The History of Literature Episode #62 – Bad Poetry


Everyone loves and admires a good poem…but what about the bad ones? After discussing his own experience writing terrible poetry, Jacke analyzes the 10 things that make a poem go wrong, assesses the curious role of Scotland and Michigan in developing bad poetry, and reviews some candidates for the worst poet in history, including:

  • Jennifer Aniston, whose astonishingly bad love poem to John Mayer graced (disgraced?) the pages of Star magazine;
  • James McIntyre, the Canadian poet known as “the Chaucer of Cheese”;
  • Julia A. Moore, the “Sweet Singer of Michigan,” whose poems were described as “worse than a Gatling gun” and “rare food for the lunatic,” but who insisted on giving public performances (to her husband’s mortification and Mark Twain’s delight);
  • Margaret Cavendish, the seventeenth-century aristocrat whose nature poems took her into the unintentionally comic realm of extreme bad taste (and near cannibalism);

…and many others as well. It’s a celebration of bad poetry… the agony and the ecstasy… the cringeworthy and the triumphant… or, as William McGonagall, one of the best (worst?) of the bad poets might say:  “This episode is very fine / Indeed I think it very fine.”


Show Notes: 

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Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).



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