I am a Terrible Poet


Those of you who know me will be aware that I don’t usually enter writing competitions. This is not due to modesty or fear of failure, since there is one contest that I often submit to; the prestigious Terrible Poetry Contest. The main rule of the game is that the poem must be deliberately terrible. Any poet worth his/her salt can enter – and perhaps win – The Gregory O’Donohue International Poetry Competition or The Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition, but I ask you: which of those excellent poets would have the courage to compete in Chelsea’s Terrible Poetry Contest, and how well would they fare? Eh? Eh?

My efforts have finally paid off: Along with one other Terrible Poet, I won last week’s Terrible Poetry contest! Between you, me and the other two people who accidentally stumbled onto this post, it’s my second win, but the first win – although a triumph of sorts – carried a little less weight, since the judges announced that all of the poems submitted were equally terrible, and awarded the prize to all of us. This resulted in a crisis of confidence; some of the submitted poems looked quite good to me… were our poems genuinely Terrible, or were they all embarrassingly so-so? I needed to try harder. I needed to WIN.

I tried – I tried so hard. At first my efforts were all in vain. My poems just weren’t Terrible enough. One heartless reader even remarked that she didn’t think I was capable of writing a Terrible poem! It cuts, it cuts deep…

This time I was determined to take the cup, so I submitted four poems. I like to think my win was down to merit, rather than my overbearing persistence, although, to be frank, I don’t think the chosen poem was the most terrible of the quartet.

I proudly present my award, with grateful thanks to Chelsea, who hosts the crazy Terrible Poetry Contest:


and these are all four poems:

A Helping Hand (the winning entry)

Poor Willie said
he wished he was dead.
I wished the same
so I took aim.


If I described the beat of its wings descending to the ground,
the claws, the teeth, the flames that brought Willie down,
It would sound like a lie, even silly,
Alas, poor Willie.

Who, Me?

I told him not to smoke your fags
and why would I dip his glad-rags
in paraffin? It wasn’t me, dad.
Can I have Willie’s iPad?.

Willie’s Mayo

Willie loved red, he dreamed of red
and all the thoughts inside his head
he drew on walls in crimson crayon
(He even mixed brightest red into mayon-
Naise). While dripping red ink in a nearby well
he tripped, and heavily, in he fell.
As from the depths his corpse was raised,
Willie’s bloodied skull left his mother unfazed.
“I see he’s rejecting the red from his head
so it’s OK to chuck out his mayo,” she said.

©Jane Paterson Basil

16 thoughts on “I am a Terrible Poet

  1. When I first started the Terrible Poetry Contest, I was motivated by frustration at what sorts of things won contests I entered plus the desire to screw with the whole, prestigious contest model. I may also have been sick of the sorts of poetry I read on people’s blogs -verses their commenters drooled over.

    The first entries I received were not terrible. The writers assumed the TOPIC needed to be bad, not the composition itself. Over time, they’ve gotten better (worse) and I’ve gotten slightly better at conveying what I look for.

    Given all that, I always read through the poems as anonymously as I can and follow the advice Malcolm Gladwell gives in Blink to trust my first instinct.

    I’m sure you wanted this incredibly long explanation. 🙂

    My concluding statement, specifically to you, is that we’ve all come to realize being terrible in a way that works is more difficult than it looks. I’m in favor of winging it on a drunken whim (not that I drink, but you get the idea); even still, one must have some idea how to operate that bicycle to make the ride function, drunk or no.

    So, yes, winning the contest is, in a strange way, more prestigious an honor than we all initially thought. 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sorry for not responding to your message sooner; the pressures of life have kept me from my blog for the past few weeks. I truly empathise with your feelings about poetry. Last year I was asked to submit some poetry for a specialist anthology, so I tried to figure out the party line and wrote a couple of poems to suit. They were crap, and yet they were accepted. For a week or so the anthology was top of Amazon list of best-selling poetry books. I’m ashamed to have sold out in that way, but I couldn’t bring myself to submit anything worthwhile, for fear it would be rejected.

      What stands out the most about the terrible poetry is that the authors are of a higher calibre than most poets found on WP. Only a good poet can write bad poetry with style, and only a good poet recognises the difference between bad poetry and Terrible Poetry.

      You bring a breath of fresh air to WP.

      BTW have you challenged the terrible poets to write a greetings card rhyme? That could be hilarious.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for responding! You’re not the only one way behind; I’ve had that recipe to e-mail you for a while…. and still haven’t. I’ll try to get it out tonight.

        I agree with you about the people who enter the contests (you included). Did you see when we did parodies of famous poems? They were not terrible in the least. Facing the decision to disqualify everyone, I made everyone a winner.

        About two or three contests ago I suggested they make the length “greeting-card sized.” It’s a great idea, especially for V-Day.


      2. Oh, the shame; I entered that contest, and now you’re saying my poem wasn’t terrible! I liked the idea of a valentine’s day rhyme that I jotted this down… though it might need tweaking:

        My love, you smell like a rose
        whose scent was picked for your nose,
        which grows and blooms for you.
        I love you and your honker too.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Well Jane, I think you are an amazing poet, one of the few who’s words have ever driven me to envy… But I gotta say, when you’re going for terrible, you certainly aim high!! Belated congrats and let’s see what the competition brings in this week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been away from the blogs for a few weeks, so I’ve only just read your message. Thank you for that wonderful comment; coming from a poet such as you that is praise indeed!

      The Terrible Poetry contest is one of the things I’ve missed the most during my absence….


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