Septic poetry

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I once wrote a Language Log post called This isn't poetry, this is abuse. It was about a poem that had been sent to me by my mortgage company. I don't know why a mortgage company in 2004 was dabbling in poetry instead of inventing new sub-prime mortgage-based securities that could go off like time bombs under the entire banking establishment in 2008, but the results were pretty terrible. About as bad as poetry gets, I thought, except perhaps for Vogon poetry, and the two bodies of poetic art that are claimed in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to have been even worse — those of the Azgoths of Kria and Paul Neil Milne Johnstone). I was wrong. A company in Perthshire specializing in septic tanks and biowaste macerators (shitgrinders, to put it bluntly) supplies customers with a poem that is considerably worse. Bad enough that you really don't want to see it. Don't read on. Go somewhere else. Read something pleasant and interesting instead. You really do not want to see a poem about excrement disposal technology.

All right, so you peeped. I basically knew you would. Language Log readers are curious and rebellious people. Here is the poem. The red bits are from the typography of the original.

Septic T(h)anks

All of us with sani flo's and septic tanks
Give to you our heartfelt thanks
For putting nothing in the pot
That is not guaranteed to rot
Kleenex, pads and tampons too
No hair combings …
Please use the basket
There's a good reason
WHY we ask it!

I did warn you. If you were looking for meter as well as an AABBCCDD rhyme scheme, then no, I agree with you, I didn't detect any either. (I'm aware that a lot of modern poetry is not supposed to have meter. If you think the above might make it as thoroughly modern, you might try submitting it to a modern poetry journal.)

What is poetry, exactly? Wikipedia defines it as a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning. That is hard to square with the above.

It occurs to me that it is not too far from Perthshire to Dundee, the home of William Topaz McGonagall, generally adjudged the worst poet in the English language. But it would be far-fetched to suggest a sort of bad poetry cultural area in central eastern Scotland.

It also occurs to me, with a sinking feeling, that some of you may want to email me samples of your own prize examples of truly dreadful poetry. Don't. Please don't.

[Update: Things are worse than I thought: Ray Girvan tells me the above is plagiarized, and descends from a line of similar poems of which the earliest he has found appeared in a newspaper, the Fresno Bee, in 1989.]

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