Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Heroic Couplet - Part II

Doggerel:  Doggerel is a derogatory term for verse considered of little literary value.


1a. A single metrical line in a poetic composition; one line of poetry.
1b. A division of a metrical composition, such as a stanza of a poem or hymn.
1c. A poem.

2. Metrical or rhymed composition as distinct from prose; poetry.

1.  Bad poetry is not an oxymoron.

    In our first post on this subject we made the point that "not all poetry is art" and that it's "just a mode of speech".  We have two, and only two, of these:  prose and poetry.  The example we used was the "enjoy this while we can" message of a cancer-stricken girl which just happened to come in an iambic pentameter rhyming couplet--one that many will find "heroic" in both senses of the word.

    For the sake of this argument, let us say that this is doggerel with no literary value whatsoever.  Does this make it prose?  No.  Nor is this an opinion.  Every dictionary ever written agrees that doggerel is [bad] verse and that verse is [at least a subset of] poetry.  No dictionary allows for the possibility that doggerel might be prose.  The girl's verse in the photomeme¹ is poetry, no more or less than William McGonagall's "Tay Bridge Disaster" or William Shakespeare's Sonnet LXXIII.  Again, fact.  Not opinion.  Any editor can confirm not only that godawful poetry exists but that it is as common as Siberian snow.  It can be found in the best collections and can be written by the best poets

    Get over it.

2.  "Poetry is a verdict, not a claim." - Leonard Cohen

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #11
    According to the memecdote¹, the girl presented these words as a simple entreaty.  Someone else noted the form.  Whether it is poetry as opposed to prose is determined by objective (e.g. form, rhythm, technique, etc.) and subjective (e.g. memorability, response, consensus, etc.) measurements.  Despite the fact that she intended her words as prose, no one will argue that the girl's heroic couplet is anything but poetry.

    Compare this to Barack Obama's two inaugural "poems":  Elizabeth Alexander's "Praise Song for the Day " and Richard Blanco's "One Today".  Present those without explanation or page formatting to anyone unfamiliar with the text.  See if they identify it as anything but prose--most likely as dull prose, at that.

3.  Definitions matter.

    The fact that, in 2006, John Barr didn't know the difference between verse and its subset, doggerel, doesn't mean that that distinction isn't real.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #86

      Isn't this why we have dictionaries?


¹ - A photomeme is some catchy phrasing on a photo [or other graphic].  A memecdote is a photomeme with a backstory.  Both are common on Facebook and other social media.


1.  Heroic Couplet

2. Heroic Couplet - Part II

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Earl Gray, Esquirrel

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