No doubt most Jottists will have their own candidates, some of whom might be a few contemporary ‘poets ‘who have paid to have their own work published by ‘ vanity presses ‘.However, here are some of the lesser known versifiers out of the ten chosen by publisher Nicholas Parsons in his Book of Literary Lists. The divine Amanda McKittrick Ros, arguably the worst poet of all, has been dealt with in an earlier Jot, as has Patience Strong.
Julia A. Moore (1847 – 1920).
Not the best-known of bad poets, but a sure candidate nonetheless. Moore was, according to Parsons, ‘ by general consent the worst American poetess and perhaps the worst in English.’ Mark Twain satirised her in Huckleberry Finn as ‘ Emmeline Grangerford. Twain declared that her debut volume , The Sweet Singer of Michigan Salutes the Public gave him joy for twenty years. One of these little gems was entitled ‘ Byron: A Critical Survey’.
‘Lord Byron;’ was an Englishman
A poet I believe
His first works in old England
Was poorly received.
Perhaps it was ‘Lord Byron’s ‘fault
And perhaps it was not.
Moore seemed to specialise in gruesome deaths. Referring to her debut, one critic, Bill Nye, ‘counted twenty-one killed and nine wounded in the small volume she has given to the public’.
Here is one of them:
While eating dinner this dear little child
Was choked on a piece of beef
Doctors came, tried their skill awhile
But none could give relief…
Her friends and schoolmates will not forget
Little Libbie that is no more;
She is waiting on the shining step
To welcome home friends once more.
Frederick J. Johnston-Smith ( nineteenth century)
A new name for me, but well chosen by Parsons, who called him ‘a master of the inappropriate image and the unfortunate use of colloquialism‘. He was celebrated in Squire’s essay, ‘ The Beauty of Badness’ . Here is a couplet from ‘The Captain of the Dolphin’.
A balminess the darkened hours had brought him from out the South
Each breaker doffed its cap of white and shut its blatant mouth.
The same ‘poet‘ came up with this:
Reluctant I leave, like a lover who goes
From the side of the maid of his choice
By whom he is held with a cord actuose
Spun out of her beauty and voice.
Solyman Brown (1790-1876 )
In his Dentologia, a Poem on the Diseases of the Teeth(New York 1833) Brown supplies footnotes that turn out to be useful advice on dental hygiene. He also attaches an appendix listing 300 qualified dentists practising in the USA. In his time Brown was one of the most respected figures in dentistry circles and is now regarded as a key figure in the history of the profession. Dentologiacomes up occasionally for sale. Currently on abebooks there are two copies, one at £600 and the other at over £1,000. [Illustration above]
Richard Le Gallienne (1866 – 1947)
Perhaps better known for his prose writings, this fin de sieclewriter, rather cruelly dubbed ‘Wilde-with-water’, wrote over-ripe ‘ aesthetic ‘ verse, such as the following passage from ‘ Beauty Accurst’.
I am so fair that whereso’er I wend
Men yearn with strange desire to kiss my face,
Stretch out their hands to touch me as I pass
And women follow me from place to place.
Lo! when I walk along the woodland way
Strange creatures leer at me with uncouth love,
And from the grass reach upward to my breast,
And to my mouth lean from the boughs above
The sleepy kine move round me in desire
And press their oozy lips upon my hair,
Toads kiss my feet and creatures of the mire
The snails will leave their shells to watch me there.
Reverend Doctor E. E. Bradford ( 1860 – 1944 )
This gay Scottish cleric, who spent much of his life in the Fenland parish of Nordelph, near Downham Market, became a minor cult figure among the cognoscenti of Uranian writings following his debut. In one ‘powerfully didactic‘ poem, according to Parsons, Bradford describes two boys whose naked forms adorn the seashore. The one is ‘bright haired with beryl-coloured eyes’ whose slender naked form’ lies ‘bleak and bare;’ the other is distinctly earthy:
Close by his side a lusty lad lay prone
With brawny back, broad loins and swelling thighs
All dimpled o’er with muscle, thew and bone:
His curly head half-raised was turned slantwise
Propt on one arm, to let his thoughtful eyes
Drinking the radiant beauty of the boy
Who, though his gaze was fixed upon the skies,
Perceived and thrilled with shy and modest joy—
The bliss of friendship pure—a bliss without alloy.
Parsons call Bradford a ‘delightful poet ‘, bit not a good one. Nevertheless, his slim volumes are highly sought after, with some titles priced at over £250.