Poetry Friday: The worst poem ever used as a writing workshop example (yes, Throwback Summer continues!)

journals - high schoolI have been amazed – in both good ways and bad – at the amount of poetry I’ve come across while poring over my old high school journals, which were discovered earlier this summer in my folks’ attic.

Most of it was horrendously bad – but at least I was writing, and that practice helped hone my poetry skills, vocabulary, and my sense of humor. This is why I encourage people to #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading – if we’re all supposed to dance like no one’s watching, with carefree abandon, we should apply the same principle to writing, yes?

So today, I’m sharing a poem I wrote in April 1985, and although I didn’t plan to use it as an example during my free verse poetry workshop at the New England SCBWI conference this past spring…that’s exactly what happened.

I was explaining different types of poetic “voice” (Lyrical, Narrative, Dramatic) and made mention of two types of dramatic voice: mask and apostrophe. Mask voice is when the poet speaks from the point-of-view of an inanimate object or animal; apostrophe, on the other hand, is when the poet is speaking to an inanimate object or animal.

(Speaking to a specific person might be considered apostrophe, but would most likely be deemed lyrical voice as opposed to dramatic voice, since lyrical poems are spoken in the first person…it’s a bunch of technical, poetic mumbo-jumbo that only academicians fret over, so don’t worry if you’ve already forgotten what we were talking about.)

Anyhoo…I was explaining apostrophe (the poetic voice, not the punctuation mark) and the following poem suddenly popped in my head – and this was before I even discovered it hidden away between old, empty jelly jars and a dust-covered Air Hockey table at my parents’ place. Yes, it’s a rhyming poem, but it uses apostrophe in a most ridiculously overblown way, elevating a kitchen cleaning product to Shakespearean heights.

Even now, I look back on this and chuckle…it wasn’t the greatest poem ever written, but I’ve read a lot of poems that were worse, written by adults who should know better:

Ode to a Dishrag

O limpy piece of terrycloth,
Stained from last night’s chicken broth,
How I love to hold you, thus –
I clean pans and you don’t fuss.
And tho’ you soak in many a sud,
Ne’er do you complain of the crud.
You don’t mind the soggy bread,
Burnt-on Spam of which I dread),
Bits of egg and moldy cheese…
You put up with all of these.
Coffee grinds, potato skins,
Parts of fish – like eyes and fins –
And then, of course, there’s pots and pans
That always seem to stick to hands.
All these things you clean with care;
You touch things I wouldn’t dare.
So if I never let you know,
Dishrag, how I love you so!

– Matt Forrest Esenwine, April 11, 1985

I’m honestly not sure what kind of “poetry” I’ll be sharing next week, but I only have one or two more weeks left of my Throwback Summer – so your brain can rest easy knowing that by the time the kids are back in school, (slightly) more tolerable poetry will be coming your way here at the ol’ Triple-R blog.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllSpeaking of back-to-school, Julieanne at To Read To Write To Be has today’s Poetry Friday roundup, and is as excited as a person can be as she prepares to venture forth in the new academic year. So head on over and check out all the poetry links and fun!


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19 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: The worst poem ever used as a writing workshop example (yes, Throwback Summer continues!)

  1. I was having fun reading your verse, until I got to the part about fish eyes and fins…our imaginations are so much more vivid (and irresponsible) when we were young, don’t you think?


  2. haitiruth

    You have regularly cracked me up all summer. I actually really like this one.
    Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com


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