Patience Worth

Pearl Lenore Curran wrote four novels and many poems, but claimed that they had all been dictated to her by a woman named Patience Worth who had lived over two hundred years earlier. So, A body of work that was literally ghost-written.

Info from Superstition and the Press (1983) by Curtis MacDougall:

For 15 years, 1913 to 1928, Mrs. John Curran of St. Louis, who lacked even a high school education, wrote four full-length novels and almost 2,500 poems that she said had been dictated to her by Patience Worth who was born in 1694 in Dorchestershire, England, migrated to the New World and was killed during an Indian attack during King Philip's War. The novels were well reviewed and five Patience Worth poems were included in Braithwaite's Anthology of Poetry for 1917, more than ones by Vachel Lindsay, Amy Lowell and Edgar Lee Masters. Patience, Mrs. Curran said, first made contact with her through the Ouija board one letter at a time; later she got words and sentences at a time.

Note: the Patience Worth poems were included in Braithwaite's 1918 anthology, not the 1917 one.

More info: Wikipedia, Smithsonian magazine

You can also find the Patience Worth novels on

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jun 12, 2024 - Comments (1)
Category: Literature, Books, Poetry, Paranormal

The Computer’s First Code Poem

Scottish poet Edwin Morgan included "The Computer's First Code Poem" in his 1973 collection From Glasgow to Saturn.

Despite what the title may imply, Morgan didn't actually program a computer to produce the poem. (Nor did he have the Loch Ness Monster pen "The Loch Ness Monster's Song" in the same collection.) However, the poem really is in code, as he later explained:

This is a reminder that electronic computers developed out of work in advanced cryptography during the second world war, and it is also a metaphor for the fact that a poem itself can be regarded as a coded message. My code, though not hair-raising, is not exactly translucent. Amateur cryptographers, with or without computers, are invited to 'find the poem' which is I believe the first to have been composed in this form.

I didn't bother to try to crack the code. Instead, I found someone online (Nick Pelling) who had done it. Apparently it's a simple letter-substitution code, which produces:

prole snaps livid bingo thumb twice
dirty whist fight numbs black rebec
pinto hurls bdunt spurs under butte
fubsy clown posse stomp below xebec
tramp crawl kills kinky xerox joint
foxed minks squal above yucca shoot
manic tapir party upend tibia mound
panda strut jolts first pumas afoot
toxic potto still shows uncut aorta
swamp houri wails appal canal taxis
punks throw plain words about dhows
ghost haiku exits aping zooid taxis

That's not much more intelligible than the original poem. Pelling speculates that we can't rule out the possibility of a second hidden message within the first message.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Apr 28, 2024 - Comments (1)
Category: Codes, Cryptography, Puzzles, Riddles, Rebuses and Other Language Alterations, Computers, Poetry

The Poetry of Hy Sobiloff

Something tells me Sobiloff should have stuck to his other careers.

From his encyclopedia entry:

Sobiloff, whose poetry was respected by many of his better-known contemporaries for its fresh, honest, unpretentious qualities, was also widely known as a filmmaker, industrialist, and philanthropist... While praising his work, both Aiken and Tate come close to representing the poet as a primitive, particularly by their use of words such as "folk" or "unaware..." Less positive were Kimon Friar's judgments of the collection, as presented in Saturday Review: "Sobiloff's poems are monolithic, his lines lack cadence, there is no melodic progression within a single stanza or between stanzas. Instead, we have staccato and precise descriptions of objects, but with little of the poetic realism of a William Carlos Williams or of the subtlety of Wallace Stevens."

Posted By: Paul - Thu Mar 21, 2024 - Comments (1)
Category: Amateurs and Fans, Vinyl Albums and Other Media Recordings, Poetry, 1960s

Hoosier Poet Canned Goods

Very few--if any other--poets have a line of canned goods named after them, as did James Whitcomb Riley.

Posted By: Paul - Fri Jul 14, 2023 - Comments (1)
Category: Food, Poetry, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century

Midwatch In Verse

A new book explores the obscure poetic tradition of sailors in the U.S. Navy writing the first deck log of the new year in verse. As explained by the NW Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

For the average person, the deck logs of the U.S. Navy are what Dave Johnson would call mind-numbing and indecipherable.
The records, quasi-legal documents, were a requirement of each ship to note various bits of technical information -- ship speed and direction, even the number of propeller rotations and other things that would only be useful or make sense if you were in the Navy.
But one time of year, sailors were allowed to deviate from the benign record keeping and exhibit creativity with brief storytelling. During the first watch of the New Year, from midnight to 4 a.m., the Officer of the Deck could record in verse.

No one is sure when, or why this tradition began. The earliest known example (reproduced below) dates back to 1926, but the tradition was apparently already well established by then.

More info:

I stand on the deck at midnight
As the clocks are striking the hour
And I’ll keep the watch until morning
To the best of my humble power.
We are anchored in Pedro harbor
Tho there isn’t much of a lee
And why they call it a harbor
Is something I never could see
But our hook is in hole A seven
And our center anchor chain
Has forty-five in the hawse pipe
And a very gentle strain.
When we anchored our trusty leadsman
Made a very careful cast
Finding eight and a half good fathoms
As the bugler blew the blast.
And down below in the fire rooms
Which the black gang ought to man
The steam is blowing bubbles
In number seven can.
All the battleship divisions
Swing nearby on the blue
Except the West Virginia
And the Mississippi too.
The Senior Officer Present
Floats peacefully in his sleep
On the good ship California
The guardian of the deep.
At one fifteen Roskelly
A pill rolling pharmacist’s mate
Returned from his leave on schedule
He’s lucky he wasn’t late.
That’s all the dope this morning
Except, just between us two
If the Captain ever sees this log
My gawd what will he do?

E.V. Dockweiler,
Ensign, U. S. Navy

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jan 20, 2023 - Comments (4)
Category: Military, Books, Poetry

Jazz Poetry

The Wikipedia entry, followed by some examples from the Boston Post, 09 Jan 1921, Sun Page 53.

Posted By: Paul - Sat May 28, 2022 - Comments (1)
Category: Fads, Music, Poetry, Bohemians, Beatniks, Hippies and Slackers, 1920s

Dyr bul shchyl

The Russian artist Alexei Kruchenykh invented the Zaum language in 1913. He described it as "a language which does not have any definite meaning." From what I can gather, it was gibberish sounds strung together.

Dyr bul shchyl, also written by Kruchenykh, was the first (but not last) poem written in Zaum.

Dyr bul shchyl
vy so bu
r l ez

You can hear Kruchenykh reading the poem aloud in the first clip. There's a more modern interpretation of it below.

Knowing Russian, or any other language, won't help you understand the poem. But according to Russian language expert Lucas Stratton, "critics have interpreted Dyr bul shchyl as an arrangement of sounds associated with a coming storm."

Posted By: Alex - Sun Nov 29, 2020 - Comments (0)
Category: Languages, Poetry, 1910s, Cacophony, Dissonance, White Noise and Other Sonic Assaults

The Poet Laureate of Dentistry

Note: after preparing this post, I realized that Paul had posted about the same thing two years ago. So consider this a repost.

Soylman Brown (1790-1876) was a Connecticut dentist who achieved prominence in his profession for a number of reasons. According to Wikipedia, he founded the first dental school, the first national dental society, and the first US dental journal. Plus, he became known as the Poet Laureate of Dentistry on account of his fifty-four page poem titled Dentologia - A Poem on Diseases of the Teeth, and Their Proper Remedies. It was published in 1840.

If you've got some time to kill, you can read the entire poem at the Internet Archive. Otherwise, I've sampled a brief part of it below, which should be enough to give you its general tone.

The first dentition asks our earliest care,
For oft, obstructed nature, laboring there,
Demands assistance of experienced art,
And seeks from science her appointed part.
Perhaps ere yet the infant tongue can tell
The seat of anguish that it knows too well,
Some struggling tooth, just bursting into day,
Obtuse and vigorous, urges on its way,
While inflammation, pain, and bitter cries,
And flooding tears, in sad succession rise.

The lancet, then, alone can give relief,
And mitigate the helpless sufferer's grief;
But no unpractised hand should guide the steel
Whose polished point must carry wo or weal:—
With nicest skill the dentist's hand can touch,
And neither wound too little nor too much.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Nov 22, 2020 - Comments (0)
Category: Poetry, Nineteenth Century, Teeth

Henry Gibson Anti-Littering Ads

Anyone of a certain age recalls Henry Gibson and his "naive" poems on LAUGH-IN. Apparently, some ad agency thought he'd be perfect for their anti-littering campaign.


And they were even collected in a book, by the Glass Container Manufacturers Institute.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Jul 25, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: PSA’s, Television, Poetry, 1960s

Dentologia:  A Poem on the Diseases of the Teeth

Full text here.

Thanks to Richard Bleiler.

Posted By: Paul - Fri Apr 13, 2018 - Comments (3)
Category: Hygiene, Poetry, Nineteenth Century, Diseases, Teeth

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Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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