Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: A short version of our usual introductions:
There are refreshments in the back, you may wish to de-script yourself while you are sitting, and donations to support the Salon may be made to this excellent clank floating in the middle of the room.
Fraulein Writer needs no introduction, quite literally, in New Babbage.
She has participated in many long-lived institutions here, and is well-known throught the Steamlands as a whole.
We are delighted to welcome her back today, and thank her publicly for taking over the Aether Salon aether-journal, at https://aethersalon.home.blog/.
Ceejay Writer: Since I have received various reactions when I mention the word ‘Doggerel’, let’s start with a definition.
Ceejay Writer: Let’s crack into the Merriam-Webster dictionary and see what they say.
dog·ger·el | \ ˈdȯ-g(ə-)rəl , ˈdä- \
loosely styled and irregular in measure especially for burlesque or comic effect
also: marked by triviality or inferiority
Ceejay Writer: Why on earth would I choose doggerel as a topic, you ask? I’ve always loved poetry, and while I appreciate the classics, my preference has always been for the silly stuff. In 4th grade, my class was given an assignment: memorize a notable published poem and recite it in front of the class.
Ceejay Writer: I chose “Eletelephony” by Laura Elizabeth Richards. I enhanced my recital with an emotional, heartfelt delivery and dramatic theatrical gestures. I was rewarded with giggles from my classmates. My teacher gifted me with an eyeroll, heavy sigh and an ‘A+’. Life was good. Here’s that poem:
Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I’ve got it right.)
Howe’er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I’d better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)
Ceejay Writer: Currently I’m writing a Victorian ABC poetry book, in collaboration with an artist friend. Each letter of the alphabet gets a poem and an illustration. A is for Ada, B is for Babbage, and so on through Z is for Zeotrope. Allow me to inflict a snippet on you.
“C is for Corset”
Feminine curves are sculpted by whalebone
Or, more accurately, it’s called ‘baleen’
Milady is shaped, from bosom to tailbone
(With sincere apologies sent to her spleen)
Tightlacing trains a rebellious waistline
We’ve learned how to love our elegant shapers
An hourglass figure is just so divine
For it we’ll endure a bout of the vapors
In the name of fashion, we do what we must
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way”
An adage milady might wish to adjust
“Where there’s a whale, there’s a stay”
Ceejay Writer: But enough about me. I’d like to introduce you to some famous funny poets and give you a taste of their work. After that, we’ll delve into a vintage American roadside oddity. And finally, I’ll offer some advice for any aspiring comedic poets in the room.
Ceejay Writer: We’ll start with Lewis Carroll.
Ceejay Writer: I chose Mr. Carroll to mention first, because of “Jabborwocky”. In recent years, it’s become fashionable for folk to offhandedly recite the first line of one of the most important nonsense poems ever written. I’m never sure if those folk have read beyond the first line, but we’re going to do just that!
Ceejay Writer: “Jabborwocky” is found in Carroll’s 1872 novel, “Through the Looking-Glass; and what Alice found there”. Alice discovers a very confusing book written in mirror-writing. When she looks at it in a mirror held to the book, this, to her further confusion, is what she reads:
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
“And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Ceejay Writer hopes the Baron has medics waiting in the wings
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: I am a doctor, if that helps.
Ceejay Writer: I’m sure before long we’ll accept any help we can get.
Jimmy Branagh: Oy talk loike thet sometoimes after th’ bar visits.
Rory Torrance: another old favorite. and ive never quite forgotten the parody of it they did in mad magazine
Jimmy Branagh: MAD – http://www76.pair.com/keithlim/jabberwocky/parodies/jabberwhacky.html
Ceejay Writer: Excellent, Jimmy. That link will be in the posted transcript.
Ceejay Writer: And after THAT, as a palate cleanser, let’s move on to Mr. Willard Espy.
Ceejay Writer: Mr. Espy is one of my all-time favorite wordsmiths. He’s written many books, but two of my favorites are “Almanac of Words at Play” and “O Thou Improper, Thou Uncommon Noun”, both of which are on my bookshelf, looking very well-worn. I believe they’re out of print now, but you might nab used copies. They’re well worth hunting for.
Ceejay Writer: This is my favorite of his poems, though I love all of them. You need to know that the ‘philtrum’ is that vertical groove in the middle of your upper lip, running up to your nose.
“I Have A Little Philtrum”
I have a little philtrum
Wherein my spilltrum flows
When I am feeling illtrum
And runny at the nose.
Ceejay Writer: Speaking of doctors, which I was just a few minutes ago…. everyone has heard of this one. Dr. Seuss!
Ceejay Writer: Theodor Seuss Geisel wrote over 60 books under the pen name of Dr. Seuss. According to an expert source CoughVerndenJervilCough, Dr. Seuss almost didn’t get published because his writing didn’t always rhyme.
Jimmy Branagh: I still have all ny Seuss books
Rory Torrance: he was a huge influence on my warped childhood
Ceejay Writer: Influenced me too. “Horton Hears A Who” gave me my first opportunity to think globally.
Ceejay Writer: The first of his children’s books was “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”, published in 1937. One of his most popular books is “Green Eggs and Ham”, with its repetitive, simple rhyming style, which made learning to read easy and fun for countless children.
Do you like green eggs and ham?
I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
Would you like them here or there?
I would not like them here or there.
I would not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.
And, of course, it escalates from there.
Ceejay Writer: Fun fact: China banned “Green Eggs and Ham” from 1965 to 1991 due to its “portrayal of early Marxism.”
Tanarian Davies: How is it Marxist?
Ceejay Writer: No, it’s portrayal of Marxism.
Ceejay Writer: Or so they said.
Ceejay Writer: Okay, I’m going to step into really dangerous territory next….
Ceejay Writer: brace yourselves. If you have laudinum, take it NOW.
Rory Torrance: way ahead of you
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach chuckles
Liz Wilner: I live there!
Emerson Lighthouse: on it
Ceejay Writer: Our next poet is named Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz
Rory Torrance: oh dear
Tanarian Davies: Uh-oh.
Ephemeria: No not Vogon poetry
Sera: Yay!!! I recognize the poet
Vernden Jervil: He isn’t the worst!
Ceejay Writer: Before I inflict Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz on you, let’s find out what a famous reference guide has to say about poetry:
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has this to say about Poetry. Vogon poetry is of course the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem “Ode To A Small Lump of Green Putty I Found In My Armpit One Midsummer Morning” four of his audience died of internal haemorrhaging, and the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos is reported to have been “disappointed” by the poem’s reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his twelve-book epic entitled My Favourite Bathtime Gurgles when his own major intestine, in a desperate attempt to save life and civilization, leapt straight up through his neck and throttled his brain.
The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex, England in the destruction of the planet Earth.
Ceejay Writer: Now, on with Prostetnic’s poem.
Ceejay Writer picks up the poem with tongs and hurls it into the center of the room.
Oh freddled gruntbuggly,
Thy micturations are to me,
As plurdled gabbleblotchits, in midsummer morning
On a lurgid bee,
That mordiously hath blurted out,
Its earted jurtles, grumbling
Into a rancid festering confectious organ squealer.
Now the jurpling slayjid agrocrustles,
Are slurping hagrilly up the axlegrurts,
And living glupules frart and stipulate,
Like jowling meated liverslime,
Groop, I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes,
And hooptiously drangle me,
With crinkly bindlewurdles, mashurbitries.
Or else I shall rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon,
See if I don’t!
Ceejay Writer: If anyone’s still alive, please try to make a sound, so I’ll know if I have any audience left.
Liz Wilner: goodness…whatever did he drink in massive quantities to write that! LOL
Rory Torrance reels, crying “sheer pottery!”
Emerson Lighthouse: ‘gruntbuggly’ is the most awesome word ever
Ephemeria: You are cruel reading Vogon poetry out loud
Ceejay Writer: I’m a horrible person, yes.
Vernden Jervil: AHHHHHH
Jimmy Branagh scribbles “blurglecruncheon” on his arm for later use.
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: Poetry about micturations. No wonder you needed a doctor.
Rory Torrance: at least he didnt say “belgium”
Ceejay Writer: QUICKLY, let’s flee to the next topic! Oh, wait. Oh dear… this isn’t much better.
Ceejay Writer: While gathering my list of poets, I decided to save the worst for last. Yes, there’s a human worse than a Vogon. William Topaz McGonagall is possibly the worst poet to ever have existed. “The Tay Bridge Disaster” holds the distinction of being as much of a disaster as the disaster itself.
Ceejay Writer: This Scottish millworker suddenly decided, at age 47, that he was a poet. He spent the next 25 years writing hundreds of poems and sharing them with the public. He was rewarded by having rotten fish thrown at him, being officially banned from public performances, and finally, dying penniless. In fact, had he known his own fate, he could have written one of his woeful sagas about himself.
Ceejay Writer: McGonagall Online ( http://www.mcgonagall-online.org.uk/ ) is the definitive website on this terrible poet. You’ll find, to your horror, 258 poems and for the truly masochistic reader, his lengthy, unintentionally funny autobiography.
Ceejay Writer: If you simply must have McGonagall’s works on your bookshelf, I pity you, implore you to seek professional help and grudgingly refer you to “William McGonagall: Collected Poems” https://amzn.to/3pgHO6d
Ceejay Writer: Oh, wait! I lied. Here’s another poet, and he’s chipper and cheery and just might save your life after the last two.
Ceejay Writer: Ogden Nash wrote over 500 poems. His most famous poem, “The Cow” is proof that even a short poem can be effective:
The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk
Ceejay Writer: And then there’s “Reflections on Ice-Breaking”
Ceejay Writer: Mr. Nash was a master of word-mangling—an effective tool when creating silly poetry, such as this pair of groaners lifted out of longer poems:
A girl who’s bespectacled
May not get her nectacled
Farewell, farewell, you old rhinoceros,
I’ll stare at something less prepoceros
Vernden Jervil: Thinks this was an influence on Ceejay’s writing.
Ceejay Writer whistles and looks at the ceiling
Ceejay Writer: One of my favorite poetry tricks is when the poet drops a surprise ending on the reader. Apparently Mr. Nash liked that, too:
Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good!
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.
Ceejay Writer: If you like this style of humor, I recommend “The Best of Ogden Nash”. It’s 496 pages of fun! https://amzn.to/3kiUiGw
Ceejay Writer: I was looking for something completely different when I fell upon “Concatenation of Doggerel: Book One: Robinson Bolkum’s trifling rhymes to bring you and me through these truly troublesome times to a happier occasion’s inaugural”.
Ceejay Writer: Yes, that is a 24-word title. And dammit, he rhymed doggerel with inaugural, something I was hoping to manage myself somewhere in this salon. When I peered inside the preview, I realized with horror that the entire book was set in Comic Sans. I’m not familiar at all with Mr. Bolkum, but now I’m strangely tempted to buy his book. https://amzn.to/3kpLT44
Ceejay Writer: If you aren’t a Boomer or an American, you may not have heard of the Burma-Shave road signs. From 1925 to 1966, a brushless shaving cream company ran a unique advertising campaign. At their peak, 7,000 Burma-Shave ‘poems’ could be found on the highways of America.
Ceejay Writer: Four or five signposts would be set along the shoulder of a highway, each 100 feet apart, giving motorists time to read each sign and anticipate the next one. The last sign in each group always featured the Burma-Shave logo. They became wildly popular, providing entertainment during long, boring road trips.
Ceejay Writer: At first the shaving cream company wrote the rhymes, but after a while they held contests for the public, with the chance to win $100—a decent amount of money for those days. Contests sometimes drew up to 50,000 entries.
Ceejay Writer: Here’s a couple of the rhymes to give you a taste of their brand of humor.
The bearded lady
Tried a jar
Made a hit
Ceejay Writer: Nearly all of the Burma-Shave rhymes have been archived at http://burma-shave.org/jingles/ in groupings by year. If you like corny poems, or are interested in American history, you’ll want to poke around in there.
Ceejay Writer: “The Verse by the Side of the Road”, written in 1965 by Frank Rowsome, Jr. is the definitive book about the Burma-Shave phenomenon. It contains all the verses plus the history of the company. It’s out of print, so try to find yourself a used copy.
Rory Torrance: i think i remember one — the classic “when in danger / or in doubt / run in circles / scream and shout”
Ceejay Writer: That was my dad’s motto!
Ceejay Writer: The Hypertexts ( http://www.thehypertexts.com/ ) is a poetry showcase, created over 20 years ago, which explains it’s old-school text style. Don’t let that put you off. What it lacks in beautiful design is more than made up for in literary content. It’s not an abandoned, stagnant site, it’s still being maintained. Here’s a link that drills down to their page devoted to doggerel.
http://www.thehypertexts.com/The Best Doggerel of All Time.htm
Ceejay Writer: And now… a certain limerick that has a reputation.
Ceejay Writer: It contains the word, “Nantucket”
Ceejay Writer: Don’t worry, Baron.
Zaida Gearbox giggles
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach flicks an eyebrow
Liz Wilner: hehe
Wulfriðe Blitzen : Hehehe
Ceejay Writer: The earliest published American limerick was written in 1902 by Prof. Dayton Voorhees for the Princeton Tiger, a college humor magazine. The first line may sound familiar. But unlike THAT version, THIS one is family friendly.
Rory Torrance is all agog
There once was a man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
But his daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach chuckles
Jimmy Branagh: hehe
Rory Torrance: oh i remember that one now!
Ceejay Writer: See? I can behave sometimes.
Vernden Jervil: kinda
Wulfriðe Blitzen : heh
Emerson Lighthouse: I always had trouble thinking of a rhyme for Nantucket. Now I know.
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach eyes Herr Lighthouse.
Ceejay Writer: Now comes the part where I offer advise so YOU can write silly poetry, too!
Ceejay Writer: While the limerick is probably the most popular form of funny poetry, you certainly aren’t limited to it. I found a list of 100 poetic forms. Ignore the 50 in the URL, the author got ambitious and expanded the list. ( https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-poetry/list-of-50-poetic-forms-for-poets )
Ceejay Writer: So, there’s plenty of formats to choose from. Personally, I like strambottos. Especially with sour cream. Boom-tish. But seriously, folks, I think you should simply write what you want to, and then figure out later if your poem fits any particular format. If it doesn’t and you don’t want to alter it, that’s fine too. I don’t think Ogden Nash ever worried about format.
Ceejay Writer: Need a creative nudge? Try this poem generator ( https://www.poem-generator.org.uk/ ).
It will ask you for your name and some random words (it will tell you what kind). Then hit “Write Me A Poem” and watch the magic happen. You can refresh the page to get new versions until you like what you see, or use your browsers ‘back’ feature to tweak words that aren’t working well. There’s 14 types of poems to choose from. Careful though – this poem generator can be a little addictive, says the girl that completely forgot to have lunch that day. blush
Ceejay Writer: A site I absolutely require to write poetry is https://www.rhymezone.com/. I’ve loved that little helper since forever. Bookmark it!
Ceejay Writer: Not sure what to write about? Here’s some prompting to get you going.
Ceejay Writer: Choose a topic: Do you have a funny story you could turn into a poem? Do you find certain parts of our bodies to be odd looking? (I was thinking of noses, I don’t know what YOU thought of). Is there a food that you think has a silly name, or weird ingredients? It’s all poetry fodder. What makes you laugh? Run with that. Unless it’s scissors. Don’t run with those.
Ceejay Writer: Make a parody: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And when you deliberately exaggerate that imitation, you get parody. Choose an author you admire – or loathe. Try writing in their style. If you find you have a knack for parody, hurrah! You can expand that skill into the fine art of filking (song parodies).
Ceejay Writer: Exaggerate! Push a poem right over the top by making outrageous statements or putting your characters into absurd situations.
Ceejay Writer: Laughable words: Some words just can’t help but be funny. Parsnip. Spleen. Oxnard. What words make you laugh? Start with those, and build a little concept around them.
Tanarian Davies: Words with “K” sounds are inherently funny.
Rory Torrance: r.a.lafferty claimed that ‘chicago’ was the funniest name in the world
Ceejay Writer: Pick a Format: Sometimes I find that choosing a traditional format gives me some support to build a poem on. Other times, I’m in a mood to just freeform it. A fun beginner’s form is Haiku. It’s not intimidating, they are very short, and if you come up with a good one, you’ll be able to casually mention, “I enjoy writing Haiku” at your next cocktail party. I mean, look at this. See how easy?
My zipper is down
No one has told me all day
Who are my real friends
(posted by michaeljbam on Reddit)
Ceejay Writer: Whatever method you use, I encourage you to play around with creating funny poetry. If it doesn’t work, hopefully the attempt will amuse you. If anyone does write something they’re pleased with and wants to share it with the world, I’d be happy to start a page at the Aether Salon website to feature poems inspired by this Salon. Just send me a notecard with your poem and your chosen pen name. Fame and fortune can be yours! Well, not from poetry, but I’m fairly certain that fame and fortune are out there somewhere, and could be obtained… somehow.
Ceejay Writer: If you want an audience for your poems right here in Second Life, I encourage you to attend the next Tall Tales and Outright Lies gathering, where writers share whatever they’ve been working on. We meet at the R.F. Burton Library in Babbage Canals every other Saturday morning from 7:00am-8:30am SLT. Everyone is welcome. Even if you don’t have something to share, a listening audience is always appreciated. Check the Aether Chrononauts calendar ( http://www.aetherchrononauts.org/ ), or the City of New Babbage website ( https://cityofnewbabbage.net/ ) for our next session.
Ceejay Writer: One of the best ways to learn the art of writing poetry is to READ a lot of poetry, which just so happens to be fun.
Rory Torrance: on that note i might also mention the delirious songs of thomas pynchon, scattered throughout his novels
Ceejay Writer: Thanks for your endurance! I know I’ve only scratched the surface—and I’m sorry, I’ll polish that out later—of the many fun poets out there, but I do hope I’ve piqued your interest enough to keep you looking for more.