furniture and the 4 ton cheese that was on display at a Toronto exhibition in the mid-19th century.

Ode on the Mammoth Cheese

We have seen thee, Queen of cheese,
Laying quietly at your ease,
Gently fanned by evening breeze --
Thy fair form no flies dare seize.

All gaily dressed soon you'll go
To the great Provincial Show,
To be admired by many a beau
In the city of Toronto.

Cows numerous as a swarm of bees --
Or as the leaves upon the trees --
It did require to make thee please,
And stand unrivalled, Queen of Cheese.

May you not receive a scar as
We have heard that Mr. Harris
Intends to send you off as far as
The great World's show at Paris.

Of the youth -- beware of these --
For some of them might rudely squeeze
And bite your cheek; then songs or glees
We could not sing, oh! Queen of Cheese.

We'rt thou suspended from baloon,
You'd cast a shade, even at noon;
Folks would think it was the moon
About to fall and crush them soon.

There is certainly a naïve charm to McGonagall - for example, the dogged inistence of "The Demon Drink" almost forgives the fact that its doggerel. So at least the dogs are neutral on McGonagall, if not some of the more reptilian-minded hecklers of Dundee.

Sarah: I'm so glad you chimed in. I'll have to look up that anthology. I have a book of Parlour Poems that includes some McGonagall, but NOT McIntyre's Mammoth Cheese poem. Mmmhmm.

Scott--"The Demon Drink" IS a gem. Thanks for pointing it out here--AND for directing us all toward the BBC piece.

Here's a link to "The Demon Drink" on the McGonagall online Web site:

Can you imagine anyone today feeling strongly enough about a poem to throw a zucchini at it?

Jenny, thanks for picking this up! I tried to link "The Demon Drink" in my blog comment (thanks for pointing it out, I missed the tiny comment link at first) but the website didn't trust me enough & stripped the link.

Sarah, I loved that poem! There is something about the four-line rhyme that raised it from just annoying to the exquisite torture of the transcendently bad. It's too bad all the stanzas didn't have similar end-rhymes, but four out of six is pretty good.

Here's another bad writing gem, not strictly poetry but still good: The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (, named in honor of the novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who wrote the classic opening "It was a dark and stormy night..." of Snoopy fame.

It is nice to think that even if we miss the mark in seeking success, the possibility of some sort of renown is always there.

Yes, indeed, Scott! There's something terrifically inspiring about the realization that renown--that marks of any sort--are wonderously diverse. Thanks for posting these additional thoughts! (It's nice to see you online!)

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