Poetry Guide: Doggerel
Doggerel describes verse considered of little literary value. The word is derogatory, from Middle English.
Doggerel might have any or all of the following failings:
- trite, cliched, or overly sentimental
- forced or imprecise rhymes
- faulty metre
- misordering of words to force correct metre
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:
- Ogden Nash
- Pam Ayres
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-shu-bomp-shu bomp?
- Who put the ram in the rama-lama ding dong?
as if they were soliloquies from Keats or Shakespeare.
A story that has been fastened to the names of Dorothy Parker, William James, and Gertrude Stein has the writer fall asleep, and in a dream he or she receives a profound insight, which the writer makes sure to get down on paper before falling back to sleep. Come the morning, the literary celebrity discovers that the deep thought that came in a dream was:
- Hogamus, higamus
- Men are polygamous;
- Higamus, hogamus
- Women, monogamous.
The poetry of William Topaz McGonagall is also remembered with affection by many despite its seeming technical flaws.
Macaronic poetry may often be doggerel.