The Dim-Post

August 26, 2016

National Poetry Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 1:33 pm

I discussed this celebration with friends at lunch and somehow none of them had heard of 19th Century Scottish poet William Topaz McGongall, widely celebrated as the worst poet of all time: he seems roughly cognate to Tommy Wiseau. Here is the first verse of his masterpiece The Tay Bridge Disaster

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time

24 Comments »

  1. Regularly parodied in Private Eye.

    Comment by Adrian — August 26, 2016 @ 1:43 pm

  2. One for your colleagues Danyl:

    A profligate professor named Pease
    Conquered co-eds with consummate ease
    And while there were some
    Who refused to succumb
    They were always seduced by degrees

    Comment by McNulty — August 26, 2016 @ 2:09 pm

  3. I think everyone who wants to publish poetry should be forced to endure a reading of the complete works of William T McGonigall. Even if it only deterred a few it would be a price worth paying.

    Comment by Nick R — August 26, 2016 @ 2:27 pm

  4. Yeah, he may have been shit. But how many poets get write-ups like this more than a century after their deaths? https://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/jan/21/featuresreviews.guardianreview2

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — August 26, 2016 @ 2:39 pm

  5. “Throughout his life McGonagall seemed oblivious to the general opinion of his poems, even when his audience were pelting him with eggs and vegetables. Author Norman Watson speculates in his biography of McGonagall that the poetaster may have been on the “autism-Asperger’s spectrum”. Christopher Hart, writing in The Sunday Times, says that this seems “likely””

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_McGonagall

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — August 27, 2016 @ 12:21 am

  6. Here’s another little ditty of his: http://www.mcgonagall-online.org.uk/gems/a-tale-of-the-sea

    Comment by Antoine — August 27, 2016 @ 3:24 am

  7. A couple ditty’s – useful if you are required to perform at a boozy dinner party. You can add to the tension before you start by breathing heavily, pacing up and down, and waving your arm as if you are about to start a swimming race

    “On yonder hill there there stood a doocot
    it’s noo there noo cas sum weans took it ”

    OR

    “On yonder hill there stood a coo
    It’s noo there noo”

    (doocot is a home for pidgeons- so obvious really)

    Comment by Richard — August 27, 2016 @ 5:43 am

  8. As a frustrated artist, I feel a certain fondness for these types – for me they represent anti-heroism and have an integrity about them. Fallible, I dare say, personable and only driven to so do what they do for the love of it. ‘Douanier’ Rousseau, L.S. Lowry, McGonegall, Melville, Van Gogh – all ridiculed for what they did, but ploughed their chosen fields despite the snide put-downs and jibes. There should be an “International Day of the Anti-Hero” to provide hope to even poor kid out there who has had to endure the cruel put-down simply because they enjoy something that ‘better folk’ didn’t deem worthy of their attention. And if anyone responds by saying that the world should be protected from second-class art then they are merely betraying their ignorance of what creativity is.

    sorry.

    Comment by Lee Clark — August 27, 2016 @ 7:51 am

  9. From a highly-gifted, up and coming young poet …

    (‘R’s pronounced as ‘W’s)

    RICK: [reciting]

    Pollution !

    All around !

    Sometimes up ! [looks up]

    Sometimes down ! [looks down]

    But always around ! [looks around]

    Pollution, are you coming to my town ?

    Or am I coming to yours ? … Ha !

    We’re on different buses, pollution !

    But we’re both using petrol ! …

    [turns around. pan out to see that he was looking in a mirror. Rick stares at camera]

    …Bombs ! … [smiles his Rick smile]

    Comment by swordfish — August 27, 2016 @ 8:02 am

  10. I wonder how many Cacofinix like poets there are out there…

    Comment by Sanctuary — August 27, 2016 @ 8:56 am

  11. Back in February I ran into a bloke in a bar in Galicia who put himself about as a “professional troubador”. I ended up in the back of some bar in El Ferrol where the local Bohemians had their poetry pena. Lots of cigarettes, liquor and poetry I didn’t understand. The whole night ended at 5am, at which time my host and a friend went fishing in a tiny dingy to catch something to eat for breakfast.

    Comment by Sanctuary — August 27, 2016 @ 9:02 am

  12. @Sanctuary,

    Last week I went down to the dairy, bought a pie, went to the park to eat it and saw a dog take a piss against a tree. Then I bumped into my friend Pete and had a conversation about how his sciatica is playing up. By this time it was almost mid-afternoon, so I went home and played X-Box for a while.

    Gosh, other people’s anecdotes about their lives are just so fascinating!!!

    Comment by Flashing Light — August 27, 2016 @ 10:19 am

  13. And while I’m on this roll … can I just say, the constant references to The Young Ones on this blog’s comment threads do not do us proud. It wasn’t that funny at the time, has not aged well, and people who have to keep harking back to their adolescences for yuks are pretty much as bad as the characters in that show.

    Now, Monty Python references, on the other hand … .

    Comment by Flashing Light — August 27, 2016 @ 10:24 am

  14. Oops, sorry I breathed, Gv’nr !

    If you want Monty Python poetry … then here, my son, is Ewan McTeagle (Series 2 / Episode 3):
    (Love poem to his girlfriend – 1969)

    Lend us a couple of bob till Thursday.

    I’m absolutely skint.

    But I’m expecting a postal order

    and I can pay you back

    as soon as it comes.

    Love Ewan.’

    (Voice Over) “There seems to be no end to McTeagle’s poetic invention. ‘My new cheque book hasn’t arrived’ was followed up by the brilliantly allegorical ‘What’s twenty quid to the bloody Midland Bank?’ and more recently his prizewinning poem to the Arts Council: ‘Can you lend me a thousand quid?'”

    >
    >

    All just a little bit racist towards the Scots, of course, but Monty Python were nothing if not English Public School types (well, OK, Jones was Welsh, but still …)

    Now, if I find the time, I’ll have a quick look for some more Young Ones poetry with the sole aim of annoying you, FL …

    Comment by swordfish — August 27, 2016 @ 2:53 pm

  15. “He drew first blood sir!”
    (Rimbaud)

    Comment by Lee Clark — August 27, 2016 @ 5:21 pm

  16. “Back in February I ran into a bloke in a bar in Galicia”

    Whoah! You were in Spain? Please, tell us more! If you could find a way of shoehorning an opportunity to talk about your European holiday into every comments thread regardless of the ostensible topic, that would be awesome.

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — August 27, 2016 @ 6:42 pm

  17. I actually thought Sanc’s reminiscence was very picturesque.

    Comment by Antoine — August 27, 2016 @ 10:13 pm

  18. More like ‘picaresque’, I thought.

    Comment by Lee Clark — August 27, 2016 @ 10:31 pm

  19. Now, if I find the time, I’ll have a quick look for some more Young Ones poetry with the sole aim of annoying you, FL …

    Sure. As long as you’re aware that repeatedly quoting Rik 20-odd years after that show ended is pretty much what a 40-something Rik would do.

    Comment by Flashing Light — August 28, 2016 @ 11:40 am

  20. Come now, flashing light, I still work with folk who announce “Good moaning” as they enter the office.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — August 28, 2016 @ 2:09 pm

  21. These are wonderfully acerbic little bon mots I’m hearing from you, FL. Your erudition – eyebrow arched with intended irony, smug knowing little smirk, cocky swagger – marks you out as someone just a little bit special. But, I think you knew that already.

    Now, I hate to play the fan-boy, here, but the show did actually end 3 whole decades ago, rather than, you know, a mere 20.. I’d agree though that it’s all very dated now. Whereas, both FR&C and Bottom retain their edge.

    Thing is: I’d have thought a 40-something Rik would’ve been far more likely to spend his time laying down the law on those forms of pop culture he deems acceptable to reference and those he doesn’t. You may just find, in other words, that … irony of ironies … you FL are an ageing People’s Poet.

    Comment by swordfish — August 28, 2016 @ 3:35 pm

  22. Yes – Rik probably would spend his time laying down the law on those forms of pop culture he deems acceptable to reference and those he doesn’t. It’s just he’d include The Young Ones in the acceptable column. I don’t. Hence, I’m no Rik … I’m more of a Stewart Pearson, yeah?

    QED.

    Having said all that, of course, the only thing more ridiculous than quoting The Young Ones in a comment thread on bad poetry is arguing about whether quoting The Young Ones is funny and relevant in a comment thread on bad poetry. So we’d probably both better stop now before we appear to be complete dicks.

    Comment by Flashing Light — August 28, 2016 @ 3:52 pm

  23. “I’m more of a Stewart Pearson, yeah ?”

    Ha – Great series …

    ” … before we appear to be complete dicks.”

    A little too late for that, I would’ve thought.

    In the end, as with so many things, all roads lead back towards Scotland – William Topaz McGongall, widely celebrated as the worst poet of all time (Dundee / Tay Train Disaster), Rik Mayall develops the character ‘Rik’ after witnessing some god-awful poetry from various smug Post-grad students (apparently convinced of their own cutting-edge brilliance) performing at the Edinburgh Comedy fringe in the late 70s, not to mention Monty Python’s Ewan McTeagle (which I found funny as a kid in 1975, but maybe not so much now). More critical of the Python’s Public School self-indulgence and Oxbridge sense of superiority than I once was. As Frankie Boyle once said … the satire of the 60s and 70s emanated from an upwardly mobile younger generation of the British Establishment. Nothing all that subversive about it … which us brings back … dare I say it … to Rik (“bad for society when ‘the kids’ get into it”).

    Comment by swordfish — August 28, 2016 @ 5:18 pm

  24. “…Gosh, other people’s anecdotes about their lives are just so fascinating!!!…”

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/nights/20160826

    Actually, I had just listened to this on NatRad, which got me to thinking about my experiences of the place of poetry in different societies. I guess I should have drawn the picture with thicker crayons.

    Comment by Sanctuary — August 29, 2016 @ 7:25 pm


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