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James Camp, X.J. Kennedy, Keith Waldrop
Pegasus Descending: A Book of the Best Bad Verse

2003
Anthology, edited by James Camp, X. J. Kennedy, & Keith Waldrop
Poetry, 240 pages, offset, smyth-sewn
ISBN 1-886224-68-4, original paperback $18

Out of print for thirty years, this hilarious and disgusting anthology is again available, complete and unexpurgated. The editors, hoping always for the best, have rummaged the arsenal of English poetry for its most spectacular fizzles. They have been no respecters of persons: Sarah Taylor Shatford and Alfred Austin rub shoulders here with Milton, Keats and Wordsworth. The poems presented are absolutely sincere; no failure is faked. All infelicities are unintended. As one genius of the awful put it, “Literary is a work very difficult to do.” But another, the great Edgar A. Guest, reminds us,

Sacred and sweet is the joy that must come
From the furnace of life when you’ve poured off the scum.

Here there is—as James Wright declared, after hearing these poems—“nothing mediocre!”

“Here must be the most entertaining collection of thoroughly rotten poetry since—well, probably since 1930, when D. B. Wyndham Lewis’ and Charles Lee’s Stuffed Owl was published. And it is not just the poems that entertain. Introductory notes on the various poets represented and a rollicking parody of Dryden’s “Essay on Dramatic Poesy” by the editors alone are worth the price of the book.”

Book-of-the-Month Club News (December 1971)

“Burning Deck has produced some sublimely beautiful books, but Pegasus Descending may be the most sublime of all. I can't stop reading it—it fills a real niche in my otherwise politically correct, avant gardely definitive book collection. I think what moves me about it is not only the howlers ("We saw her die—and she is dead" is my current favorite) but the ones whose weirdness displays the earnestness of the intent. I mean, "bad poetry" is often great poetry that, because the emotion is real, tries too hard and falls over backwards. Thanks for doing this; I'll probably get more use out of this anthology than a whole shelf of Nortons.”

—Michael Davidson

“The Stuffed Owl has grown long in the tooth. Although still a wonderfully refreshing sour note in any poetry library, it now has a worthy companion in Pegasus Descending. One delightful difference is that Camp et al. arranged their finds by topic rather than by author: Disasters, Family and Marriage, Faith and Morals, and so on to the inevitable Death. As a result these lisping numbers talk to one another and seem almost to vie with one another for the depths of badness.”

—Richard Wakefield, Light

Pegasus Descending is guaranteed to keep the reader entertained for hours... A must-have for any bookshelf.”

—Jason R. Macey, Et Al: A Journal of the Arts

“This is an anthology of the best bad verse, so your juvenile acrostics and hopeless sixth grade love poems wouldn’t make the cut—we’re talking Pegasus here, not some pony.”

—April Freeley, The College Hill Independent

“In these times it is best to laugh! And that’s what I did all the way through Pegasus Descending. ”

Michael Basinski Book Reviews, the-hold.com/november 2003