Why should poems always be interesting? For some time I have wanted to write a poem that is perfectly bad, or boring, or both. On purpose, I mean: poets strive to make their audience happy or sad or amused or anticipatory or intrigued…. why should they not also strive towards the full gamut of poetic emotion and also make their audience tired or apathetic or full of ennui or sickened at the tedium of it all? Boredom is really an incredibly interesting emotion: why do we get bored? What do we do when bored? Can boring things be comforting? If we can even get bored by the things we know and love the most, does this mean that the things which bore us straightaway will be the things we come to know and love the most? If we get bored to distraction, what do we think about in that distraction?

The secret lies in making the boredom seem interesting to the audience: in making them not bored by their own boredom, but rather simultaneously bored and fascinated. Boring boredom bores me, oddly enough, and it is, after all, easy to achieve by not trying: that is why I used the words ‘On purpose’ in the first paragraph above: it is easy to write a boring poem by accident, by not caring much about it, by paying no attention to the audience, by not ever once attempting to actually speak with them, and by not even really thinking what we are writing. We’ve all heard that boring poem, which, whatever it actually says, somehow says exactly the same thing as every other boring poem.
No, I’m more after my own individual style of boredom, my own voice of tedium. Maybe something like

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Philip Glass.

Even if you don’t know who Philip Glass is, you still get the form of the joke; and you see how it works partly because the punchline is so underwhelming, is in addition to the boredom of the previous lines, a disappointment, is a new and unexpected and therefore interesting form of boredom. Who knew there could be different types of boredom? How did boring things get so interesting?

But there of course we come to a problem, probably my major problem with this project: if I make the audience so bored with a boring poem as to be interested by their boredom, wouldn’t I have actually succeeded at writing an interesting poem by accident, rather than writing a boring poem on purpose? Is the quality of boredom I am aiming for really possible?

William McGonnagall at this point comes to mind, because though he was by no means a boring poet he was certainly a bad one, famous for being bad in fact. But there lies the rub: McGonnagall was famous for being a bad poet, not for his bad poems. Anonymous verse written in that style would not survive: names are important for audiences because we like to have someone to blame things on. McGonnagall, who started his career as a stage actor, gloried in his reputation, he cultivated it: “…at a local circus… He read his poems while the crowd was permitted to pelt him with eggs, flour, herrings, potatoes and stale bread.”

Even so – that is one way to be remembered and interest people in your own bad verse: to play up your personality. And it also serves as a reminder: bad verse may not be boring – just as boring verse may not be bad. Anyway: I think we’ve set the ground here.

What are some other ways to write good-bad or interestingly-boring poems?

HOW TO WRITE GOOD-BAD POETRY
1) Gross-out poetry. Poetry that is so disgusting that the audience is left wondering how awful things can get.
2) Performance awfulness. Becoming a willing figure of public ridicule: eg McGonnagall.
3) Writing bad poetry transcriptions of good works of poetry as an exercise in badness; being playfully bad.
4) Using thoughtful touches of form, tone, colour and contrast to offset the awfulness with poetry that is actually good: by making the audience accustomed to your verse, you make your horribleness really stand out.
I’m sure there are lots more methods to help us become the terrible poet we really want to be. And what about boring poems?

HOW TO WRITE INTERESTING-BORING POEMS
1) Comforting boringness. Boring things can also be comforting things. It can be comfortable knowing you don’t have to pay any attention to the poetry, for instance.
2) Surprisingly boring: shocking the audience with the extent to which your mundanity can reach.
3) Virtuoso boringness: taking an exceedingly interesting subject and showing how boring you can make it.
4) Related: taking a long time to say something relatively simple.
5) Therapeutically boring poems: taking subjects which terrify of appal or sadden us, and making them seem merely dull through deliberately tedious writing.
6) Competitive boring poems: crafting uninteresting poems to lose competitions, slams, etc, and then seeing if they actually succeed at that. Even if they fail the results will be interesting: failure at failing usually is.

So there are a lot of avenues to explore. I’d be curious to encounter other examples of boring-but-interesting poems, if there are any out there. Have any readers deliberately written a boring poem? How did it go? Was the audience pleasantly unsurprised at the dullness of it all? Perhaps we could all try to make one another apathetic in the comments!

[Image by FreeImages.com/Robin Hindle]

Tim Train

Tim Train

Timothy Train lives in Lalor with all his friends. Oh, wait. He means cats. And chooks. And a whole bunch of bees. When he is not appreciating the wild life, he is busy avoiding work or very occasionally writing a poem or two. He blogs at http://willtypeforfood.blogspot.com, self-publishes Badger’s Dozen, and poets at the Dan O’Connell Hotel on Saturday afternoons.
Tim Train