My favorite story of the week proves that poetry need not always be moping about over lost love, or waxing ecstatic about a new sweetheart.
Sometimes poetry can strike at the weak underbelly of tyrants, and expose them to well-deserved ridicule. It’s a story that should warm the hearts of freedom-loving people everywhere.
A few weeks ago, the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, blew a gasket over an offensive poem about him read on German TV by a German comedian.
Like tyrants everywhere, Erdogan just can’t take a joke.
He demanded Germany prosecute the comedian. As unbelievable as it sounds to us in America, where we enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the Bill of Rights, German Prime Minister Angel Merkel called for the German comedian to be charged under German law.
In response to the think-skinned Turkish dictator, and the weak-kneed German prime minister, the British publication, the Spectator, ran a poetry contest. The rules: basically, the best dirty limerick lampooning Erdogan wins.
There are a lot of political subtexts going on in this story, and you can read more about here. In short, Turkey had once shown promise of evolving into a free, western-style democracy, but Erdogan has been amassing power, and is turning the country into an Islamist dictatorship, where blasphemers are punished, and objective journalists are jailed.
This is especially relevant as Turkey lobbies to join the European Union, while at the same time becoming more like a sharia-governed caliphate everyday.
The colorful and wild-haired Johnson, while retired as mayor, is currently leading the fight to get Britain out of the EU, and could run a strong campaign to be the next Prime Minister. He reportedly dashed off his winning entry during and interview. The poem got entered, and subsequently was named the winner.
For posterity, and the historical record, here is the text of Johnson’s prize-winning poem
There was a young fellow from Ankara
Who was a terrific wankerer
Till he sowed his wild oats
With the help of a goat
But he didn’t even stop to thankera.
Now, whatever you think about good taste, you’ve got to admit that’s one darn good dirty limerick.
Stephen Murray, the British writer and free-speech-advocate, who created the contest had this to say:
“I think it is a wonderful thing that a British political leader has shown that Britain will not bow before the putative Caliph in Ankara. Erdogan may imprison his opponents in Ankara. Chancellor Merkel may imprison Erdogan’s critics in Germany. But in Britain we still live and breathe free. We need no foreign potentate to tell us what we may think or say. And we need no judge (especially no German judge) to instruct us over what we may find funny.”
Amen. God save the Queen. And don’t tread on me.