Execrable Poems

I learned from the "Guardian" (UK) that the long reigning champion in the search for the world's worst poem, William McGonagall, whose opus on the Tay Bridge Disaster ends with the risibly horrible lines "And the cry rang out all o'er the town/Good Heavens! The Tay bridge is blown/ down" is now being challenged by the nomination of another nineteenth century bard, the Brussels born Theophile Jules-Henri Marzials whose commemoration of another aquatic disaster involving runaway barges ends: "Drop/Dead/ Plop,flop.Plop." I could not help but think that a third nineteenth century poem on matters maritime, "The Wreck of the Deutschland" was turned down by the Jesuit editors of "The Month" because they could not make heads nor tails of it. If there is a moral to this story it might be something like this: take courage you poets. All that stuff editors turn down may turn out to be works of genius while the things that do get published may be the stuff of ridicule in the distant future. And a final admonition: do not feel compelled (indeed, resist the urge) , dear fellow bloggers, to share your own Parnassian inspired works with us.

Lawrence Cunningham is John O'Brien professor of Theology (Emeritus) at the University of Notre Dame.

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