As you read these, part of you thinks: Are these slightly better than Ashbery, or slightly worse?
It depends on how you read them.
If one found these poems in a magazine, and they were meant to be parody, they would be good. If they were not meant to be parody, they would be bad.
Since they have been entered into this contest, we must assume they are meant to be parody, and so, they are good.
Yet within the context of 'the contest,' if they are 'good,' then they are supposed to be 'bad.'
This up to voters to deside. In related Pavel Jerdanowitch Painting Contest
the best paody was selected as the worst painting.
We agree, then. I wrote, "It depends on how you read them." You write, "This is up to the voters to decide." Quite true.
I wouldn't know what the 'worst painting' is. How could we know? The parody curve will never match 'the worst' curve. This is a convenience of thinking that simply will not serve or fit.
Depending on how the voters judge, one might be looking for the bad done well, or the good done badly; but there will always be this tension between bad and good, between expectation and result, which always exists, no matter what kind of art we are looking at, masterpiece, or scribble.
Because this 'tension' exists, because there is always a good pole opposing a bad pole in any human enterprise, hoaxers like Paul Jordan-Smith will come along, create a persona--he's French! He's mad! He's an expatriate! He has TB! embarrass the Modernists, and then be forgotten.
The biography of the artist, as well as the biography of the critic and the taste-maker, will forever shape art and the reputation of art and artists.
Let us say there was a contest: who can make the worst chair? Some voters would vote a pile of sticks as the worst chair. But others would say, but a pile of sticks is not 'the worst chair' because it is not a chair at all. Yet, the voters who voted for the pile of sticks will say, isn't the 'worst chair' the chair that is not a chair at all? And the 'Pile of Sticks' school, I suspect, will always reign triumphant for its 'common sense,' its 'sense of realism' and its 'wit.'
This 'worst chair' contradiction is one which I think lies at the center of Modernism, but unfortunately for the Modernists, for them it is an unconscious contradiction, thus making them very sure of themselves in their awfulness.
A parody project is the easiest way to achieve short-term artistic merit and the quickest way to plunder free capital which sustains it. Woe to a society whose best art becomes the best (in all senses) parody.
The best way to escape and gain true artistic merit is, I am going to guess, through an amoral attempt at parody-within-parody-within-parody.