The Worst American Poet
Julia Moore, "the Sweet Singer of Michigan" (1847-1920) was so bad that
Mark Twain said her first book gave him joy for 20 years.
Her verse was mainly concerned with violent death -- the great fire
of Chicago and the yellow fever epidemic proved natural subjects for her pen.
Whether death was by drowning, by fits or by runaway sleigh, the
formula was the same:
Have you heard of the dreadful fate
Of Mr. P. P. Bliss and wife?
Of their death I will relate,
And also others lost their life
(in the) Ashbula Bridge disaster,
Where so many people died.
Even if you started out reasonably healthy in one of Julia's poems,
the chances are that after a few stanzas you would be at the bottom of a
river or struck by lightning. A critic of the day said she was "worse than
a Gatling gun" and in one slim volume counted 21 killed and 9 wounded.
Incredibly, some newspapers were critical of her work, even
suggesting that the sweet singer was "semi-literate". Her reply was
forthright: "The Editors that has spoken in this scandalous manner have went
beyond reason." She added that "literary work is very difficult to do".
- -- Stephen Pile, "The Book of Heroic Failures"