New Tay disaster: William McGonagall faces challenge to title of world's worst poet
WILLIAM Topaz McGonagall is under threat of being knocked from his pedestal as the world's worst poet by a little-known Londoner.
The 19th century Scots bard's notorious lament for the Tay Bridge Disaster of 1879 has been challenged by a single appalling last line by English doggerel merchant, Theophile Jules-Henri Marzials: "Drop / Dead. / Plop, flop. / Plop."
The poem is titled A Tragedy. Its opening lines: "Death! / Plop. / The barges down in the river flop. / Flop, / plop," suggest the author is thinking about suicide.
The 1873 collection of verse in which it was published, The Gallery of Pigeons, was once highly praised.
But the latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says it is now claimed to be the worst ever written.
Philip Carter, the dictionary's publication editor, said: "McGonagall was included in the dictionary for the first time in 2004, as by the late 20th century his work had gained notoriety.
"Marzials was said to be the author of the worst-ever poem and he is included in this edition for that and other reasons.
"Both are included on their respective merits and we will make their two lives available on the dictionary's online home page so people have the opportunity to read and compare and decide who was the worst for themselves."
Critics say it is a close call who is the most awful. Kathryn Petras, editor of the book The Worst Poem Ever Written in the English Language, said: "It is no easy task to designate one very bad poem as the absolute epitome of awfulness. But in going through hundreds of selections, one poem stood out, A Tragedy, which, indeed, it was."
But Dr Gerrard Carruthers, a senior lecturer on Scottish literature at Glasgow University, said: "A Tragedy is an awful poem, but incredibly, it has more emotional engagement than anything McGonagall ever achieves."
This article: http://news.scotsman.com/arts.cfm?id=1604692007
Last updated: 07-Oct-07 00:28 BST