Joyce Kilmer Memorial Bad Poetry Contest
The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Bad Poetry Contest has been hosted annually by the Philolexian Society since 1986, drawing crowds of 200-300 students and participants vying for the title "Poet Laureate" of the Society. Members of the Columbia community are invited to present original works of "bad poetry" before an audience of their peers, and a panel of judges consisting of members of the Columbia faculty.
The contest is typically held in mid-November and heralded by the appearance of the distinctive Bad Poetry in Motion flyers around campus, which feature excerpts from memorable poems from throughout the contest's history. Many alumni of the Society also attend the event, which the Society treats as an unofficial gala, with current members often adopting an optional 'formal' dress code. There is no actual dress code however, and attendees are welcome in any manner of dress.
The Poetry Contest is dedicated to the memory of poet and Columbia alumnus (and one-time Philolexian vice president) Joyce Kilmer CC 1908. Best known for his work "Trees", Kilmer was unabashedly romantic and sentimental, and his poetry was disparaged by contemporary and later critics. However, "Trees" has endured in popularity, and served as the basis for innumerable parodies. Each year the contest ends with a reading of "Trees."
Recent winning poems have been posted online on Philo's blog:
During an episode of the television show Castle, the title character's daughter, a Columbia student, informs him that she met her new boyfriend at "the annual bad poetry contest, right before Thanksgiving."
- Worst Poetry in the World Draws Crowd, Columbia Spectator, November 16, 2007
- Forensic Poets are on the scene, The Bwog, November 16, 2007
- No Frosts Allowed, The Bwog, November 18, 2006
- The Worst Poet at Columbia, and Proud of It, Columbia Spectator, December 3, 2003
- Letters to the Editor: Article about Bad Poetry Contest Contained Several Small Mistakes, Columbia Spectator, December 3, 2002
- Only CU Students Can Make Bad Poe-Tree, Columbia Spectator, November 25, 2002
- Poets Perform in Off-Beat Event, Columbia Spectator, December 1, 2000
- About New York; No, Not a Curse But a Jersey Prize For Worst Verse, New York Times, December 5, 1987
- Castle, Season 5, Episode 9, "Secret Santa" (Aired: 3 Dec 2012) at approx. the 20 min mark. According to the by-laws of the Society, this makes Alexis Castle a lifetime member of the Society.