“doggerel” Merriam-Webster.com. 2021. https://www.merriam-webster.com (4 June 2021)
dog-ger-el: loosely styled and irregular in measure especially for burlesque or comic effect
also: marked by triviality or inferiority.
I have to confess, I had not heard the term ‘doggerel’, or more specifically, of ‘doggerel poetry’ until a couple of years ago. Strangely, I came across the term while reading an online article about Bonnie Parker. Bonnie Parker, if you recall, was one half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde crime duo. Bonnie and Clyde, or to be more inclusive, the Barrow gang. The Barrow gang cut a wide swath across America’s heartland back in the 1930s, robbing small businesses and a couple of banks (contrary to popular belief they were not ‘Robin Hood-esqe’ bank robbers of popular culture and myth). They killed anyone who got in their way and managed to elude the law for over two years before they were gunned down in a roadside ambush in Louisiana in May of 1934.
In any case, prior to dying in a hail of bullets, Bonnie had been jailed on a number of other miscellaneous charges. During her time in the slammer, Bonnie busied herself by writing poetry. More specifically, the article reported that Bonnie spent her time in jail smoking Camel cigarettes and writing doggerel poetry. So, of course I jotted that down in my blog-book so that someday I could write a bit about it here on EEOTPB. And of course, that day has arrived.
There are numerous examples of Bonnie’s poetry on the internet, so it’s no secret she liked to write. But I will not link to any of her doggerel poetry here. The Barrow gang are believed to be responsible for thirteen murders, nine of them police officers, so I will end my personal introduction to ‘doggerel poetry’ at this point.
But doggerel poetry has a long history, tracing its roots to Geoffrey Chaucer, who coined the term ‘rym doggerel’ for the Tale of Thopas. Since then, doggerel poetry has been written by both the infamous (see Bonnie Parker, above) and the famous: think Shakespeare, think Ogden Nash, think Doctor Seuss.
One of my favorite examples of doggerel poetry was written by Edward Lear and William Monkhouse. I note it here:
There was a young lady of Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.
—attributed to Edward Lear and William Cosmo Monkhouse
And so you ask, do I have any doggerel poetry that I have written? Let me see…
Here is a short one that I wrote while searching for seashells on a beach near my home only a couple of weeks ago:
TITLE: Gathering Shells and other Events
How many shells wash in from the sea
a million and one? A million and three?
how many grains of sand to fill your pail
how much wind to hoist a sail
how much fire to burn a forest
how much cash to lift the poorest
how much time till it’s all over
how many bees in a field of clover
how many answers fall on deaf ears
how many prayers end in our tears
Thank you for reading.