August 18, 2009
Happy Bad Poetry Day everybody! Crack out your bongos along with your pad and paper and be unashamed to lay down a bit of verse that ought never see the light of day again! Stoke the creative fire of your soul and let loose those ladies from Nantucket with reckless abandon all over the nearest blank page! I could go on pumping out clichés for ages, but enough is enough for one blog posting, yes?
I personally maintain the mindset that something is only “bad” if it is completely lacking in entertainment value. Creative pieces that fall short of their lofty artistic aspirations secure audiences who find humor in the tragically ludicrous ways in which they fail. Shortcomings are somehow strangely endearing.
That said, I don’t think there’s anything in the Smithsonian Folkways collections that would make you double over laughing for all the wrong reasons. Considering this is a record label that has been preserving the whole spectrum of America’s sounds—from summer camp songs to pirate shanties—the Folkways catalog is nothing short of eclectic. On that note, let’s take a quick look at a few of the label’s quirkier offerings.
I have to give props to Eric Bentley for translating Wolf Bierman’s protest songs from German into English, though I’ll leave it to you to judge Bentley’s merits as a performer. It was hard not to include this album in today’s Folkways roundup considering it’s opening track is a piece titled “The Song of the Worst Thing.” How apropos!
Kenneth Patchen’s literary career encompassed novels, plays and verse and Folkways has several fine recordings of his poetry readings available. He was also someone who liked to experiment with poetic form, and on the Kenneth Patchen Jazz CD, you can listen to Patchen lay his verse atop some perfectly delightful jazz tunes. If you enjoy the affected high drama of William Shatner’s singing, then this disc most definitely belongs on your CD shelf.
Here’s a situation where a classic poem doesn’t shine as bright as it could due to a person’s delivery. Not that there’s anything wrong with Harry Fleetwood’s pipes—he has all the cadence of a narrator for a nature documentary that may lull you (perhaps happily?) to sleep.
Do you have a poem that’s near and dear to you heart that causes everyone else to roll their eyes and groan? Tell us about it! Or better yet, help us celebrate Bad Poetry Day and set down your own so-bad-it’s-good verse in the comments area below.
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