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The Stuffed Owl: Some of the Worst Poems Ever Published

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle pores over some poetry that’s so bad it’s good

A short while ago, I wrote about Nicholas T. Parsons’ very witty and erudite study of poetasters, The Joy of Bad Verse. In that post, I mentioned the book that might be considered the Golden Treasury of doggerel, The Stuffed Owl: An Anthology of Bad Verse (Everyman’s Classics). This anthology of bad poetry, which was first published in 1930, is full of examples of poetry that’s ‘so bad it’s good’, so I wanted to share some of my favourite examples.

In his preface to the first edition of The Stuffed Owl, D. B. Wyndham Lewis points out that ‘Bad Verse has its canons, like Good Verse’, and that the selection of the ‘best’ bad verse is a task as onerous and difficult as the challenge of choosing the cream of the crop for inclusion in a ‘traditional’ anthology. Bad verse in itself is not amusing or entertaining, and verse that is bad in such a way as to be distinctive is hard to come by. Indeed, he goes on to argue that ‘good Bad Verse has an eerie, Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Analysis of D. H. Lawrence’s ‘Discord in Childhood’

On Lawrence’s short poem about childhood

The novelist, short-story writer, and poet D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930) had a curious relationship with trees. He reportedly liked the climb mulberry trees in the nude to stimulate his imagination. And trees loom large in his work. In ‘Discord in Childhood’, an early poem which he began writing in 1909 when Lawrence was still only in his mid-twenties, Lawrence uses the ash-tree to suggest the discordant relationship between the tree’s supposed healing properties (it was supposed to play a valuable role in children’s health) and the suffering endured by a child listening to its parents arguing.

Discord in Childhood

Outside the house an ash-tree hung its terrible whips,
And at night when the wind arose, the lash of the tree
Shrieked and slashed the wind, as a ship’s
Weird rigging in a storm shrieks hideously.

Within the house two voices arose in anger, a slender lash
Whistling delirious rage, and the dreadful sound Read the rest of this entry

Five of the Best Literary Travel Guides to Britain

The best literary travelogues

There are plenty of books out there telling the story of English literature: its history and development. But what about those guidebooks which take a geographical approach to literary Britain, and offer suggestions for places to visit around the UK based on their literary associations? Here are five of our favourite literary guides to travelling around Britain.

Oliver Tearle, Britain by the Book. Forgive the hutzpah of beginning with an Interesting Literature production, but this curious tour of literary Britain, written by this blog’s founder, is designed to be a light, entertaining, and above all, interesting guide to the literary history of Britain: a sort of cross between a guidebook and a book of literary trivia. If you want to discover the true location of Robin Hood (not Sherwood Forest), or the location of King Arthur’s court (not Camelot), or the Dorset writer who Read the rest of this entry