Poetry Thursday: Humor
Posting a little early for Poetry Thursday, but wanting to make sure it's up. This week's assignment was to share something about poetry and humor.
For me, this goes back to one of my earliest influences, Richard Brautigan. For my high school graduation, my favorite English teacher gave me a number of books of poetry, including Brautigan's Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork. She calibrated my sense of humor and my testoterone perfectly in making this selection, knowing that his work would trip my trigger. And it did for a number of years, and naturally, I wrote lots of Brautigan-lite lyrics. Here's one of those I wrote:
Writing a Poem at 6:00 a.m. While My Lover Fondles my Penis
I have two choices.
* * * *
Fortunately, I got over that soon enough, but I've always kept alive that little smart ass for my poetry. My favorite "humorous" poet is Denise Duhamel (and yes, she's one of my pals), and I've gone on and on about her elsewhere on my blog. What I adore about her humor is that it's not mean-spirited. Neither do her poems rely on a kind of smug cleverness that puts me off--that's why I can't stand Billy Collins. But I've ranted on him, too.
For a more substantial humorous poem, I'm sharing the following poem. It was triggered after I wrote Denise that I didn't win a grant, for which she had written me a recommendation. I put it rather goofily, and she asked if she could use that sentence for a title of a poem. I said only if I could write a poem with that title, too.
Upon Hearing that My Grant Application Was Passed Over and the Winner Was a Bio-Tech Professor Who Has Designed Genetically-Altered Protein for Buckwheat Seed
Okay, call me Sylvia Plath. I wanted that award,
the crystal glass eagle, the pendant, the certificate,
the lapel pin, the thousand bucks, and the parking space
next to the university president's spot: the whole
platinum and sapphire tiara. I knew I should have
written that poem on the manipulations
of amino acid balance in buckwheat seed proteins.
I knew I should have named that new genetic
strand Omicron-Brockide-32, should have brokered
the patent rights to Monsanto, let them spread the seed
of my pumped-up, high-octane, drought-tolerant,
to sub-Sahara Africa and southern Mongolia.
One year later, then, I would have written
the grant report, presented it to the committee
on PowerPoint, and finished off my presentation
with a streaming video clip, showing some adolescent
boy, from Gambia, say, and he would be eating
my buckwheat flat bread, and there he would be,
digitalized, smiling, full and muscular. Yes,
and at that moment, vindicated and wise,
teary-eyed and generous, the grant committee
would gather and lift me on their shoulders, laughing
and singing, joyful for all the corporate sponsorships that
would follow me and bless our humble home
institution. For me, dare I dream further confirmations?
O, to be Nationally Endowed, Guggenheimed, Nobelled!
Of course, in Gambia, and other geographies
beneath the sweep and hoozah of fellowships
and announcements in The Chronicle of Higher Education,
the newly nourished could be striking the flint
of their first syllables of their first poems, poems
whose phrases-under the most subdued of flames-would
coolly scorch and burn our best American intention.
* * * *
To read Denise's version, you can find it at Caffeine Destiny--just scroll down beyond my poem, and you'll read her take on it.