Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Beautiful Art of Doggerel

Doggerel is an old and underestimated art form. According to the official definition, a doggerel is “a light verse which is humorous and comic by nature”. It is however often viewed with disdain as containing “little literary value”.

In “Eating Your Aunty is Wrong“, Stephen Arnott writes: “Groups of young men in Sussex and Devon used to go “apple howling”, visiting local orchards and spouting *doggerel* to encourage the trees to be fruitful. In return the men expected drink or money from the orchard’s owner. If they didn’t get it they’d return to the orchard and shout curses at the trees.”

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, one of the earliest uses of the word “doggerel” is found in the 14th century in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer. He applied the term “rym doggerel” to his “Tale of Sir Thopas,” a burlesque of the long-winded medieval romance.

John Skelton, caught in the transition between Chaucer’s medieval language and the beginning of the English Renaissance, wrote verse long considered being almost doggerel. He defended himself in Colin Clout:

For though my rhyme be ragged,

Tattered and jagged,

Rudely rain-beaten,

Rusty and moth-eaten,

If ye take well therewith,

It hath in it some pith.

Since then, doggerel has been employed in most English comic verse, from that of Victorian poet Samuel Butler and Gulliver’s Travels author Jonathan Swift to the contemporary American poet Ogden Nash.

The doggerel even has a German counterpart, called Knüttelvers (literally “cudgel verse”). It was popular during the Renaissance and was later used for comic effect by such poets as J.W. von Goethe and Friedrich von Schiller.

Doggerel verse is still commonly heard in limericks and nonsense verse, popular songs, and commercial jingles.

All in all, the doggerel is a fun form of poetry and not so easy to write. So I invite all writers and poets, try your hand at the beautiful art of writing a doggerel!

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Filed under humor, Uncategorized, Writing

Will ReadMatter Really Matter?

Two enterprising journalists, Jim Giles and Bobbie Johnson, decided that it was time for an innovative online magazine – Matter. The format will long-form investigative narrative journalism about science and technology. “No cheap reviews, no snarky opinion pieces, no top ten lists,” they promise. “Just one unmissable story.”

Both journalists have an impressive resume: Jim Giles wrote for Nature and The Economist) and Bobbie Johnson for The Guardian and The New York Times. Not too shabby.

They decided to use Kickstarter to raise $ 50,000 in funds. They were more than successful – they raised over $140,000. People gave way more than I thought they would,” said Jim Giles. “We have tapped into frustration with the way the internet has promoted quick and cheap journalism and bashed longer-quality stuff, or at least undermined the business model that used to support that sort of thing.”

Matter tweeted on April, 4: “We don’t have a set launch date, but it will probably be in a couple of months”. Once Matter is alive, readers will have the option of buying individual stories for 99 cents each or opt for a subscription. The magazine will be monthly at first, and then weekly, assuming everything goes according to plan.

The 99 cents model is clever. Readers can purchase an article and read it on Kindle and iPad. Giles and Johnson leverage the ebooks hype. Some journalists and writers make money via Amazon and news sites such as atavist.net with stories that are too long to be published in a newspaper or magazine, and too short for a book.

Matter wants writers to approach them with vague ideas. The writer then gets matched to an editor very early on — before the piece is even formally commissioned — and the final article comes together as a collaboration between the writer, editor, and publishers.

However, Matter is quite narrow in what it wants to publish. It is focusing on long-form, narrative, investigative news stories about science and technology. To overcome this hurdle, the founders are looking at different models e.g., cooperating with newspapers.

Let’s wait and see if it lives up to its promise of “gripping exposes of online crime, untold tales of environmental threats, inside stories about revolutionary technologies and exclusive reports from the most controversial research labs.”

Time will tell…….

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