Julia A. Moore certainly took her lumps while she was alive.
So librarian Tom Powers figures: Why stop now?Julia Moore (1847-1920) was a poet. A very bad poet. Perhaps even, as some have suggested, America's worst poet.
Moore's books sold like hot cakes - not because they were any good but because her insipid poetry was so painfully bad that it was funny. Her poems about death were unintentionally hilarious.
Critics across the country poured derision and sarcasm upon her in the late 19th century. The reading public, seeing newspaper and magazine reviews panning Moore's books, had to see for themselves if her poetry was really that bad - so they bought them.
How bad was it? Two of her more famous lines were:
Come all good people, far and near,
Oh, come and see what you can hear.
After her first book, "Sweet Singer of Michigan," was trashed by the critics (one cited it as "a milepost in the history of bad poetry"), she started her second with this:
And now kind friends, what I have wrote
I hope you will pass o'er
And criticize as some have done,
Mark Twain was a big fan of Moore's bad poetry and modeled a character after her: Emmeline Grangerford, who appears in "Huckleberry Finn."
Powers, of the Flint Public Library, recently read an article about the poetically challenged, but determined, Julia Moore.
As he did so, inspiration struck: A poet this bad should not be forgotten, as tempting a notion as that might be. She should be, well, honored.
Nothing is so powerful as a badidea whose time has come.
Thus we have the Julia A. Moore Memorial Poetry Contest.
A panel of judges will carefully consider entries submitted by the April 23 deadline. Finalists - those who submit the most awful poetry - will be asked to read their works in the "Julia A. Moore Poetry Festival: A Night of Bad Poetry," which will take place in May at the library.
The winner will receive an award called the Julia.
Powers hopes the event will take its place alongside such widely followed bad-writing contests as the Imitation Hemingway competition sponsored by Harry's Bar and American Grill in Century Hills, Calif., and the Edward Bulwer-Lytton contest (named for the overly rhetorical author of that famous opening, "It was a dark and stormy night . . .") at San Jose State University.
Powers says entries should be no more than 50 lines and free of profanity. He says contestants should keep in mind one newspaper's description of Moore ("this untutored plebeian") after she gave a reading of her work:
"What defiance of all rules of grammar, elocution, sense, rhetoric, eloquence, oratory, inflection, compass, quality, execution, variety, cadence, vivacity, emotion, modulation, pitch, gesture. . . ."
Entries should go to: The Julia A. Moore Poetry Festival; Flint Public Library; 1026 E. Kearsley St., Flint, MI 48502.