A Little, Very Little, Humor and Poetry: Poetry Thursday

Thank you, Maggie Ward, for introducing me to Richard Brautigan when I was a 16-year-old kid in Boise, Idaho.

Yes, Brautigan is something of a lightweight poet, a kind of hippie and hormonal Henny Youngman of a poet. (This image is of Youngman, by the way, so very not Brautigan.) Anyway, she gave me a copy of his Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork, and I delighted at his one joke, haiku-ish poems. And I realized I could readily write that kind of poetry, too--all it needed was a irreverence and punch. Here's one such example I wrote, probably when I was 17:

Writing a Poem While My Love Fondles My Penis at 6:00 a.m.

I have two choices.

* * * * *

Well, you get the idea. But as such, Brautigan's work was a great introduction to me about how some poetry can operate like a really good joke, in which you have to get the audience to participate, to fill in the gaps, and in which you have to use language most economically, and in which you have to rely on the most concrete and ordinary of images.

Of course, I kind of grew out of that stage, wanting to throw in more into my poetry, and so I've more or less abandoned those one-joke poems, though I do see that on occasion, that irreverent streak will appear. Often, I'll choose to use humor to deepen a fairly serious poem, to get at a scathing point that only a good laugh can expose. But even so, I'll go back to something like that Brautigan moment, where I must indulge in that simple, single joke that arrives from the most simple, immediate, and unadorned observation.

Here's such an example from a collaboration between me and my son (then 13-years-old):

Gallup, New Mexico

Carson buys a turtle man
doll from a Navajo girl
at the Mexican buffet
diner. The food is
bad. Jim says,
“I think the turtle man
is the Navajo spirit for
Death to the White Man.”
Carson says, “That’s
okay. I’m buying it
for my sister.”

* * * * *


I will chk out Richard Brautigan. I never heard of him before this. Entirely my loss.

I like the collaborative poem.

Eric said…
Well done. The actions of sibling relationships is always ripe for humor be poetry or any other genre! Thanks for sharing your work.
Dave said…
I love it!
Clare said…
I really enjoyed reading this Jim. And like Gautami said, I also will check out Richard Brautigan. Your 6:00 a.m. joke is hysterical. And the Gallup, New Mexico one totally cracked me up.
jim said…
Gracias, to all.

I actually have more serious, fully developed comedic pieces, but sometimes a one-liner will do just as well.
Rethabile said…
This one-liner does do well, Jim. Gra├žias to you.
ren.kat said…
buh dum pum. Or however your spell that.

Thanks for pointing out Brautigan. My knowledge of full-out comedic poems stops with Ogdan Nash.
(Although, yes, I know very well who O'Flannery is. That was a joke.)
paris parfait said…
The collaboration with your son is clever.
Gino said…
Hehehe. I loved both of those.
January said…
I like your "love" poem. Reminds me of a poem I wrote a while back.

Your son's timing is right one in the second poem. Is he still good with the zingers now that he's older? Must have learned that from his dad.
January said…
Meant to write "on" instead of "one."
jim said…

Great prompt, as it made the week a little lighter for me.
jim said…

Got it, barely.
jim said…

By far, the best nuts poem I have ever, ever read!
Writer on Board said…
You're being fondled by your lover and writing a poem? And there's a choice to be made? Man, you are a poet! And the poem by you and your son? Hilarious! I laughed out loud. Gracias to you, Jim.
bookbinds said…
The poem with you and your son was laugh out loud funny ;)