On the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series

A Consideration of Certain Aspects of Vogon Poetry

By Lawrence Watt-Evans

Vogon poetry is of course the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria . . . . “The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex, England, in the destruction of the planet Earth.”

So Douglas Adams tells us at the start of chapter seven of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He states this as a well-known fact–“Vogon poetry is of course [emphasis added] the third worst in the Universe,” as if there can be no possible doubt.

This leads to the inevitable conclusion that in the larger galactic society, unlike our own more limited (and perhaps soon to be destroyed for a hyperspatial bypass) viewpoint, there is a widely accepted method of assigning definitive rankings to the quality of poetry. None of this, “Well, I’ve always been partial to Wordsworth, myself,” or “How can you say that Ferlinghetti is any sort of a poet?” or “I may not have your fancy education, but I know what I like,” that’s so often heard at terrestrial cocktail parties; instead one can presumably assign specific values, and prove once and for all that while Robert Frost can kick Rod McKuen’s arse, e.e. cummings would have them both for breakfast.

Or perhaps not. After all, that would take a great deal of fun out of literary debate, and put thousands of critics and academics out of work. One would assume that any such system would surely have been  …

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