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The Even Worst Bad Poem

I still disagree with my poetry professor.

He believes that there is no such thing as a “Bad” poem. We had this disagreement over a year ago, and I still do not concede the point, sitting on it like a dragon on an egg of spite.

I will concede one point: Most poems do have value. Even the product of a bored student finally bothering to sit down and produce words has value, because they are honest words, and they would not exist if not for the effort of the student.

Therefore, most poems can be said to be “good.”

However, I will make it a point to throw this inherent value away.

The only way to prove my point, that there is truly such a thing as a bad poem, is to make it myself. If anyone can make a good poem, then to make a truly terrible poem must be a far more challenging goal.

Poems have taste, right? Well, I want this to taste like candle-wax. Chalk, scraping on your teeth. Cough syrup, forced down your throat.

The creation of the very worst, like the conception of the very best, is a calculated effort. Poems are good until proven otherwise in court of accepted literary criticism. And so, after weeks of work, hammering away in secret, I present to you: The Even Worst Bad Poem.


First, an abuse of terminology. Apparently, anything can be a poem, as long as you proclaim it to be a poem. Even if you use paragraph sentence structure, scholarly writing, and footnotes [1]


You see that Seven? That's a poem now. Behold it's majesty.

Therefore, I proclaim this entire work, including the seven, to be a poem. Regardless of how terrible it is at being a poem, or if it even functions as a poem at all, this grouping of assorted words is still a poem. [2]

Now, to write the worst possible poem, we must first consider a question: What is a poem supposed to do? Having answered that question, we may then proceed in the direct opposite direction.

Is it supposed to bring joy? Well, if that's the case, this poem certainly isn't going to be a very good poem. I can already hope that most of the people reading through Spires have already passed this poem by, and are off to read more interesting pieces of literature by students who care about your well-being and actually respect your time.

Is it about the subject matter? Is a poem about flowers better than a poem about a bucket of slugs? Perhaps, although I would hope terribleness is more inherent in structure than subject.

With this question, we enter the realm of what poems are “About.” However, many people would say that it’s all up to “interpretation.” Interpretation. It's a magical word, because it can turn the most rambling collection of words and metaphors into something which means something to somebody. Behold!

Teeth in darkness, moving behind curtains you can't see

Insects with the skulls of deer, marching in sunlight without end,

Like waking up at three AM to notice your front door, open,

without hope of tire iron or the movment [3] of your frog at the bottom of the ocean.

Forward and to the right in a downward spiral,

Sharing drinks with your best goat, your finest plastic.

Angry and prepared for anything, except the oncoming walrus.

Sink the Moon.

What's it about? What’s the meaning? Well, the above poem could be “about” anything the reader wants it to be about. It could mean anything. All I need to do is pour in some metaphors, and it's done. Golden.

And as a bonus, I'll let you in on a secret. The above poem had no “about.” I wrote it in two minutes to fill the space. Those words and images could have been about anything. It is completely meaningless.

But who says it's meaningless? The author is dead, right?

Meaningful. Meaning. Do poems need to have a meaning? The above poem could, potentially, have an endless number of meanings depending on “interpretation.” But perhaps the worst poem could be found in the other direction: a poem with only one possible meaning. A poem which makes further interpretation impossible.

This poem, that you're reading now? [4] This is intended to be bad. There, right up front, I said it. It's meant to be terrible. The poem will accomplish its main aim, being the worst poem, through being terrible. That is the goal, the pure intention of the poem. The author might be dead, but they're talking to you right now, and doesn’t approve of you making their work out to be something it isn’t. [5]

To further add to the wet popcorn taste I'm cultivating here, we can increase the odds of the poem being bad by adding more poems within this poem. Even if the parent poem is somehow not bad enough, then the internal poem, by virtue of being nested within a terrible poem, becomes more terrible as a derivative.

So this poem (as this sentence is now a poem) is worse than the rest of the poem combined, concentrated into a smaller package.

And this poem, a separate poem to the above poem, is now two layers deep in terribleness.

And so on

And so forth

Until I eventually tunnel out the other side, into a realm of terrible so utterly disturbing and profane that reading it will probably kill me.

The above logic is, of course, utterly nonsensical. The ideas of good and bad are not fixed things you can strive for. What is terrible to one person might be utterly delightful to the next.

Therefore, in order to be as terrible as possible, the worst poem should completely ignore this fact, in favor of an arbitrary idea of “bad” which does not actually exist, but strives for anyways. [6]

But perhaps I'm looking at this wrong.

Because what could be worse than a poem which says and does nothing? A poem which just sort of rambles in time and space, following no conventions and doing nothing to endear itself to the reader? A poem which wastes your time and energy? No message, no goal other than the hope that the poem be terrible, but a lack of confidence to ensure even that. What would you take away from a poem like that with? What would you take with you?


Maybe a poem like this one. Because this entire thing is a poem.

The Even Worst Bad Poem.


[1] Like this!

[2] I mean, I could post a picture of a tree here, and call it a poem. The picture would be a poem. How does that even work?

[3] Is this poetic license? Is this a typo? Nobody knows! Well, I know. It's a typo.

[4] Don't forget, this is a poem, because I said it was.

[5] Perhaps it’s better to say that the author is still kicking.

[6] A reminder: This poem is meant to be terrible. If you pry pleasure from this poem in any way, shape, or form, you are interpreting it incorrectly.

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