From Charlie Sheen to Tom Waits: Five Celebrity Poets to Enjoy or Ridicule

When it was announced a few week that none other than Tom Waits would be collaborating with the University of Texas press to publish a collection of Waits's poetry on hobos (Hard Ground), the typical response was "Oh, of course Tom Waits is publishing hobo poetry. What else would he do with his free time?" Writing poetry is the natural progression for celebrities that fashion themselves the jack-of-all-trades raconteur type. While composing verse on presumably the range of vessels from which hobos drink whiskey from, Waits will be in good company.  Here are four other celebs who have succeeded and failed at rhymes and verse.

Garrison Keillor

Not content with his Lake Woebegone empire, the public radio gadfly released a collection of his own poetry (77 Love Sonnets) in 2009. This wasn't any old book of poems, however. This was 77 of Keillor's best erotic poetry. Bucking traditional wisdom that The Prarie Home Companion proprietor's name and erotic don't belong in the same sentence, Keillor's compositions were suitably folksy and sexy. Take this excerpt from "Room 704", a sonnet about the nuances of baking rhubarb pie. (Just kidding, it's really about eating pussy!)

A young woman sings the aria of burning love-- 
Her lover's head between her legs, her feet on his back,
 And she is singing for pleasure, while outside
 The streets are cleaned, construction is on track, 
The buses come on time and people board and ride

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Yes, now you will always associate cunnilingus with your great aunt's favorite bluegrass-tinged radio show host. At least it finally makes sense why he's so damn perky for someone who lives in Minnesota.

Charlie Sheen

Making fun of Charlie Sheen in this day and age is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, or physically abusing a prostitute while strung out on coke in a tiny hotel room, as the case may be for Charlie. In the early 1990s, however, the most humiliating things Sheen had to deal with was his poetic endeavors. Check out an excerpt from his poem "Teacher":
 

...Teacher, teacher, I don't understand, 
You tell me it's like the back of my hand. 
Should I play guitar and join the band?
 Or head to the beach and walk in the sand?


Mister Sheen should be commended for wrestling with the ever-difficult 'a/a/a/a' rhyme scheme, even if his fixation on rebelling against teachers seems more in tune with a hormonal adolescent than a movie star. (Though we guess acting like a hormonal adolescent has always been Sheen's MO). If anything, the guidance of a teacher might have steered Charlie down a less rocky road, or at the very least a more difficult rhyme scheme.

Billy Corgan

The bald king of 1990s alt-rock threw his hat into the celebrity poetry ring with 2004's Blinking With Fists. Corgan's poetry suffers due to his background as a lyricist. What seems beautiful and poetic while sung can come off a juvenile when read off of a page, as seen in Corgan's aptly titled "Poetry of My Heart."

Revealing now the poetry of my heart

Think birds in flight and you will start to come close
 
As faces come from the darkness familiar

To greet you hello again

They pluck those strings and sing those refrains I know so

well, and hold so close 


Now follow these birds faithfully, keeping those faces in mind

Though silly and maudlin as a poem, if one were to take this as a song, it would seem no different from any of the others in Corgan's Smashing Pumpkin's oeuvre. We suggest trying to duplicate Billy's nasally falsetto by pinching your nose and belting this out to the tune of "Tonight, Tonight." You could practically mistake it for a Siamese Dream B-side.

Kanye West

Surprisingly enough, the subject of Kanye West's poem "Bitter Sweet" was none other than West himself. Though this 2006 performance actually seems quaint compared to the Kanye of today.


West would perform this poem on a fighter jet, which would in turn be firebombing the estates of Maya Angelou and anyone else who stands in his way of being greatest poet of all time. Jay-Z idolatry aside, West should be commended for composing a poem that isn't too embarrassing. It's certainly better than most of

808's and Heartbreak

.


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