Exactly 50 years ago, T.S. Eliot died. Exactly 100 years ago, “Prufrock” appeared. What better moment, then, to perform the long-overdue public service of identifying the single worst poem to have been published during the last century? To name and shame? To award the IgNobel Prize for (Nominally Versified) Literature? A dirty job, but someone has to do it. (Who ya gonna call? Tastebusters!)
So much emetic tripe to read; so little time at our disposal. Firm guidelines to restrict admissible evidence were required from the beginning.
First, the poems to be short-listed for the IgNobel Prize needed to have been released after 1915. Nothing from before that date, however magnificently bad, was considered good enough.
Second, they needed to be the work of persons who had already attained the age of 21. No products of elementary-school magazines, high-school magazines, or undergraduate magazines were permitted for assessment.
Third, any verse concocted with deliberately satirical motivation (shades of those 1940’s parodists who, ex nihilo, created “Ern Malley” for Adelaide’s avant-garde journal Angry Penguins) was disqualified. To be eligible for the contest, all verses needed to be not just obscenely inept, but unconsciously obscenely inept.
Fourth, the short-listed...