Terrible Poem Breakdown: An Apologia (and What They Knew #16-24)

Yesterday we started the new series Terrible Poem Breakdown, in which I criticized a Terrible Poem primarily for its negativity. I’ve had it pointed out to me that this may be somewhat hypocritical, coming from me. This blog has not exactly been moondreams and rainbows.

Readers, I’ve been trying to be encouraging! And yet I have conveyed some very bleak thoughts indeed, especially in the What They Knew series. But isn’t that just being real? There’s a fine line between a pessimist and a realist! Sometimes no line at all!

So in the holiday spirit, I’m going to run through the entire next batch of What They Knews. I will look at each of them, examine them for signs of negativity, and assess whether they should be released upon the world or whether they should be buried in my What They Knew Discard vault.

And along the way, I hope to get a better sense of myself. Me, Jacke Wilson, clear-eyed purveyor of uplifting sentiment… 

What They Knew #17

“Nothing exists; even if something exists, nothing can be known about it; and even if something can be known about it, knowledge about it can’t be communicated to others.”


Wow. Is there anything salvageable there?  One lonely little ray of hope? If there is I don’t see it. This one gets axed. Begone, ye demons of negativity! What was up next?

What They Knew #18
“When you consider things like the stars, our affairs don’t seem to matter very much, do they?”

–Virginia Woolf

Good lord, she’s right. They don’t! Oops, I mean – of course they do! Our affairs are worth any number of stars. New leaf time around here!

What They Knew #19

“I’m not absolutely certain of the facts, but I rather fancy it’s Shakespeare who says that it’s always just when a fellow is feeling particularly braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up behind him with the bit of lead piping.”

–P.G. Wodehouse

Not a huge Wodehouse fan so this one probably would never have made it. Easy to knock this one on the head.

I’m starting to get a little troubled here, folks. There must be something I found. What do I have to do, make one up?

What They Knew #20

“If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would not a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation as to spare it the burden of existence, or at any rate not take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood?”

–Arthur Schopenhauer

Cold, Arthur. That’s so, so cold…

What They Knew #21

“See the moon? It hates us.”

–Donald Barthelme

Okay, that one still makes me laugh. But out it goes!

What They Knew #22
“All live to die, and rise to fall.”

–Christopher Marlowe

It’s so true! But… ugh… it goes too! What’s wrong with me, people? Why didn’t I find some nice philosopher, someone kind, someone gentle, like Gandhi or Henry David Thoreau? Right – Thoreau! Not talking about space and time and insignificance and death, but something practical. Some common-sense wisdom, sturdy and well rooted in the community around him.

What They Knew #23

“If there is any hell more unprincipled than our rulers, and we, the ruled, I feel curious to see it.”

–Henry David Thoreau

I am a miserable person. Apologies to yesterday’s poet.

The good news is – we’re done! No more of darkness! From now on it’s only sunshine and cheer around here! Which brings us to…

What They Knew #24
“See the Moon? It loves us.”
–Jacke Wilson (Your Humble, Faithful, and Optimistic Blogger)

3 thoughts on “Terrible Poem Breakdown: An Apologia (and What They Knew #16-24)

  1. On a positive and encouraging note, I’d like to say that if you dig with a little more enthusiasm into the aforementioned poem you could probably find quite a few other things to break down critically besides negativity. So, even in a bad critique of a bad poem, there is still much wonder and joy–not to mention schadenfreude– that can be mined from the bleakness! Advance confidently in the direction of your critique!

    Liked by 1 person

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