WRITING poetry, it has to be said, is not one of my fortes as a writer (neither is prose, regular readers might argue). I was reminded of the former during one of my perennial attempts to declutter the loft and discovering a batch of my teenage love poetry – variable verse that rather than wooing the opposite sex had them hotfooting it in the other direction.

As bad as my risible rhyming couplets might be, it turns out that there are poets out there who are even worse. This coming Wednesday, Salisbury poetry group Poetika plays host to J Alfred Prufrock, the alter-ego of poet Stewart Taylor, who won the 2016 Anti-Slam National Final to be officially declared the UK’s worst poet. Prufrock’s biography claims that ‘through his poetry he seeks to understand the pain and joy of experience, to explore in all its fullness the human condition, and what might rhyme with it.’ It could be a long night.

J Alfred Prufrock is the latest in a roll call of writers whose sheer awfulness created a sort of inverse notoriety. Back in Victorian times, the self-styled Bard of Dundee, William McGonagall, was widely considered to be the worst poet in the country. Audiences would pay five shillings to ‘enjoy’ a public recital of his work, where they would openly jeer his work, showering him with handfuls of peas or rotten vegetables they’d brought along specially for the occasion.

Not that poets have a monopoly on bad writing. One of McGonagall’s contemporaries was the novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who in 1830 began his novel Paul Clifford with the infamous opening line: ‘It was a dark and stormy night’. Today, there is an annual Bulwer-Lytton Prize for writers to come up with the worst possible beginning for a book. ‘Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine,’ one recent winner wrote, ‘chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing mound of forgotten memories.’ Following Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the Irish writer Amanda McKittrick Ros wrestled the worst writer crown for herself – an achievement made all the more impressive given her unwavering belief in her own abilities. In Ros’ world, eyes were ‘globes of glare’, trousers ‘the southern necessity’, and critics of her work ‘genius scathers’; the Inklings, the Oxford groups of writers that included CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, held regular Ros reading competitions, in which the winner was the person who could read her novels out loud for the longest without laughing.

All of which seems to suggest that when it comes to writing immortality, if you can’t be good, be awful.

Poetika (www.poetika.org.uk) is on Wednesday, July 19, 7.30pm at the Cloisters, 83 Catherine Street.