Spectacularly Bad

I’ve discovered the best writing contest, or at least, the only one I have any chance of winning. It is the Bulwer-Lytton prize for the “worst opening sentence” presumably of a work of fiction. I’ve long dreamed of a forum to publish the bad writing I’ve come across in my various positions of editorial gate-keeper. In fact, in my first editorial role at my undergraduate literary journal there was a poem so spectacularly bad that the poetry editor and I wanted to include it just because it didn’t seem possible that it could have been unintentional. It was called “The Worm That Wouldn’t Die” and I still wish I had a copy of it. Then the next semester, possibly from the same author (blind submissions), we got the perfect sequel: “Love Salad.” Since then, I’ve encountered some extraordinary bad writing. And I’m not the only one, almost anyone who’s worked in publishing shares this fantasy, as evidenced by the journal Redheaded Stepchild. Which isn’t quite what I had hoped it would be, though the poetry is extremely bad, because it tends to feature poets like Marge Piercy and Tim Mayo (in the current issue), who likely have no trouble getting their good poems published. Anyway, these poems do satisfy some desire to see that even famous and well-published poets write utter shit sometimes. The most recent discussion on this I’ve had was about the merits of publishing bad translations as a kind of parody. It’s appealing to me, though I think it would be difficult to secure permissions…but I’m starting to imagine ways it might be done tactfully. In any case, I’ll leave you with this year’s runner-up in the Romance category:

She purred sensually, oozing allure that was resisted only by his realization as an entomologist that the protein dust on the couch from the filing of her crimson nails was now being devoured by dust mites in a clicking, ferocious, ecstatic frenzy.

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