Ode to the Worst Poet in the World

Over the years, I’ve been forced to read many a poem, and, while I can appreciate the effort it takes to compose one, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the art form.

However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a favorite poet.

During my trip to Scotland last year, I came across a plaque dedicated to the supposed worst poet in the world, William Topaz McGonagall. Prior to my visit, I’d never heard of this man and so decided to conduct a more thorough investigation of him once I returned to the states.

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The person from whom Professor McGonagall gets her name. Fanficton prompt: McGonagall tries to write poetry in her off-hours, but HP’s shenanigans keep getting in the way.

McGonagall was a weaver whom, at the age of 52, was suddenly struck by the idea that he should quit his job and make poetry his life’s vocation.

He was very prolific and composed around 215 poems over the course of several years, all of which covered a wide range of topics from the military, to famous people, to current events.

Apparently his poetry was so awful that it was a common practice for the city folk to throw rotten vegetables at him and jeer during his recitals.

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Example of his work:

Welcome! thrice welcome! to the year 1893,
For it is the year I intend to leave Dundee,
Owing to the treatment I receive,
Which does my heart sadly grieve.
Every morning when I go out
The ignorant rabble they do shout
‘There goes Mad McGonagall’
In derisive shouts as loud as they can bawl,
And lifts stones and snowballs, throws them at me;
And such actions are shameful to be heard in the city of Dundee.
And I’m ashamed, kind Christians, to confess
That from the Magistrates I can get no redress.
Therefore I have made up my mind in the year of 1893
To leave the ancient City of Dundee,
Because the citizens and me cannot agree.
The reason why? — because they disrespect me,
Which makes me feel rather discontent.
Therefore to leave them I am bent;
And I will make my arrangements without delay,
And leave Dundee some early day.

McGonagall was so convinced that he was a misunderstood genius that he walked 50 miles to gain the patronage of Queen Victoria, only to be told when he arrived to leave and never come back.

Knowing all of this, I think it’s difficult not to love the guy. Not only did he quit his job to do what he loved at a time when this most assuredly meant starvation, he would not let anyone convince him he shouldn’t write.

Was he an egotist? Oh yeah. In fact he seemed to be so oblivious to how bad of a writer he was that some historians are convinced it was all an act. Me, I’m not so sure.

McGonagall may have died a virtually penniless laughingstock, but there’s a bit of poetic irony to this story.

In spite of all the backlash his poetry received, every single one of McGonagall’s poems has been published. More to the point, his name and his legacy have endured centuries while other more talented poets have died forgotten.

As much as the cliché of following your dreams gets thrown around, it seems to have benefitted McGonagall. He didn’t let anyone persuade him to retire his quill and as a result he has earned himself a place in history.

It’s at the back of the bus with no air conditioning and a five year-old continuously kicking the headrest, but it’s a place nonetheless.

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If someone like McGonagall can make his dreams come true, than by God so can we.

UPDATE: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going

Life has been sucking recently so my writing has been put on the back burner….well, my writing is usually placed on the back burner, but now that life is not going that great, I at least have an alibi now.

I haven’t updated my blog in two weeks. From a professional standpoint there’s no excuse. Tolstoy wrote War and Peace and he had 13 kids. It’s not for nothing, I have been busy. I started a new semester and am currently working with my college’s newscast and this was my first week working at a new place, but I should be better at balancing out my life.

I also had a major life-changing event occur that totally ruins everything.

But, you know, I’m cool.

Everything is totally alright.

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I would make a promise that I’m going to try to update more frequently as I resolved to do, however, I’m not sure if that is going to happen. I just figured I owe it to people who read this blog to let them know where I am.

I’m not giving up on blogging, it’s just that the length between posts will likely increase.

I have a few ideas for posts, but I’m not sure how they will pan out.

Until then, remember me as I was: a slightly less embittered individual with a propensity to procrastinate to the point of self-paralysis.

Good night.

A Good Habit is Hard to Find

I’m trying to change my habits.

But the bad ones just seem so engrained into me that if I were to exfoliate them like dead skin off of a calloused foot, I would have to keep going until I hit a bone.

My bad habits are the axis on which my bizarre world turns. They make up who I am.

Luckily I don’t smoke or drink in excess. However, my propensity to procrastinate on my life goals and resist improvement are just as hazardous to my future.

If I have an assignment or task given to me by a third party, I have no issue doing it. When it comes to providing goals for myself that have no consequences for anyone else, however, I struggle to keep them.

Especially when it comes to my writing goals.

I open the story, type one sentence, decide it sucks, and then set my laptop on fire.

My Instagram feed is awash with inspirational quotes about persistence, but none of them sink in. Even if a chubby old nun were to burst into my room one morning and sing at me to climb every mountain, I’m still not sure if the message would come through.

Regardless, I desperately want to be the type of person that sets goals and achieves them.

I also want to be the person that can look up funny internet videos until 1:00 in the morning and be fully awake for their morning shift.

But mostly that first one.

I just have to remember that others have stood where I stand right now and were able to overcome even greater odds. I will keep my head high and remind myself:

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You Are The Ranting Queen

I’ve noticed something a bit startling about myself: I am prone to ranting.

However, I like to think of my rants as well-constructed and justified. More often than not, they spawn from a place of righteous indignation about things of no real consequence. Most of my rants revolve around terrible writing in the plethora of mediums I consume, or books that have let me down as of late because, hey, that’s my area of expertise.

I enjoy writing about things that make me miffed, but it may give people the wrong idea about me.

I am not an angry person. I do have things that make me happy. It’s just easier to go on lengthy diatribes about things that irk me.

All of my friends know this. They even have a look they give each other when they realize they’re in for another trademark Rachael Rant.

It’s what a person must look like after they think they’ve found a metal egg in their backyard only to realize it is actually a hand grenade and the pin just fell out.

Or when you accidentally send a nude to your boss.

Which has never happened to me.

As far as you know.

My friends will try to appease me with a sacrifice, usually a goat, or wine poured in libation, but with very limited success.

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The only true way to stop a Rachael Rant is to hand me the cup of wine and let me drink my fill until I’ve forgotten what I’ve been saying and just start belting out Disney songs or other show tunes.

If wine is unavailable, just prepare the same way you would a nuclear holocaust: hide under a desk and weep bitterly until oblivion wraps its cold arms around you in a suffocating embrace.

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My friends to people who have never experienced my wrath

While my friends, acquaintances, family and others in real life are likely to feel the brunt of my self-indulgent ire when it comes to politics and other such subjects, fear not, fair reader. For the sake of this blog, I will stick to giving my opinion on matters of fiction and the written world only….mostly.

God knows we have enough temperamental millennials with blogs blithering on about other things.

Oh, and don’t get me started on….

Crap.

Run.

RUN!!!!

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Being a Reader in an Unliterary World

Growing up, it was difficult to find people who loved to read as much as I did. Or people who read at all, really.

I’ve always baffled by people who claim reading is boring, and yet spend hours and hours in front of the TV watching reality television.

“How can you read so much?” they ask. “It’s so boring. Now excuse me while I watch a rich woman I’ve never met before have her nails painted following a fifteen minute shopping spree.”

How…how is that more interesting? How? I do not understand.

I defy you to give me a convincing reason why watching Kim Kardashian breaking down over shoes is more interesting than a young boy wizard fighting an evil order with a leader so terrifying that just saying his name sends people into throes of agony.

What also confuses me is how many people seem to take pride in their illiteracy. They’ll gaze at you with a wide grin and tell you  “they don’t read” or “they don’t have time to read.”

Yeah, they don’t have time to read, but they can punch out an entire series on Netflix in two days. You aren’t fooling anyone. 

Besides I can attest to the fact that if you read for maybe 10 minutes a day, you should be able to finish a full-length novel in a month. Bookmarks exist for a reason.

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People often ask me what the point of reading is. Why would you read when you can wait until the movie comes out and see everything rather than having to imagine it?

Well, for one thing, books are longer than movies and therefore have more time for things like character development, setting up atmosphere, and give you the opportunity to be inside peoples’ heads without the use of half-assed voice overs.

It’s also been proven that people who read novels  generally have more empathy than people who don’t. This makes sense to me since most books now are told through first-person. You are constantly viewing things from the perspective of other people.

But reading makes you anti-social, Rachael!

Pop quiz: how long were you on your phone when you went out to dinner with your friends or significant other? Do you talk to people on the bus, or do you just listen to your music? Do you prefer texting as opposed to talking on the phone because it gives you the power to reply later if you don’t want to talk right now?

Pencils down. Ooh. These results are not good.

I apologize for my saltiness.

If I sound bitter, it’s only because I’ve had to defend my hobby countless times. I don’t get why it’s so hard for people to see why I read, or treat it like it’s some sort of ailment  rather than a perfectly healthy leisure activity.

Oh, well. At least Darcy understands.

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A Most Photogenic Cat

My boss went out of town to a business conference in another state and asked me if I wanted to watch her house and look after her neighbor’s cat while she was gone.

She had forgotten she told her neighbor she would look after the tabby while he was out of town, so she would need me to make sure his pet was taken care of as well.

It wouldn’t be difficult, she assured me. The cat spent most of its days outdoors but had a food and water bowl in the garage that needed to be filled regularly.

When I first met the cat, I noticed he was different from most of his kind in that he was unusually friendly.

I named him Barnaby and we became best friends.

I ask you, is there anything more beautiful than a low-maintenance relationship?

All I had to do was feed him and he would treat me like Cat Jesus.

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We had a good thing going.

I’d take care of my boss’ house, make sure Barnaby had enough food and water, and then we’d hang out and take a bunch of pictures at his place.

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I remember when we sat by the pool for the last time. He stretched out on my lap and I thought this would be a perfect time to snap a photo.

My instincts were correct.

The wind picked up at just the right time, causing my hair to fan out to the side. It would seem the tiniest bit of dust got into Barnaby’s eye at that moment because, when I examined the photo afterwards, I saw that he appeared to be winking at the camera.

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My brief friendship with Barnaby taught me a lot of things that will follow me throughout life.

However one lesson stands out above all the rest:

I am horribly allergic to cats.

Prior to this experience I had no idea. While many of my friends have owned cats, their felines typically just eyed me suspiciously and flounced away.

Barnaby, however, was intent on killing me with kindness and I didn’t even know it.

I’d go over to the garage, take care of him, then I would come home and feel like I’d been hit by a semi.

My head would feel as it it was grow exponentially and congestion would make it impossible to breathe. I thought I was coming down with the flu.

But I put the pieces together as soon as I realized I always felt worse after coming to see him.

So thanks for the memories, Barnaby, I forgive you for trying to kill me.

At least I have photos to remember you by.

When Life Throws Off Your Writing Groove

So you’ve been writing for a while, but you aren’t getting very far. You spin your wheels day after day, hoping soon it’ll all come together. You know it’s a good idea, you’re just having a hard time getting it started.

You think it’s just another day. You sit at your desk, grab your pen, and begin marking up the page. All of the sudden-

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It’s like the material isn’t even coming from you. It’s like you are taking dictation from a genius.

Your characters are timeless, your plot is interesting and unique. At this rate, you’ll be done before the sun comes down. That’s when you get a text…..

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Your kid needs to be picked up, or your boss wants you to come in early, or your significant other needs you to pick up something before the store closes.

You think, “I’ll just do this one thing, then I’ll go back to writing.”

Life: Hehe hehe hehehe ha ha haha hahahaha AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Once the groove is lost, it can be hard to find again. Particularly when your chaotic life is trying to force down your door with a battering ram.

When you return, you’ll read the same line over and over again. However, it’s like trying to start a fire with two wet rocks.

Your distractors will be largely unapologetic.

Unless you throw them out a window.

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“Well,” they’ll say, “You’re a writer. You just wiggle your pencil about and stuff comes out, right?”

They are right. Only most of what is coming out now is crap.

Don’t worry, writer. What once was will come again.

If you keep at it for long enough, the groove will come again. You’ll be so full of groove you will terrify your friends and family with your mad skills. So much so, they will be too frightened to bother you.

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And isn’t inspiring terror what writing is all about?