The Stuffed OwlAn Anthology of Bad Verse
introduction by Billy Collins, edited by D.B. Wyndham Lewis, edited by Charles Lee
The editors of this legendary and hilarious anthology write: “It would seem at a hasty glance that to make an anthology of Bad Verse is on the whole a simple matter … On the contrary … Bad Verse has its canons, like Good Verse. There is bad Bad Verse and good Bad Verse. It has been the constant preoccupation of the compilers to include in this book chiefiy good Bad Verse.” Here indeed one finds the best of the worst of the greatest poets of the English language, masterpieces of the maladroit by Dryden, Wordsworth, and Keats, among many others, together with an index (“Maiden, feathered, uncontrolled appetites of, 59;… Manure, adjudged a fit subject for the Muse, 91”) that is itself an inspired work of folly.
An unholy, unmerciful, but richly humorous book...
— Hamish MacLaren, The Spectator
The Stuffed Owl is an absolute delight. I have loved the book for more than sixty years, since I first encountered it. Indeed, a number of years ago, I came upon the sublime idea of an anthology to be called The New Stuffed Owl. I gave up this mad notion when everyone pointed out to me that asking a living poet to allow herself or himself to be included in such a volume was pragmatically an invitation to murderous warfare. There are great poets like Wordsworth and Tennyson and others who are included in The Stuffed Owl. One loves them all the more for seeing that they crashed occasionally. Any reader who opens this book and starts reading will be immensely delighted.
— Harold Bloom
The Stuffed Owl is an anthology of bad verse compiled in 1930 by a couple of Modernist bonhommes, Wyndham Lewis and Charles Lee, and now reissued, with an introduction by Billy Collins, by the New York Review of Books Press. It's a greatest hits of poetry's most bathetic, banal, and bloated, from Cowper to Tennyson. The trans-historical nature of smugness is demonstrated within its pages: These poems join us to generations of supercilious snobs. We all harbor an inner sherry drinker, and this book belongs in his billiards room. Though its primary target is effete Victoriana—the velveteen emotions and confectionary phrasings—The Stuffed Owl finds ample badness elsewhere: Dryden and Byron are included along with Longfellow and Emerson, and the longest single selection comes not from Sydney Thompson Dobell or Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton but, surprisingly, from Wordsworth.