Doggerel  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Doggerel is a derogatory term for poetry considered of little literary value. The word probably derives from dog, suggesting either ugliness, or unpalatability (as in food fit only for dogs). First attested in the 13th century.

Doggerel might have any or all of the following failings:

  • trite, cliché, or overly sentimental content
  • forced or imprecise rhymes
  • faulty metre
  • misordering of words to force correct metre

An example of doggerel might be the "Roses are red" verse.

Almost by definition examples of doggerel are not preserved, since if they have any redeeming value they are not considered doggerel. Some poets, however, make a virtue of writing what appears to be doggerel but is actually clever and entertaining despite its apparent technical faults. Such authors include:

The American comedian Steve Allen took a similar approach: dressed in a tuxedo, he would solemnly recite inane popular song lyrics like:

Who put the bomp in the bomp-ba-bomp-ba-bomp?
Who put the ram in the ramma-lamma-ding-dong?

as if they were odes by Keats or soliloquies from Shakespeare.

A well-travelled story has a writer (Dorothy Parker, William James, Ogden Nash or Gertrude Stein in various retellings) fall asleep, and in a dream they receive a profound insight, which the writer makes sure to record on paper before falling back to sleep. Come the morning, the literary celebrity discovers that the deep thought that came in a dream was this quatrain in double dactyl form:

Hogamus, higamus
Men are polygamous;
Higamus, hogamus
Women, monogamous.

(H. Allen Smith, in How To Write Without Knowing Nothing, attributes the verses to a Mrs. Amos Pinchot.)

The poetry of William Topaz McGonagall is also remembered with affection by many despite its seeming technical flaws.

Macaronic poetry may often be doggerel.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Doggerel" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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