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Monday, August 8, 2016

Bad Poem Tricks

Ok. So what are the steps to writing a bad poem? In the first place, just a write a poem! It is likely to be bad already.

So even the attempt to write a bad poem implies, doesn't it, that you have a few good poem tricks at your disposal? Concrete imagery, a way with a phrase. And ways of avoiding some of the bad poem tricks as well. You must have some models of poetic concision and directness.

Then you must know some of the bad poem tricks already, right? A lot of them come down to tone: the speaker is portentous or preachy. The vocabulary is ever so slightly elevated. So take a phrase that you think the bad poet might use. Ezra Pound's idea that such a poet would write "dim lands of peace" is a good place to start.

Some of my favorite devices are

*The simile. The simile is such a basic device that everyone who thinks they can write poem uses it, and is a mainstay of mainstream, workshop style poetry of Professional Poets. You can write a bad simile just by putting down the first thing that comes into your head. I like putting an adjective: "like antique lace."

*Bathos is the figure of falling or deflation. What you're going to want to do here is set up an epiphany and then undercut it. Abrupt shifts of tone (downward).

*The line break. Just break your lines in the worst possible way. Just think of a how a bad poet might do it. Also a good way of introducing a comic twist or bathos. There are two or three kinds of bad line break. One is just arbitrary, when you just break it because you think the line looks long enough. The other is cutesy, where short lines create the aspiration to pseudo-profundity.

*I sometimes just add an extra phrase. So if I have line "hitting a ball / like a kid." I would say "hitting a ball / like a kid / or young man or woman." Going on a little too long is always effective, especially if you can do it bathetically.

*Wisdom. Fake wisdom is always good. My daughter got the right idea when she ended the poem with the line "Will there ever be a time when nature has taken its toll?" (She was trying to write a bad poem, needless to say) The best place to put lame epiphanies or fake-sounding wisdom is at the end of poem.

*Epiphany. This technique is essential. The Really Important Insight the poet has gotten from the experience.

*Present tense. Many bad poets just use the present tense just because it sounds more poem like. "I lean over / and inhale / the fresh breeze." Since people don't talk like that really it is a really easy way to sound poetic but without even distinguishing your language from that of ordinary people.

*Portentous tone. What I am telling you is really important. My vocabulary communicates that. Use "shimmering" a lot. An elemental vocabulary with words like "stone" and "darkness" is very good to use along with the "shimmering" words.

*Cliché. I actually don't recommend the overuse of cliché. It's too easy. Try for the near cliché.

*Prepositional phrases. Here what you want to do is find some phrases like "dim lands of peace" but make them original. Imagine the bad poet proud to have discovered them. Like "the bitter wages of emnity."

*Translationese. Here the idea is to be a little unidiomatic, as though you were translating from another language with a profounder culture. Think fortune cookies.

*Rhyme. Bad rhyme is too bad even for a bad poem. I don't recommend that. The same goes for heavy-handed alliteration. You can do better than that.

There. At the risk of putting myself out of business I have given you some of my best bad poem tricks.


Leslie B. said...

All of this is so funny, really

It takes a good amount of precision and theoretical thought to

articulate the principles at work in bad

poetry and therefore, all poetry



Leslie B. said...

Things that should not surprise me, but do:

If you cook carelessly,

You get carelessly cooked food