Tomorrow (Aug.18) is, I gather, Bad Poetry Day. Seamus Cooney has even compiled an index of Bad Poetry.
Edgar Guest has his defenders and Cooney let's the reader decide about Wordsworth's "The Thorn." (Wordsworth's genuinely great poetry comprises a relatively slender selection of his vast production.) But The Great McGonagall surely has a strong claim to the title of worst poet ever.
Cooney. however, fails to mention at all the incomparable J. Gordon Coogler, immortalized by H.L. Mencken in The Sahara of the Bozart.
A lot of people would class Robert W. Service as a bad poet. But in 1918, Service's Rhymes of a Red Cross Man topped the general nonfiction best-seller list. That's right. It was No. 1.
Service and Guest were popular poets. They put into rhyme and meter ordinary sentiments and experiences. I suspect they are undeserving of the scorn so frequently heaped upon them.
We could use some genuinely popular poets. Probably the last was Stephen Vincent Benet. Imagine: A poet delivering radio broadcasts, writing screenplays and radio shows. And a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner to boot. His books sold well, too.