Slouching Toward Bethlehem: The Anti-Poet

by Alphaville Herald on 20/07/08 at 3:42 pm

Spam filter fails — critic battles emo poetry outbreak

by Sigmund Leominster, new media critic

Following the tragic failure of my spam filter to do its job, I recently received an unsolicited email containing a piece of poetry from what was described as someone with “a poet’s heart and pen.” Here’s a clip from the poem:

I understand the truth disease sees
I say nothing teaches needs
I dream great meaningful beings free my mind
I try to kill only loneliness
I hope great love visits me
I am extra vast and lopsided.

In the spirit of full disclosure – and so you can get to know the depths of my shallowness – I have to admit that I hope there is a special place in Hell reserved for people who think that stringing sentences together in short lines qualifies as “poetry.” I am neither a publisher nor a professional critic but it has always seemed to me that people who want to pretend to be writers – especially when they are patently unqualified – tend to call their meanderings “poetry” in the hope that sympathetic readers will gloss over the vapidity and turgidity of their pseudo-literate ramblings. For some reason that philosophers and psychologists have yet to discover, people allow “poets” far more latitude than they deserve. Mangled metaphor, grammatical grinding and weird words are no substitute for riveting writing.

Being “extra vast and lopsided” makes no sense at all and is, at best, a novel metaphor that should really have stayed buried in the pit of poor prose. “But,” says the apologist, “It is poetic, and an expression of the poet’s inner thoughts, expressed in a singularly unique and creative way.” The word “bollocks” springs to mind instantly, along with a number of euphemisms for excretory products. Turning crap prose into faux verse doesn’t take away the smell.

I understand the truth disease sees
I say nothing teaches needs
I dream great meaningful beings free my mind.

What is that all about? Ha, I’ll tell you what it’s all about. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Maybe some readers can waste their time pretending to see some deep meaning, or more likely invent one, but they’d be better served doing something more profitable with their time – such as repeatedly slamming the refrigerator door on their genitalia or stabbing themselves in the eye with a blunt pencil. In truth, the generation of such vacuous word salad is so easy that I’m surprised there are so few people jumping around on the “poetry” juggernaut. Here’s an example:

My heart sees more than my eyes
My heart knows more than my brain
And my heart is one with my feelings.
I reach but find no-one
I cry but find no comfort
I fall but no hand reaches out to save me.
I am lost
I am alone
I am nothing.

Great poetry? Hardly. Took me no longer to create than the time it took to type the words. A mechanical miasma of moribund mumbling, worse than the alliteration I’ve been tossing out in almost every sentence of this article. Yet if I were to post this on some obscure poetry blog, what’s the betting I would get some folks “oohing” and “ahhing” and offering a “perspective” on what the “poem” means to them? In the royal world of Poetry, the Emperor frequently has no clothes.

Call me cynical – because it’s true – but I believe much of modern “poetry” is the last desperate hole into which the literally misguided can crawl. As far as I am concerned, T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” was just that – the final example of a barren and sterile literary form. “The center cannot hold” because ersatz poetry doesn’t have one. When “poetry” has become an excuse for poor spelling, poor punctuation, lousy grammar, and strained meaning, it deserves to be ridiculed, derided, and cursed to live forever on badly made web pages and slim, self-published tomes to the Ego. Poor poetry is indeed the Rough Beast that slouches its way to Bethlehem.

Of course, I could be wrong.

36 Responses to “Slouching Toward Bethlehem: The Anti-Poet”

  1. Just Me

    Jul 20th, 2008

    Give me a limerick every time
    Words that tell a story in rhyme
    Short, sweet and funny
    Is even better than money
    ’cause anything else is a crime.

  2. Angel

    Jul 21st, 2008

    Maybe you can get Kris to stop posting his drivel.

  3. marilyn murphy

    Jul 21st, 2008

    have you ever seen the deaf poets?

    there was this prison drama on HBO for a couple years. and in the break between scenes this black prisoner known as “poet” to his group in prison, would deliver a poem. i found them to be good.

    i think some of what the deaf poets do is good.

    i agree with you on the urge to be a poet when you want to appear and or genuinely be creative in writing, but lack talent.

    was jim morrison a poet? i dont know. maybe.

    i think u can be to harsh with this tho, there is new and interesting poetry out there. not everyone is a hack perhaps.

  4. Corona Anatine

    Jul 21st, 2008

    poetry is in the mind of the beholder (or something)

  5. lovingthealien

    Jul 21st, 2008


  6. Em Jannings

    Jul 21st, 2008

    Thanks Sigmund. You’ve rendered a public service by calling this stuff out. I remember a comment by Amiri Baraka (I think it was) about crap poetry and jazz music. He said that if a jazz musician with no control of his instrument got up on stage and played he’d be hooted off. And he wondered why we don’t do the same with some of the crap being foisted off on us as poetry. Your comments give me hope that we may have gotten tired of being abused by this drivel at last. Pile it on!

  7. crofoot

    Jul 21st, 2008

    “Mangled metaphor, grammatical grinding and weird words are no substitute for riveting writing.”… or hyperbolic alliteration it seems.

  8. Beaman the Poet

    Jul 21st, 2008

    I have to say that I agree with your sentiments entirely. Too many people these days claim to be poets and overly admire the free-verse form which takes barely any time or thought to produce. It somewhat devalues the true art of poetry.

  9. crofoot

    Jul 21st, 2008

    Perhaps Beaman the Poet forgets the agonizing efforts of Archie the Cockroach who wrote all his vers libre on a 1920′s typewriter (remember those?)one letter/space at a time by jumping from the top of the typewriter, striking each key with his head. When his headache got too much to bear, he quit. Of course, upper case anything was out of the question too. The
    lines had to be short due to the extreme effort required to operate the manual return.

  10. haha

    Jul 21st, 2008

    So Penny is submitting her angsty poetry now?

  11. Jumpman Lane

    Jul 22nd, 2008

    @Siggy The Bitch! NOW UR A LITERARY CRITIC! Would help ur critique some if u had some grasp of poetics! Considering that the sad poem u chose scans (i.e. has repeated meter) & assonance (the repeated “e” sound) to point out just two. Ur chosen piece IS in fact a poem and you turd are a fraud! To be so mistaken in premise leaves but one theme screaming from ur text: I Siggy the Bitch, am a big damn dummy! Maybe ur the Heralds new traine monkey. R u a Torley Linden alt? Like I told u b 4, u remain a chump, & I remain Jumpman Lane.

  12. Em Jannings

    Jul 22nd, 2008

    Jumpman – Since “e” is the most common letter used in English, its repetition hardly constitutes assonance. As for the “repeated meter” you claim for Siggy’s example, I challenge you to identify it. The lines are ragged and unmetrical. Iambic tetrameter — nope. Iambic pentameter — naw. Trochees? Anapests? No, no. It’s not poetry in any formal sense & fails to even use a device as easy as rhyme. It is, in fact, crap filled with unspecified angst (or the pretension to angst) and using a lot of abstract words because it isn’t about anything except a vague and poorly expressed emotion itch.

  13. Cirius Montale

    Jul 22nd, 2008

    My sincerest praise for Mr Lane, who apparently paid enough attention in the sole English class he attended to acquire the word ‘assonance’. It is a tragic pity however that he was not paying attention long enough to learn how to incorporate it into a sentence.

    Sigmund makes an interesting point, and I would tend to agree that perhaps Dante should indeed have reserved a space for those suffering from apparent logarrhea. Having suffered the delights of reading thirty attempts at poetry written by over-zealous year seven pupils, I can’t help wish that the rhyming dictionary had never been invented.

  14. GreenLantern Excelsior

    Jul 22nd, 2008

    A Google search turned up one Internet page containing those words. It’s a page about autism, which makes me think that maybe the author was lucky to be able to express himself at all. Someone may have found it and tried to pass it off as his own work. The author’s name, supposedly, is Chris Patton.

    You’re right about people stringing random words together and calling it poetry. It’s similar to randomly splashing paint on a canvas and calling it art. It fools a few people, but most of us see through the scam.

  15. Jumpman Lane

    Jul 22nd, 2008

    @ u morons who INSIST on displaying ur crap educations! The first two lines SCAN, display a METRIC! Iambics ending in a cesura! (Also ending in an IMPERFECT RHYME)! These repetetive devices ARE ASPECTS OF POETRY! @ the turd who notes that “e” is the most common letter in the alphabet, E IS NOT PRONOUCED THE SAME WAY IN EVERY WORD IN ENGLISH (nor even the same in every word of the poem). But the SAME e sound IS repeated enough to constitute assonance. The poem sux but Siggy the Bitch cant tell you why! He is a pretentious mediocrity! (bad metrics not the absence of meter, bad rhymes not their absence etc). U saps will find as u tardy along that I Jumpman Lane am a genius & 4 me SL is like walkin through empty rooms with unlocked doors. Hehehehe! So u better get on my team or get outta meh way! Caws aint none of ya good enough! Square biz. I am Lane

  16. crofoot

    Jul 22nd, 2008

    Cesura – In poetry, a natural pause in a line of verse.
    A break or pause in a line of verse: in Greek and Latin verse, the caesura falls within the metrical foot; in English verse, it is usually about the middle of the line. While I agree with the notion of iambic tetrameter, there seems to be a final stressed (or long) syllable at the end of each line, or x/x/x/x//. I guess this could be called poetry, but certainly not very good poetry. That requires mind. Apparently J. Lane has some more personal connection to the poet/poetry (could it be yours, JL?), and will defend this drivel at all costs. Anyone who has to trick out normal words (“Like I told u b 4, u…), carp and jig, giggle and snarl, can’t be more than 16 or so… What a maroon, as Phil sez.

  17. crofoot

    Jul 22nd, 2008

    Apologies to JL…he did say that the poem “sux”, but my comment on his infantile expression remains, as do I.

  18. GreenLantern Excelsior

    Jul 23rd, 2008

    Genius spent more time on the ban list than on the grid.

    Sigmund said “I am neither a publisher nor a professional critic…”

    Sigmund’s article does not deserve such an attack.

  19. Dr. Donahue Edward Lardwich the 52nd

    Jul 23rd, 2008

    Oh, dear Jumpman, why do you insist on continuing your savage torturing of your keyboard? You make absolutely no sense at all, and your lack of even the most basic concepts of spelling invalidate any points you may have made in your post.

    Therefore, I must kindly ask you to turn off your Personal Computer, break your keyboard over your knee, and head outside to experience the wonderful world of Outside.

    Yours truly,

    Dr. Donahue Edward Lardwich the 52nd

  20. parrhesian

    Jul 23rd, 2008

    A mistake that many a lifelong bachelor has made.

    People like the author of this article seek to reassure themselves that they are the wiser – a notch above – by relying on a basic knowledge of a subject, generalizations, and the hope that some gullible listeners/readers, who feast on that sort of sensationalistic rubbish will take their pronouncements at face value.

    It’s really no different than running into an elitist of any sort. The asshole at the corner pub who wants to go blather about how baseball once was, how comic books were, and so on. They’ve made an investment in these institutions that is integral to their persona, so they fight viciously when they think people are drawing outside the lines. In other words, they are parasites who not only live vicariously through others (those they consider “real” poets, etc), but also try to enforce what their “sensibilities” tell them the art form should be like. The saddest part is that most of those poets, musicians, et al, held no such beliefs, and were indeed, in their eras, told the same hooey by equally self-interested, navel-gazing critics of the day.

    And The Parents screamed that rock-n-roll was ruining music forever…

    Sigmund, you’re a provincial, snobby twat (or possibly a poseur). Piss off – you don’t get to make the rules, and thank the heavens for that. People have been trying to do exactly what you are trying to do here, along various avenues, since time untold, Mr. Poetry Fascist.

    *drums fingers while waiting for some samples of Sigmund’s poetry*

    He must have some, right?

    …and Rex Reed is an Oscar winning actor.

  21. Jumpman Lane

    Jul 23rd, 2008

    @parrhesian. Exactly. Siggy the Bitch is a poser! I love exposin his simple ass! @greenlantern you’re a virtual SNITCH! Mind ya motherfuckin business! Nosy people get it too! Punk! @Sir Doodyho! U internet grammarians kill meh with ur Laura Ingalls Wilder school marm act. FUN-EEE! @carfoot ur post recognizes that Siggy the Ho needs to KNOW something b 4 he pretends 2 b an expert & meh chatspeak is the result of growin up with mobile devices! NOW U GRANNY WOMEWN DISCOVERED SL! Hehehehe! I’m age verified bish! CAWS WE MAKIN PORN 4 YA ASSES @flippadick punk ass peregreeen wat up bitch! @Aya Pelous madam suck hairy nut sax (or feign it) for pennies! @Torley Linden I wish I WERE a circus clown too so I could look funneh & dodge cow crap like u! @ the rest of ya ya’ll must not know bout meeeeh!

  22. Jumpman Lane

    Jul 23rd, 2008

    GREENLANTERN IS A SNITCH! HAHAHAHAHAHA! He will tell something! I bet his codename when he goes undercover is DEEPTHROAT (or is that UNDERCOVERS?) Hehehehe! Find something to do on the grid! You aint no god damn hero! Bitch!

  23. crofoot

    Jul 23rd, 2008

    JL ok…I get it…you’re a hip-hop genius, but not so nice. How do we “get on your team”? Why would we want to? I still think your chatspeak is so yesterday, and, could you explain why “meh” is shorter and easier to type than “me”? Anyway, it’s been real…I’m just passing time until the Herald prints something more controversial than “Nate Ninetails — Post 6 Guy” If I run into you inworld, please don’t shoot me with a chicken cannon or anything more messy. Poetry has ever been fraught with controversy. I think it would be nice to hear from Sigmund, but apparently he’s just above the fray. In the words of R. King: “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids?…It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice….Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out.”

  24. Sigmund Leominster

    Jul 23rd, 2008

    “There’s only one thing worse than being talked about behind your back – and that’s NOT being talked about behind your back.” So I take some satisfaction in having stirred the proverbial pot, touched some nerves, and mixed my metaphors happily. I’m still new enough to be amused by Jumpman’s comments and I wish him well in the English 101 classes he is taking – although if I were him, I’d be inclined to ask for my money back.

    It’s also gratifying to know that in the world of rhetoric and debate, the ad hominem attack is still alive. If you strip out all the personal references from Jumpman’s comments about me, there’s actually nothing really left behind – save for some bad spelling and terrible grammar, which is in total opposition to his stance that he is some kind of literary genius. And that IS an ad homimen riposte.

    It’s also amusing that I can be seen as “a provincial, snobby twat (or possibly a poseur),” “a pretentious mediocrity,” and “a fraud.” And it is almost ironic that I am accused of some kind of elitism by the folks who then go for the “argument from authority” by claiming to be experts in poetics because they can use words like “assonance.”

    Folks, I reiterate that I am not a critic, not a professor of literature, and not a alt for anyone. All I am saying is that if it looks like shit, sounds like shit, and smells like shit, no amount of shoe-horned “literary analysis” by self-appointed “experts in poetry” can change the essential fecal nature of the “poet’s” droppings.

    We live in a world where, according to my colleague who owns a publishing company, “there are more people writing poetry than reading it” and a fair chunk of those writing it are writing it badly. Literary critics can perform all the analytical masturbation they want in a sorry effort to convince the masses that tripe is poetry, but I, for one, am not falling for it.

    “A posing provincial called Sig,
    Had a head that appeared to be big,
    But his critics ire grew
    ‘Cause his comments rang true
    And bad poets couldn’t stand his sharp dig.”

    I AM Siggy the Bitch, Jumpman. Get over it.

  25. Jumpman Lane

    Jul 24th, 2008

    @carfoot u cant get on meh team writin squishy shit like that! @Siggy the Bitch! U ARE Siggy the Bitch! Bitch! LMFAO! Now u r a philosipher! IT is NOT a personal attack to CONCLUDE that u r a poser & a pretenious fraud when u even NOW dont realize that using a CONCEPT like assonace is a requirement 4 critiquing poetry. It is a syllogism! As for written style it too is an affectation! The “voice” of Jumpman Lane (which is better unnastood than u tards pretend hehehehe else why the line by line post by post rebuttal?) what else ya gonna write 4 d Herald? I read ur crybaby Mony the Retard story and this one! WHEN R U LEAVIN SL! HEHEHE

  26. Sigmund Leominster

    Jul 24th, 2008

    Jumpman, I’m leaving SL on the same bus you’re riding. Let me know when you’re going and I’ll make sure I’m with you!


    @Jumpman. Yo da Jumpstar! When U ASS am KICKING OUT, u kn LICK MY PUNK ASS b 4 u SUCK LINDEN BALLS!! I be loggin out fr gud when ur DICKS TOO LIMP!!! I yam Da BITCH!

    Sorry if my Babelfish didn’t quite do a fair job with the translation but “Assholese” isn’t one of the recognized languages. Try upping the dosage on your meds – they may not be working ;)

    Let’s be nice out there boys and girls! Group hug.

  27. parrhesian

    Jul 25th, 2008

    ‘It’s also amusing that I can be seen as “a provincial, snobby twat (or possibly a poseur)’

    here’s to a lifetime of amusement for you!

  28. Jumpman Lane

    Jul 25th, 2008

    @siggy the bitch u know u cant roll with meh! you to squishy! hehehehe!Bitch! roflmfao

  29. GreenLantern Excelsior

    Jul 26th, 2008

    Them dern kids! Aren’t they cute when they escape from the Teen Grid and start trying to act all grown up?

  30. Jumpman Lane

    Jul 26th, 2008

    @greenlanturd I’m age verified bitch! Ur still a snitch and i remain as ever jumpman Lane!

  31. Jumpin' Jehosephat

    Jul 27th, 2008

    Jumpman Lane is the bastard love child of Prokofy Neva and Penance Sautereau.

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  34. Ben Worthen

    Jun 5th, 2011

    This is an interestingly vicious take on the power and failings of words coming from someone so incautious with them. Chris Patton is my age; we attended the same elementary school, where he struggled with even basic tasks due to autism so severe that he interacted with the world through headphones and a primitive “meaning-interpretive” keyboard. Yet Chris, as is so frustratingly often the case with autists, had a great deal that he wished to express and, difficult though it is now to remember how this took place through the communicative barrier, became hood friends.

    He is now 26, still completely supported by his parents, still trapped within the bizarre walls of his own brain, making an incredible effort to produce words and poetry and founder, with a lot of assistance from the Denver Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, of a small company producing t-shirts and books of poetry. I wonder why your sense of poetry is so exclusive – what value you perceive in the form if not as a concise and imagistic way of seeing the world from alternative perspectives and modes of thought.

  35. hobo kelly

    Jun 6th, 2011

    there was once a Talking Hand Puppet
    cataclysms from its mouth they would Buffet
    Salmon Dinners ™ it seems
    fueled most of her dreams
    but left Kitties
    with an empty chow bucket…

  36. Yep

    Jun 6th, 2011

    Thank you for the smile Hobo :P

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