Bad poets can make good playwrights … So what is a bad-to-indifferent poet to do? Enroll immediately in playwriting school. Put the bad poetry in the mouths of outlandish characters. It might make the bad poetry funny instead of sad.
That comes from a book I’m reading at the moment, 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write by the US playwright Sarah Ruhl. It struck me as timely because a few days ago I found myself sitting behind a middle-aged woman on a train, peeked over her shoulder to see what she was writing in her notebook, and read the following:
The farmer is sure to be angry
I’ve layed an ugly small egg
He’ll never be able to sell it
His pardon I’ll have to beg
What if it happens again tomorrow
And the day after that?
The farmer might send me away from the farm
I’m really worried about that
I hesitate to publish this online for fear of seeming malicious. A few years ago on a message board I help to run, someone reported a comical exchange between two ladies in a doctor’s waiting room. Ha ha, commented another, defensively, people are so stupid. No, I said, not stupid, just funny. I don’t think it’s necessarily an act of unpleasantness to be amused by this poetic fragment. The amusement comes partly from pondering its purpose.
Perhaps the woman was writing for a child audience, hence the simplicity of expression, or in the persona of an amateur poet in a play, as Ruhl suggests; or perhaps she herself was a master of scansion but the hen she had created wasn’t. We all know chickens are stupid fuckers. It’s possible she was just writing poetry for her own amusement, and who are we to deny anyone such a blameless pleasure? Half an hour spent writing a poem about intensive farming methods is half an hour spent not abusing strangers on the internet.
I think I’d have given the farmer a name.