Thursday, April 17, 2014

"Bad" Poetry

If an art is to be estimated by its success, I appeal to experience whether there have not been, in proportion to their number, as many starving good poets as bad ones? 
-- Alexander Pope,  "Peri Bathos"

Camp taste is, above all, a mode of enjoyment, of appreciation-- not judgment. Camp is generous. It wants to enjoy. It only seems like malice, cynicism. . . . What it does is to find the success in certain passionate failures. 
-- Susan Sontag, "Notes on Camp"

I was going to scrawl an intro of sorts on the aesthetics of so-bad-its-good art, but I won't waste valuable time that could be spent reading some gloriously bad poetry. "What is bad?" the more contrarian reader might ask. In response to such inquisitive spirits, I'll borrow a few words from the great Rudolf Otto:
The reader is invited to direct their mind to a moment of deeply-felt experience of bad poetry,* as little as possible qualified by other forms of consciousness. Whoever cannot do this, whoever knows no such moments in his experience, is requested to read no further. I 
*religiƶs Erregheit, which some hyper-literal translators might render as "religious psychology."

Anyway, today's Bad Poem is brought to you by the Dull 15th Century. Above all, it is an exercise in extreme subtlety-- realizing tout son sens only in the final stanza.

I have a gentil cok,
Crowyt me day*              [Crows for me when it's daytime];
He doth me rysyn erly*            [arise me early],
My matyins for to say. 
I have a gentil cok,
Comyn he is of gret               [He comes from a noble family];
His comb is of reed corel,*               [red coral]
His tayil [tail] is of get [black]. 
I have a gentyl cok,
Comyn he is of kynde [He is of good birth];
His comb is of red corel,
His tayl is of inde  [indigo] 
His legges ben [are] of asor [azure],
So gentil and so smale;
His spores arn of sylver qwyt,*               [bright silver]
Into the wortewale.*                [up to the root]
His eynyn [eyes] arn of cristal,
Lokyn [set] al in aumbyr [amber];
And every nyght he perchit hym     [perches]
In myn ladyis chaumbyr.

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