Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Glazed Ubuntu Macaroon

From the Unix fortune cookie factory —
The Worst American Poet

Julia Moore, "the Sweet Singer of Michigan" (1847-1920) was so bad that Mark Twain said her first book gave him joy for 20 years.

Her verse was mainly concerned with violent death -- the great fire of Chicago and the yellow fever epidemic proved natural subjects for her pen.

Whether death was by drowning, by fits or by runaway sleigh, the formula was the same:

            Have you heard of the dreadful fate
            Of Mr. P. P. Bliss and wife?
            Of their death I will relate,
            And also others lost their life
            (in the) Ashtabula Bridge disaster,
            Where so many people died.

Even if you started out reasonably healthy in one of Julia's poems, the chances are that after a few stanzas you would be at the bottom of a river or struck by lightning. A critic of the day said she was "worse than a Gatling gun" and in one slim volume counted 21 killed and 9 wounded.

Incredibly, some newspapers were critical of her work, even suggesting that the sweet singer was "semi-literate". Her reply was forthright: "The Editors that has spoken in this scandalous manner have went beyond reason." She added that "literary is a work very difficult to do".

            — Stephen Pile, "The Book of Heroic Failures"
like brittle sparrows
sweltered in their own regret,
mud frogs must dry out

    —from haiku is so damn precious, by f. riley hall

Moore's verse was the "last gasp of obituary poetry" (Ibid.) in America, so it's worth noting that the notorious Cherry Sisters are buried in Linwood Cemetery, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, not far from my haunted precincts. I mention this because it's nearly Halloween.

By, e.g., Fran Allison ("Kukla, Fran and Ollie"), Don DeFore ("Thorny"), Elijah Woods ("Frodo") and Ashton Kutcher ("Mr. Demi Moore"), all either dead or sucking residuals.

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