The last Wednesday of every month is a “Weird Wednesday” on Absolute Michigan, when Linda Godfrey brings you 100% of the USRDA of Michigan weirdness. You can listen to Linda’s latest podcasts and read her blog at uncannyworld.com and also check out her books including Weird Michigan & Strange Michigan. In anticipation of Valentines Day, she has brought us the sad tale of the Sweet Singer of Michigan.
There were many bad poets in the 19th Century, an era when people penned over-the-top verses as serious and popular entertainment. But according to the Literary Encyclopedia, America’s most famous bad poet was Manton, Michigan’s Julia A. Moore.
The wife of a farmer and the mother of ten, Moore published her first book of poetry in 1876, unaware that people were buying it mostly to laugh at her verses about tragic death and lost love. Even Mark Twain said her poetry always made him laugh. She was finally shamed out of her writing career, although every year the Flint Public Library remembers her with a bad poetry contest. And she will remain the champion of invented, mystifying words such as the strangely undecipherable, “Hithertoherebefore.”
You can read the full story of Julia A. Moore and samples of her verse in “Strange Michigan: More Wolverine Weirdness” by Linda S. Godfrey and Lisa A. Shiel. Regarding the image, I can only say that someone got a little carried away. They are resting comfortably in a safe and cushiony room.
More about Julia Ann Moore (because we just couldn’t leave well enough alone)
The Wikipedia entry for Julia Ann Moore relates that her first book of verse, The Sentimental Song Book was published in 1876 and it quickly went to a second printing and then was republished under the title The Sweet Singer of Michigan Salutes the Public. It sounds as if it was very consciously promoted as bad poetry and received extremely biting reviews (“Shakespeare, could he read it, would be glad that he was dead”). An excerpt from Grand Rapids suggests that they might have been somewhat justified:
Indian girls and boys were seen,
With their bow and quiver,
Riding in their light canoes
Up and down the river.
Their hearts were full of joy,
Happy voices singing
Made music with forest birds,
They kept the valley ringing.
While she was the butt of jokes for much of her career, Moore ended her last appearance at the Grand Rapids Opera House by telling the jeering crowd: “You have come here and paid twenty-five cents to see a fool; I receive seventy-five dollars, and see a whole houseful of fools.”