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Insult Poetry


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Explore the Craft of Writing
African Verse

Insult Poetry is a genre of verse, the purpose of which is to deliver good humored insults. To write good insult poetry the images must be specific, clever and personal. The object of the poem is a real person or place or event and the insults should be specific, occasionally revealing small truths in an exaggerated or funny manner.

The poem is best begun with an introductory phrase which should have a chant like quality enhanced by repetition. Otherwise the frame or structure of the verse is at the discretion of the poet.

The earliest recorded Insult Poem was found in Africa though Insult Poetry can be found in many cultures. It is suggested in the Handbook of Poetic Forms by Ron Padgett that the African-American custom, "playing the dozens" in which mostly young African-American men engage in exchanging witty insults until one of them cannot come up with one anymore…. "Yo mamma's so ugly . . . …" is a hand-me-down from African slave ancestors and is a form of Insult Poetry.

The oldest recorded African Insult Poem, the author is unknown.
            You really resemble
----------An old man who has no teeth
----------And who wants to eat elephant hide,
----------Or a woman without a backside
----------Who sits down on a hard wooden stool.
----------You also resemble a stupid dolt
----------Who while hunting lets an antelope pass by
----------And who knows that his father is sick at home.

            Cologne (1809) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
            In Koln, a town of monks and bones,
----------And pavements fanged with murderous stones,
----------And rags, and hags, and hideous wenches;
----------I counted two-and-seventy stenches,
----------All well defined, and separate stinks!
----------Ye nymphs that reign o'er sewers and sinks,
----------The river Rhine, it is well known,
----------Doth wash your city of Cologne;
----------But tell me, nymphs,
----------What power divine
----------Shall henceforth wash the river Rhine?

African Poetic Genres and Forms

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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