LONDON, ENGLAND -- It was once a byword for romance and sophistication - the literary form of choice for tentative suitors and genteel fops alike, but new research published today has revealed that poetry is, as many had feared, “pretentious, cumbersome and utterly without merit.”
It is news that will devastate emotionally retarded adolescent girls and intense, goatee-bearded coffee shop denizens everywhere.
The author of the painstakingly compiled 1500 page report titled Poetry: Really, what is the Point? is esteemed Cambridge University professor Ronald M. Smythe, a notoriously straight-talking ex-army officer.
Announcing his findings at a press conference, Professor Smythe said: “I have reviewed literally thousands of texts from the early witterings of the Homer and Virgil to the lily-livered, needy and frankly fatalistic whining of Wilfred Owen and Seigfried Sassoon, and I have come to the conclusion that poetry is, in all its forms, a colossal waste of time.”
“The war poets were the worst. I mean, honestly, if they’d spent less time trying to find rhymes for “Armistice” and more time practising with a bayonet, then maybe they wouldn’t have ended up with faces full of shrapnel.”
Smythe says that the quality of lyrical writing has been deteriorating for years and is now at an all-time low.
“I suppose some of the old stuff was tolerable. At least those fellows wrote great swirling epics about war and death and things. A little contrived, possibly, but they are immeasurably preferable to the rambling, pompous tosh being churned out nowadays. It seems all you need is a dictionary and a grossly inflated sense of your creative abilities and, bam: you’re a poet. A monkey with a typewriter could create more coherent and enjoyable work AND he’d be less likely to bore you to death at dinner parties.”
Smythe added that he suspected most exponents of contemporary poetry were “probably on drugs”.
Much of Smythe’s criticism is levelled at the Romantic movement embraced by poets such as William Wordsworth, John Keats and Lord Byron.
“Limp-wristed drips to a man,” he asserted. “All mouth and no trousers. If you fancy a bird, what’s the point of comparing her to a summer’s day or, er…a nightingale or something? Get in there and give her one.” At this point Smythe put his hands on his hips and made several thrusting motions to emphasise his point before concluding that all those who explored their inner feelings through structured verse were “poofs without exception.”
When asked to explain Byron’s many torrid affairs with women, Smythe was bullish. “An elaborate cover-up,” he said. “Byron was the worst of the lot. He’d shack up with loads of loose birds to give the impression his was some kind of Lothario, whereas, in reality, he and Shelley were at it like rabbits. It’s a little known fact that he wrote She walks in Beauty in Shelley’s honour as a peace offering after they’d had a bitch fight over who had the prettier eyelashes.”
In the report, Smythe reserves an entire chapter for his misgivings over the Poet Laureate position. “Why do they even need a royal poet?” he asks. “You don’t get an actor laureate or a builder laureate – why are poets so bloody privileged? Take that Ted Hughes fellow – miserable bastard - no wonder his missus topped herself.”
When asked to comment, current Laureate Andrew Motion called the report “misguided and unhelpful.”
Smythe responded by referring to Motion as a “fawning, simpering whoopsy”.
It has been tentatively suggested in literary circles that, while undoubtedly a brilliant scholar, Professor Smythe may not have brought an entirely objective voice to the complex and multi-faceted subject of poetry. Analysts have pointed out over two thousand unverified references to poet homosexuality in the report, as well as several verbose diatribes on Rupert Brooke’s unsuitability for the field of battle.
“Ronald gets a little hot under the collar on certain issues,” said colleague and friend Stephen Mosely. “For some reason he is particularly riled by earnest, effete men and pacifists, so I guess poetry was always going to come in for some hammer.”
Mosely was keen to stress that Smythe’s work has not always lambasted the arts. Indeed he has championed other social and cultural fields in his previous studies Bernard Manning – A latter-day Shakespeare, Baywatch: The Jiggle Factor and Why I really like Guns.
Concluding the press conference, Smythe made no apologies for his controversial views. “I think it is laziness, more than anything,” he said. “It took James Joyce eight years to write Ulysses, and while much of that is incomprehensible nonsense, I at least admire his graft. These poetry johnnies knock out a couple of stanzas on a rainy afternoon and think they're bloody geniuses. Madness.”
He then walked briskly off to his study with the latest Andy McNab tucked under his arm.
Some of the notes Smythe used for his controversial report.