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April 10, 2004

Worst Poetry in Motion Poem Ever

Now, I know that everyone's taste in poetry is a little bit different, and that's fine. But I hate hate hate this poem that I keep seeing on the NYC subways.

A Big Clown-Face-Shaped Cloud

You just went by
With no one to see you, practically.
You were in good shape, for a cloud,
With perhaps several minutes more to exist.
You were speaking, or seemed to be,
Mouth open wide, talking, to a
Belted angel-shaped cloud that was riding ahead.

� Kenneth Koch
The New Yorker, May 6, 2002

Did you notice that last bit? The New Yorker printed that bit of drivel! The New Yorker!

Better still, in the course of looking up this dreadful thing online so I could complain about it, I found a link to someone's essay (looks like a college English class assignment) talking about how damn much they love this poem. If you'd like to check out a different point of view from mine, you can read what Tom Hall has to say about it.

I know they want to use at least some contemporary poetry that's in colloquial English. But why can't all the poems be as good as this one?


I have heard about the civilized,
the marriages run on talk, elegant and
honest, rational. But you and I are
savages. You come in with a bag,
hold it out to me in silence.
I know Moo Shu Pork when I smell it
and understand the message: I have
pleased you greatly last night. We sit
quietly, side by side, to eat,
the long pancakes dangling and spilling,
fragrant sauce dripping out,
and glance at each other askance, wordless,
the corners of our eyes clear as spear points
laid along the sill to show
a friend sits with a friend here.

� Sharon Olds (1980)

Posted by Rose at April 10, 2004 10:24 PM


Great Sharon Olds poem. Now, it's not really fair to expect them all to be this good, is it? :)

Posted by: Jessica at April 12, 2004 05:05 PM

I've seen this poem on the subway also. In fact, the only reason I found this website was in looking for this poem. I think the reason it flusters some people is because it's too plain. I've spent immeasurable time on the train staring at this peice, trying to make some story between the angel and cloud. One thing is found interesting is the idea of speaking to a being that, in fact, ceases to be. You know by the poem that the clown has faded and yet the speaker still addresses the clown face as if it were still in existence. People may commonly do this with a loved one that has passed; entertaing the notion that his or her soul may be listening. But I found it spooky contemplating the existence of a cloud's soul after it has dissipated. I don't love the poem. But I certainly don't hate it. However, every time I see it I find a new reason to at least like it a bit more.

Posted by: MurkyWaters at April 27, 2004 08:23 PM