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A New "Poet Nauseate"?

Published: Tue 21 Aug 2001 10:52 AM
Artscape Terribly Bad Verse & Awful Poetry Competition : A New "Poet Nauseate"?
Results of the artscape Terribly Bad Verse & Awful Poetry Competition have been published in the August/September issue of artscape.
Terribly bad poet, Janis Freegard of Wellington has taken, it is suggested, the crown of Poet Nauseate, for her paean to the Capital, "Fair Wellington". Janis Freegard wins $100 sponsored by Montana, sponsors of Montana Poetry Day on 20 July.
Runner-up is Chris Gemmell of Christchurch for an entry titled "The Prick". Chris Gemmell wins the artscape prize of $50 and. depending on how you view it, is a slightly worse bad poet, or a marginally better one than the winner.
artscape editor, Steve Oxenham, says entries came from far and wide (a very disturbing aspect of the competition).
"And there was even some abusive email, a surprising number of blank envelopes included with entries (very perplexing), and a good number of entries which ignored conditions of entry (heartening, in that it suggests that civil disobedience is alive and well in Godzone). The spread of subject matter suggested that absolutely nothing is sacred."
At the end of the day, judge Alwyn Owen, well-known broadcaster and writer, was left with the grim task of selection. He writes in his judge's summation...
The joy of "real" bad poetry lies, of course, in the fact that it is unconsciously bad. Nobody - apart from competition entrants! - deliberately writes it; it's just that in aiming for the stars, its perpetrators somehow manage to fall face-down in the brown stuff. And that's for a variety of reasons - the straining after rhyme or metre; the shattering of mood by an injudicious word or phrase; the inability to present a subject in other than purely factual terms - in short, the lack of sensitivity and any faculty of self-criticism. Time itself brings changing tastes, and frequently distorts the quality and relevance of poetry. The socialist poems of Harry Holland that once inspired a fledgling Labour Party would be regarded as embarrassing doggerel by its supporters today, and much of the work in Bracken's "Musings in Maoriland", highly regarded in its day, is now viewed as late-Victorian literary kitsch. The list could be extended to Dommett"s "Ranolf and Amohia", in which Ranolf emerges as the monumental bore of New Zealand literature; Elan Westerwood's appalling "Maoriana", and even the work in some of the early School Journals - one poet, in an ecstasy of patriotism, attempted to inspire young New Zealanders by rhyming "Island" with "my land", and "Groves of the tawa" with "po-hu-tu-kawa." In judging the poems, I've looked for ones which seem closest to "real" bad verse, a rather arbitrary decision, and one that has meant ruling out many extremely witty entries.
Worst prize winner of $100 sponsored by Montana, "Fair Wellington", with fact somewhat stronger than poetic fancy, and sublime disregard of scansion, carries strong echoes of the master, William McGonagall. And runner-up, winning the artscape $50 prize, "The Prick" has a delightful awefulness reminiscent of some of the worst "country and western" lyrics.
But what a great idea, a bad verse competition! And in more serious vein, by focussing on negatives, by default it helps define in our minds what good poetry is all about.
Care for some samples of "real" bad verse?
Here's Hugh Smith, "The Bard of Inangahua", opening his ode to Jean Batten:
"Dear Jean, there's not a heart that beats
In great and grand New Zee,
That does not feel a lofty pride
And boundless love for thee.
One mind, one engine, and one heart
Combined to take you through,
And all the listening world is proud
Of each and all and you..."
Wellingtonian F.C.Meyer, was, to my mind, the finest bad poet this country has produced - which says rather a lot. His book Jewels of Mountains and Snowlines of New Zealand is a sheer delight. Herewith a couplet from his poem "Maori Maiden":
"I think - I understand thee well,
Rub my nose now for a spell!"
And finally, from Meyer's "My Pet Dog":
"Pluto! come here my dearest little dog,
Don't get mixed up with every rogue,
And do not run into a fog..."
Eat your hearts out, you "bad poem" entrants!
ENDS
For further information:
Steve Oxenham - artscape - P.O. Box 99, Carterton. (025)604 6580 email:
artscape@xtra.co.nz
Steve Oxenham
editor, artscape
P.O. Box 99
Carterton
(025)604 6580

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