April 29, 2004

“The Hatemonger’s Quarterly” First Annual

“The Hatemonger’s Quarterly” First Annual Horrible College-Student Poetry Competition: And the Winner is…

Well, dear reader, today’s the big day. Having received oodles of submissions to our First Annual Horrible College-Student Poetry Competition (the announcement of which you can read here), we are finally ready to announce the big winner.

At first it seemed as if we were never going to able to declare our victor. The official judge of the competition, as you know, is that great poet of the ages, Anonymous. Whilst he and his official helper, Unknown, were poring over the mammoth piles of poesy, a horrible fight broke out: It seems as if a recent poetry anthology listed one of Anonymous’ poems under the authorship of Unknown. This drove our official judge into a fit of rage, as he threw heaps of John Ashbery books at his assistant, shouting “You’re a Stephen Ambrose! You’re a Stephen Ambrose!” Thankfully, John Ashbery’s books tend to be rather slight.

It was only the result of some quick thinking on the part of our crack young staff (and a hint of Jim Beam) that the brouhaha was eventually calmed, and Anonymous and Unknown set to work once again.

And what did they find? Some really heart-wrenching, stomach-curdling verse, that’s what! In fact, dear reader, if you entered a poem into the competition and do not find yourself among those receiving lauds today, you needn’t worry at all: Your poem was probably only horrendous, not catastrophically abysmal. Now, don’t you feel better?

Indeed, when hunting for the most ghastly exempla of college-student-esque verse, our judge quickly realized that there was some tough competition. Among our manifold entries, all of the irritating quirks one associates with collegiate balladry could be found: Lackluster grammar; freshman-year solipsism; naïve political generalizations; &c. In short, our entries were a veritable cornucopia of disastrous doggerel. Kind of like the “poetry” composed by fleeting music sensation Jewel, but with better dental work. As a result, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” invented a brilliant slogan for next year’s Horrible College-Student Poetry Competition: “These poems are sic [sic].”

Every once in a while, however, our judge came upon a submission that was almost—for lack of a better word—good. Such was the case with the haiku entries sent in by a student at Oxford appropriately named William English. One of his haikus reads as follows:

“Haiku Number 2” by William English

Cag-ed bird, why do
You not teach? Err of “tenure,”
Is our good fortune.

Okay, so it ain’t Walt Whitman, but, in comparison with the steaming pile of dung we received, it’s at least as good as Tom Paulin. And, unlike the distinguished Mr. Paulin, William English at least had the good sense to forgo references to “Zionist Nazis,” or some other dubious political grousing.

Still, something wasn’t quite right with Mr. English’s entry. Perhaps it is a plum example of the miserable verse to be found in the tony purlieus of Oxford, but it’s much too erudite and polished for the American college student. Where are the pathetic grammatical missteps? Where are the pitiable misspellings? And why did Mr. English count the syllables correctly?

After all, to most collegians in the United States, haiku is some kind of Turkish beer.

But fear not, dear reader. We ingested far worse verse than this. A splendid example comes from one Alex Preston, who hails from a cosmopolitan town called Chester, SC. Mr. Preston’s submission, which has received Second-Runner-Up status, is oddly entitled “you, @merica.” All of the mistakes and hackneyed phrases in the ditty, we hope, are intended:

“you, @merica” by Alex Preston

yeah, you get your wealth,



the impoverished peoples of the world.

Aha! Now that is truly atrocious. And, what’s more, it’s atrocious in a believably collegiate way. Notice, for instance, the mordantly pathetic title of the poem; you can almost envision a dim bulb appearing over the cranium of a college junior as he cleverly turns the “A” from “America” into an “@.” And the careless absence of a comma after “deceiving” is spot-on.

Clearly, though, the highlight of the piece is its insufferably monochromatic quality: It’s as if our poetic tyro has just learned what a participle is.

How, you ask, can it get any worse than this? Well, take a gander at an entry from the mysteriously named Dr. Firebrand, from Keep Running, MI. His piece is called “The fish can keep their secret.” Once again, we trust that all of its errors are intended.

“The fish can keep their secret” by the mysteriously named Dr. Firebrand
His old blue river runs red.
The black rocks grow thick and slick and green.
Mighty trees bow and wither in the air that does not move.
Grassy banks are withdrawn with the water that takes our Mother’s toll.

His eyes are round like the world we are killing.
His gills are red like the blood we’ve been spiling.
His belly bulges with poisin like the land that we’ve been filling.
His fins are thin and ragged like the poor kid that we’re pilling.

We know what you are thinking, dear reader: That’s perfectly abominable. And you’re right. We particularly enjoyed the uproariously clunky line “The black rocks grow thick and slick and green.” And ending the poem with the word “pilling” is simply heavenly. As such, Dr. Firebrand’s stridently sub-standard verse wins First-Runner-Up status.

Clearly, only a lyrical calamity of truly cataclysmic proportions could defeat this miserable ballad. Indeed, it would need to be the poetic equivalent of the XFL, or of Walter Mondale’s Presidential campaign.

And we got just the thing in the form of a last-minute entry by one Michael E. Lopez. Accordingly, Anonymous, Unknown, and the entire crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly” wish to congratulate Mr. Lopez for winning “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly” First Annual Horrible College-Student Poetry Compeition. Mr. Lopez has surely taken the cake with his excruciatingly atrocious “believing the me i’m told.”

“believing the me i’m told” by Michael E. Lopez
THEY say who
            i am
brown and poor and
            too lazy

in their mercedeses and bmwes
they drive away from my lost
dream to a hair appointment

leaving me
            heritage and culture
like rotting raccoon on the

i want to cover
with crest or chalk

and not believe
that i’m the me

i’m told

Wow. We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” are in awe of the impressively sub-standard balladry Mr. Lopez has mustered. It’s as if he somehow distilled the typical college experience into six unrelentingly awful verses. All of the tell-tale signs of American academia are present to behold: Inept writing; myopic focus on self-esteem; cookie-cutter politics; &c.

In fact, on the “strength” of “believing the me i’m told” alone, we’re pretty sure that Mr. Lopez can obtain a distinguished sinecure at some fancy university. But we’re absolutely positive that he’ll soon receive a poorly manufactured “Hatemonger’s Quarterly” T-shirt, which features the catchy slogan “We get more hits than Tina Turner” on its back. He might not own one of those “mercedeses” or “bmwes,” but he’ll be the envy of every kid on the block.

Posted at April 29, 2004 12:11 AM | TrackBack