Long considered to be the worst poet ever to come from the British Isles, Colin Gilfeather Millaney was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1850. His father, Glenpaithe “The Butcher” Millaney, was a part-time pick-pocket and confidence man, while his mother, Constant Patience, was a chicken plucker. Millaney had no formal training, no ear nor any real aptitude toward poetry, however he showed a profound proclivity for whining at an early age and composed (what he called) his first poem, “More Milk Please Mother”, at the age of five. His maternal grandmother, known only as Boot, did not approve of Colin’s preoccupation with “poetry” and she would beat the child anytime he attempted a rhyming couplet, or used dramatic irony. It is said that she especially disliked limericks. Duly chastised, Millaney abandoned–and forgot–about poetry, and he did not take it up again until several decades later, and even then, against his will.
While his poetry was generally reviled by the public, and he was frequently assaulted both in the streets and at recitals with rotten vegetables, he did have some degree of success with his book of rhymes published in London by Peter Barnard Books in 1919. Entitled “Out Of Me Head”, the book sold well, mostly to people who purchased it for kindling, or toilet paper (it did not hurt matters that Peter Bernard also ran a timber mill). The Times of London called it “less a book of poems and more a litany of complaints set to rhyme.” Poems include: “Old Bastard Sun”, “The New Livery Stable Has Blocked My View Of The Meadow”, “Barman, Give Me My Change”, “Who Stole My News-Paper?” and “The Stone in the Road”, which recounted his tripping on a small onyx stone in the street, injuring his knee, and issuing a harsh tongue-lashing at the man to whom the stone belonged.
As stated, Millaney’s recitals were often dangerous affairs where refuse and verbal assaults flew like flies around a dung heap. Millaney soon had to take to carrying an umbrella with him where ever he traveled, rain or shine, simply to defend himself from hurled garbage. Despite the utter disregard – and often-times outright violent – public response to his verse, Millaney never lost faith in the fact that he’d been touched by the Muse, and that he was simply misunderstood in his time. He was so devoted to his Muse that he often would forget to bathe or wash his clothing, and was arrested on more than one occasion for vagrancy. He moved to Liverpool in his early twenties, under somewhat cloudy circumstances, where he met and married Edith Vile, an illiterate scrub-woman, who devoted her life to taking care of “her Colin.”
Their marriage was a happy one despite the fact that Millaney was often distant and cold towards her. “Oh do be quiet woman! I must always be attuned to the gentle whisperings of my Muse,” he would often scold her. From all accounts, Edith was a long-suffering companion who worked hard to support the family, and was his fiercest defender against all accusations about the quality of Millaney’s poetry. “I’m just a simple soul,” she is rumored to have said, “I don’t understand poetry or free verse, or haiku or iambic pentameter, or memoriam stanza, or Horatian Ode or nothin’ like that – but I love me my man, and I stand by him – and I’ll put my boot up your dirt box if you speak ill of him!” It’s not known if Millaney ever held a proper job, although papers do list him as having received five pound/ten shilling in 1903 for “services rendered” at Her Majesty’s Human Reproductive Assurance Facility.
Millaney was deemed unfit to serve in the British army in its fight during World War One, and so he spent the first few years of the war penning anti-war poems and opinion pieces to the newspapers denouncing the war, as it caused a shortage of paper which he needed to pen his anti-war poems and opinion pieces. A surprising event occurred in 1919, when Millaney was invited to tour the United States to read from “Out Of Me Head”, which had somehow found an American publisher. This ended in tragedy however: due to a mix-up at the publishing house it seems that the poems contained within the book belonged not to Millaney, but to a fledgling young poet named Edna St. Vincent Millay. Although the event did procure him a writing assignment (penning a slogan for Pabst Beer), a humiliated Millaney returned to England and, for the most part, was never heard-from again.
In 1932, after his death (at the age of 82) from a rare nail disease, twenty-eight boxes filled with his “complaints set to verse,” various op-ed pieces and artistic scribblings were discovered in the attic of his Liverpool home, which had been condemned by the city council.
– Jim Yoakum, Archivest of the Colin Millaney Trust
(c) 2017 Jim Yoakum
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PS: This is a humor site. Colin Millaney does not, and never did, exist except in my fevered imagination.