Okay, I've often said that I do not critique poetry. I guess that I lied. In a sense. I'm not really going to critique any particular poem or poet here, because I do not do THAT. BUT.
There is some truly Bad Poetry out there, folks. Poetry that I have read that sends me running for the bathroom to vomit out my dinner. Poetry that makes me want to jab my eyeballs out with a pencil so that I will never accidentally run across anything similar to it, ever ever ever again.
Douglas Adams discusses horrible poetry and the desire of the Bad Poet to force other people to listen to it in his first book, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, wherein a species of particularly horrible aliens takes great pleasure in torturing their victims by reading Vogon poetry to them, poems that run along these lines:
"OH FREDDLED GRUNTBUGGLY
THY MICTURATIONS ARE TO ME
AS PLURDLED GABBLEPLOTCHETTS
ON A LURGID BEE!"
This goes on, but I think you get the point. Please tell me you got the point, because my eyeballs are now bleeding from having had to even type that in and spellcheck it.
Now, just what is a bad poem, other than the above example? Please bear in mind that this is all solely my opinion. You may think MY poetry is Vogon poetry, and you are welcome to your opinion. But I have my own ideas about Vogon poetry, and since this is MY rant, I will spew them forth here. If you disagree, I invite you to write your own rant and send me the URL (email@example.com). I would love to see what you come up with as Vogon.
HOW TO SPOT A VOGON IN HUMAN DISGUISE:
(All poetry examples used herewith are from my own twisted brain, so if you think you recognize anything here as your own work, you are a Vogon.)
1) If they use cliched and overused rhyme schemes, such as
"Nothing can ever break up our love
It was given to us by God above
Your touch is as tender as if you wore a glove
And your eyes are as gentle as a dove"
Then you can be pretty damn sure that there's a Vogon in the house.
2) If they feel that they must stick to rhyming poetry, but they have clearly not read their poem aloud to see if it really rhymes, you have discovered a Vogon. Example:
"Yesterday I had had it
I said we were through
And I want you to know
It was really rough!"
3) If there is... creative use of line lengths, such as:
"I wander in the bright sunshine
Roaming hither and fro amongst the hills and dales and dancing in the daffodil fields with my finger in my nose
and my heart calls out for you
as i look at a lovely purple pink yellow orange green giagantically fully in bloom cabbage rose.
Call the Intergalactic Terrorist Squad, you caught a Vogon.
4) If as you read their many 'works' you feel like you've fallen in a Hallmark shop and you can't get up.. guess what? It's a Vogon.
5) If the poem is filled with strange and creative spelling and grammar, such as:
"I wondered down in them there feeldz
Two gather my rosebuds wile Aye may
But then I felled down on my knees
And instead to my God I did Begun to Praye."
Oh well hell, what else can the author be but a Vogon (although, to be honest, I could not bring myself to spell as badly as a true Vogon generally does)?
These are just some of the many ways to spot a Vogon and his or her poetry. I am sure that each of you has run across a Vogon in the past, and will discover new ones in the future. Perhaps you are a Vogon yourself, or have been one (as every poet has at one time or another, yes, including me. I have reams of crap I would never share with the world because the Geneva Convention strictly forbids torture, regardless of what they do at Gitmo).
If you are a Vogon, you don't have to remain one. Any Vogon is free to break out of the trap of crappy poetry. There is only one way to do it. Write. Write often, and write honestly. Throw away that rhyming dictionary you got in the office Kris Kringle last year and write the words of your HEART, not of your head. If your head tells you: "Oh wait, that didn't rhyme", tell it to shut the hell up and to stop trying to rule your heart. Let the words flow straight from your soul to the paper (or monitor, as the case may be). Just let it flow. If it happens to rhyme, nifty, your soul gave you a rhyming poem. If it doesn't rhyme, nifty again, your soul gave you another kind of poem. If you have to struggle for it, it is not real, but Vogon.
Vogons are not a race of aliens. They are the demons we knew as our Sophomore English teachers who taught us that a true poem rhymes, a true poem follows a particular meter, a true poem uses flowery phrases that mean nothing and only sound pretty. They taught us that Byron and his peers were the only true poets ever to come down the pike, and they ignore amazing great poets like Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings, poets who just let their emotions dribble down through their bodies into their fingers, out through their pens, onto the paper, and into the hearts and souls and minds of millions.. and often without a 'sensible' rhyming pattern.
Vogons are not aliens. They are us. But we don't have to be Vogons unless we want to be.
Don't be a Vogon. Write from your heart. And help save me from having to jab my eyeballs out with a pointed object.