Over the weekend, Dash and I attended a housewarming for a friend, and, being the respectful gentleman guests that we are, we came prepared with beverages and a poem.

Yeah.  A poem.

On our way to our friend’s apartment, we happened upon a huge picture frame that had been jettisoned into a trashcan.  Not one to pass up free stuff, I inspected this frame.  Inside was what appeared to be an antique poem, written on a yellowed sheet of paper in all lowercase typewriter text.  I rejoiced, and read a few lines aloud to Dash.  The poem was titled “Dream,” and we soon realized why it had been thrown away: lots of weak metaphors, plenty of useless repetition, and a cliché ending that asked us to question the reality of our existence.  I remember a piece that read, “caressing my loneliness / in a scream of drunken sorrows.” Naturally, we brought it with us.

Our hosts loved it, and immediately mounted it on the wall.  But now I wonder if we appreciated this poem for the same reasons that its previous owners threw it out on the street.  For us, it has a kind of campy appeal; we like it for how loud and obnoxious it is, for the way it clashes with our expectations of good writing.  It seems snobby of us to laugh at what we think of as bad writing, but it’s actually a mental escape route to deal with our own writing insecurities.

I remember reading a book in school by sociologist Dick Hebdige, who wrote about the way the punk movement reorganized the meanings behind their styles.  Feeling stuck in their lower middle-class domain, the punks combated their malaise by wearing it, turning it into a style that opposed itself.

I think that’s what happening to me when I joke about this poem.  If I called it a failed piece of writing, I’d have to accept that anything I write poorly has no value.  But by turning it into humor, I can at least give bad writing a comedic potential.  That way I let myself off the hook when for I inevitably write terrible poetry.  It might be bad, but at least it’s funny.

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