Skip Navigation


Vogon Poetry Slam

October 28, 2009 at 2:39 pm
By Margaret Taylor '10

Warning: reading about this event may be hazardous to your health.  Vogon poetry, first described in Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is so bad that it causes anybody unfortunate enough to listen to it to want to stuff their ears with mud.  So why would the Science Fiction and Fantasy Alliance want to recreate this stuff?

There’s something about Vogon poetry that brings it into the so-bad-it’s-good category.  Somewhere between the questionable rhymes, long tangents, and musings on the state of crumbs on the carpet, everybody in Sayles Hill lounge las Friday started cracking up.  The Vogon Poetry Slam was ostensibly a contest to crown the worst poet on Carleton campus, but it was more or less lacking in anything resembling rules.  Students brought in a combination of original works and works written by other poets and read them off with gusto.

Some of the original works included:

  • “A Limerick on the Challenges and Dangers of Writing Limericks”
  • An untitled work that was described as “like a suicidal Dr. Seuss.”
  • “An Ode to Blotchy Things”
  • “This Sponge is Like No Other, I Tell You!”
  • “The Dog that I Found”
  • A poem that was not exactly a poem, but a list of words that sounded interesting.

Also notable were Paul Neil Milne Johnstone’s only surviving work, and James McIntyre's “Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing over 7,000 Pounds.”

In the improvisational division, students were given a subject, then the chance to riff on that subject for as long or as briefly they would like (rhyming optional).  The topics included zombies, pirates, ninjas, and vampires.

The winners included Jared Christensen’s ’10 “Ode to Benton House,” involving “toilet seats of gold” and a digression on campus geography, and Justin Moor’s ’12 “The Dog that I Found.”  This poem was not, in fact, about a dog, but about a man dressed as a dog and a frog that the narrator never actually saw.  Tristan Zimmerman ’12 won in the improv category with his thoughts on the zombie apocalypse.

When the poetry reading was over (and we’ve all succeeded in putting our brains back in), there was a competitive reading of “The Eye of Argon.”  This short story by Jim Theis is regarded by many as the prose equivalent of Vogon poetry.  The object of the game: to make it through a whole page without bursting out laughing.

The next morning we would have to go back to producing quality thoughts organized in a clear and coherent manner for our respective term papers and Moodle Forum posts, but for the moment, we could enjoy the world of just plain stupid writing.  Just remember: If you should ever encounter a real Vogon, run screaming in the other direction.


See a video of Jared Christensen's winning entry.