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When poetry goes bad, on purpose

B is for Bad Poetry

Bisforbadpoetry There is a certain anxiety around high art. What are those opera singers saying? Is that Giacometti sculpture a little unsettlingly skinny? Is Stockhausen supposed to sound this way? And if I don't like something, does that mean I don't get it? Poetry too. Maybe especially poetry.

But with "B is for Bad Poetry," Pamela August Russell does away with those fears. It's all bad. With titles like  "Despair, Party of One," "Popeye, Hamlet & Sartre (A Rendering)" and "Donner Party Review," it couldn't possibly be good -- could it?

The poems are so deliciously bad that they're fun. Here's "Joni Mitchell Configuration":

Oh, I could drink
a case of you
and then pass out
in my own vomit.
When the EMTs arrive
to pump my stomach,
I'll still be slurring
your name.
Oh, I'll still be slurring
your name.

That's not the only lyrical reference (Dean Martin's signature song makes the bad poetry grade too). And I recognized a few genuine poetry referents -- e.e. cummings here, Rainer Maria Rilke there -- it might just be that there's a little bit of serious poetry play giggling behind the scenes.

The giggler is Pamela August Russell, a writer who, her bio says, "lives in Los Angeles by the freeway." That's where all of us writers go when we're not visiting museums, attending concerts or trying to read the subtitles at the opera.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

 
Comments () | Archives (10)

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"B is for Bad Poetry" is the best book I've ever read. Well, it's the only book I've ever read. But that still counts.....right?

I was laughing out loud! My neighbor even asked me later what was so funny (and I swear the walls are not that thin!)

Get this for everyone on your holiday shopping list!! Perfectly priced and perfectly perfect!

She doesn't live "by" the freeway, she lives under it. I know because i've been there.

That is hands down the best book jacket of the year. Fantastic!

someone should lock pamela august russell up and throw away the key.
her book, on the other hand, is a MUST READ.

Not since A is for Apple have I read such a scintillating book.

I would like to challenge PAR to a poetry slam.

This, the only piece of poetry, poetry being loosely interpreted, that I ever produced. I wrote it as a senior in high school and it was rejected by the literary compilation that my high school put together to highlight the talents of it's students. And bad but for a completely noble reason, . . which eludes me at the moment. I titled it, ". . . and he ate my term paper too!"

Curiosity killed the cat
And the canary did sing in it's cage
Curiosity killed the cat
And the mice did cavort in the pantry
Curiosity killed the cat
And the fish did swim merrily in it's bowl
Curiosity killed the cat
. . .and great suspicion was cast upon the dog

Correction:

I would like to challenge Ms. Russell to a bad poetry slam.

Worst book of poems ever?

"A Night Without Armor", by Jewel.

I keep it for my guest bathroom, along with "Quotations from Chairman Mao", and Dr. Laura Schlessinger's "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands".

All quality books.


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