Joy of Bad Verse

Considers the remarkable literary phenomenon of bad poetry down the ages and the remarkable chutzpah of its practitioners.

Joy of Bad Verse

Nicholas T. Parsons

This second edition of Nicholas T. Parsons’ The Joy of Bad Verse is accompanied by a new and expanded Introduction that considers the remarkable literary phenomenon of bad poetry down the ages and the remarkable chutzpah of its practitioners. It brings the theme up to date with the current eruption of “instapoetry” on Instagram, poetry happenings and other whimsical contributions to the tsunami of verse now washing over social media. 

This book celebrates such remarkable poets as Julia A. Moore, who was known as “The Sweet Singer of Michigan”; or Solyman Brown, the Laureate of American dentistry; or the Rev. E.E. Bradford whose wonderfully innocent raptures on (preferably naked) pubescent boys were praised by the Westminster Review as wholesome and uplifting. Of course the iconic figure of William McGonagall, “the Scottish Homer”, is not neglected. To him and several others such as Martin Tupper, a forerunner of “Thought for the Day” and many an Anglican sermon, biographical sketches are dedicated. The chapter on “Limping Laureates” rescues from deserved obscurity several persons such as Alfred Austin who achieved this poorly remunerated, but sought after, status without actually being any good at writing poetry. In this world of wonders, wooden ideological verse (including the brown-nosing of political monsters in verse) jostles with banality, virtue-signalling and unintentional comedy. Not forgetting the contribution of real poets on an off day (Wordsworth’s inimitable tribute to a stuffed owl), which, as the author says, lend a distinction to the genre.

Auberon Waugh once lambasted modern poetry because it neither rhymed, scanned nor made sense. But here is a treasure trove of stuff to read out loud, stuff which mostly rhymes, if unfortunately, scans if the author was in the mood, and makes the sort of sense that leaves you gasping for more.

Nicholas T. Parsons is the author of some seventeen books including Worth the Detour: A History of the Guidebook and Vienna:A Cultural and Literary History (also published by Signal Books.) His latest publication is Civilisation and its Malcontents (2019) published by the Hungarian Review. 

£14.99 paperback

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416 pages
May 2022
ISBN: 9781838463045