Snap your fingers: English department host putrid poetry event

The English Department shared award-winning literary journal "Wall," which features content such as short stories, and photography. (Denisse Hobson)

The English Department shared award-winning literary journal “Wall,” which features content such as short stories, and photography. (Denisse Hobson)

Sitting patiently in room 314, of the Learning Resource Center just before 3:30, a whopping amount of students enter to take heed of the English department’s reading of putrid poetry.

The sign in sheet along spreads of the WALL literary journal are displayed on a table as students enter. There’s a certain vibe about the event, almost like being in a close and intimate cafe shop.

Shoulders touching from the close proximity of sitting near one another, as a magnitude of interested Saddleback College writers, poets, and other curious students take their seats.

A unison of students and faculty, finally tune in when Associate Professor of English Dr. Shellie Ochi enthusiastically begins the event.

“I’ll start the poetry reading in just a moment, but first i’d like to introduce a couple of the guest in the audience,” Dr. Ochi said.

Faculty of the English department, sit in the back and waive their hands as they are introduced, so students know whom to talk to after with any questions. Among the back sits English Composition Instructor Dr. Gina Shaffer, who is a faculty advisor to the literary journal the WALL.

The WALL is an award winning high caliber publication put out every year that issues students poetry as well as narratives and art work.

Unlike attending an event where William Shakespeare poetry is read, the object of the gathering is to read unintentionally bad poetry.

Beginning from the “Melodramatic Breakups,” section of “Teen Angst,” a book that celebrates bad poetry, Dr. Ochi reads the poem called “Broken Love Misery,” to which a roar of laughter erupts from the room. She also reads some of her own poetry that she wrote at the age of nine, with titles such as “The Wind,” “Secrets,” and “Pictures.”

Following English Instructor Dr. Ray Zimmerman is greeted by snaps of the fingers from the crowd like true to a poet’s introduction. He recites from the worst poet in British history, William McGonagall’s “The Tay Bridge Disaster” in a Scottish accent. A long poem, but one that got it’s point across to give an example of what horrible poetry can be written like.

English Instructor Dr. Ray Zimmerman read in a Scottish accent poetry from the worst British poet William McGonagall. (Denisse Hobson)

English Instructor Dr. Ray Zimmerman read in a Scottish accent poetry from the worst British poet William McGonagall. (Denisse Hobson)

English Composition Instructor Suki Fisher’s reading of poet Jewel’s, “A Night Without Armor,” one that she confesses was given to her by students, makes her somewhat upset as Jewel grossed $10 million at the time of her released book in 1998.  

“I didn’t buy this by the way, my students bought if for me, and I would have thrown it away except they wrote me notes in it so I had to keep it,” Fisher said.

She recites a poem called “Red Roof Boston,” from Jewel which contained absolutely no rhyming and boasted lines like “shaving my armpit,” showcasing what bad poetry sounds like.

“So go out and buy it,” Fisher said.

To which the crowd laughs at hearing the sarcasm in her voice and snaps their fingers at a job well done.

Dean of Liberal Arts Kevin O’Connor maneuvers up front to read his putrid poetry from Mark Twain’s novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” a poem called “Ode to Stephen Dowling Bots,” about a boy who fell down a well and drowned.

“Sometimes putrid poetry deals with love, amor, and death, those are two dominant themes in bad poetry. It’s a fascination with love and death,” said O’Connor.

It nears the end, as English Composition and Oxford Study Abroad Program Instructor Jennifer Hedgecock introduces the last foul poem.

“They actually do have contest and that’s a contest to find out who can write the worst possible love poem ever, and actually the winner of that award was from last year,” said Hedgecock.

A poem titled “Worst Love Poem,” which posses lines such as “I love stalking you,” and “I know where you live,” displayed the horribly written efforts of a love poem.

“Sometimes to understand what bad poetry is, it’s really helpful to know that good poetry is,” Hedgecock said.

Giving clues towards a poet that not many people knew she even wrote, Hedgecock invited students to guess who it was.

“They actually really encouraged her to try writing, they’d seen her work and they’d seen her writing from much of her adult life,” Hedgecock said.

But before anyone can guess, Hedgecock recites the poem and finally someone in the crowd guesses the right answer.

Marilyn Monroe.

A sea of claps emerge to conclude the putrid poetry read by faculty, and students then begin to disperse in the room, meeting others alike.

Amongst the crowd is 19 year old Garrett Falke an English and Journalism major student.

“I don’t really know what bad poetry is, because i’m not really familiar with poetry, but to know a little bit about what bad poetry is so i don’t write it is good” Falke said.

To Mariam El Hasan, 19 who majors in Comparative Literature, she was happy to attend.

“I love to study literature because what it captures is the emotions and the history of the world. I especially have a passion for studying literature from the past. I’m in class that’s studying Beowulf and the romantic era and that I think there’s a lot you can learn from literature,” El Hasan said.

“Bad poetry is the best kind of poetry because it’ll make you laugh and poetry that brings out the happiest and saddest emotions are typically the best,” El Hasan said.

Instructor Jennifer Hedgecock believes that an event like this really helps and welcomes students to come and build upon a community together.

“It obviously emphasis writing but i think it’s to get away from the academic part of it and enjoy part of the fun part of what writing is. And what could be better than putrid poetry, really bad writing,” Hedgecock said.

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