Friday, May 16, 2008

Poet William McGonagall's biggest fan?

"No rules" reader Neal Dench knows I love to cringe over the awful poems of William McGonagall, so he just sent me a link to this BBC news item:

A private collector has paid £6,600 for poems by the man ridiculed as "the world's worst poet".

A total of 35 of William McGonagall's works - many of them autographed - have been up for auction in Edinburgh.

The ditties by "The Tayside Tragedian" went for more than a collection of Harry Potter first editions signed by author JK Rowling.

McGonagall, who died in 1902, was often mocked and had food thrown at him during readings in Dundee.

I'm afraid I have often poked fun at the poor fellow's work (see this post and this one for examples). It's just hard to believe someone could have written poetry that awful and not known it was awful. I mean, the stuff is right up there with Vogon poetry, which was described thusly by Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

Vogon poetry is of course, the third worst in the universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their poet master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem "Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning" four of his audience died of internal haemorrhaging and the president of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos was reported to have been "disappointed" by the poem's reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his 12-book epic entitled "My Favourite Bathtime Gurgles" when his own major intestine, in a desperate attempt to save humanity, leapt straight up through his neck and throttled his brain. The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings (Paul Neil Milne Johnstone) of Redbridge, in the destruction of the planet Earth. Vogon poetry is mild by comparison.[1]

Of course, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a work of fiction. In real life, there can be no doubt that the worst poetry in the universe is that of William McGonagall. Here's more from the BBC article:

Alex Dove, from auctioneers Lyon and Turnbull, said: "He was a confident gentleman who thought that his poetry was some of the best.
"He once walked all the way to Balmoral to try to become Poet Laureate. Unfortunately the Queen wasn't in.

"He spent a lot of time on the streets of Dundee trying to sell his poems and performing them, much to the amusement of the residents.

"Poet-baiting became quite an activity for the students of the time, where they would encourage him to perform, and then they would throw eggs and vegetables at him."

Oh, that was nothing. Just imagine how the denizens of the internet would have flayed the poor man. And can you imagine his Amazon reviews?


Marianne Arkins said...

"Poet-baiting"? Who knew?

And, you know your little whoosie above this box makes me want to leave YouTube links to country music videos, as well as their lyrics.

I'm just that way.


Brenda Coulter said...

You just go ahead and do what you have to do, Marianne. I have a delete key.