"Trying to print light verse in this country nowadays is like trying to peddle mink coats at a convention of militant ecologists."
X.J. Kennedy, Parnassus 21, nos1 & 2
"By the third stanza, the dark side of the mind has to come in–or it’s not a poem. So, light verse is not poetry at all. Cheerful poetry is not poetry at all."
Robert Bly, RTE Radio 1, June 2006
"We are a country of a millions of fools, who believe the most imbecile things about ourselves and the world, but when it comes to poetry only solemnity counts and joking is un-American."
Charles Simic, The Paris Review, Spring 2005
What do you think? Can real poetry be funny?
I say yes. I’ve never been a fan of nonsense poetry–probably because I like logic, orderliness…but funny poetry is fabulous. Are you really going to tell J. Patrick Lewis, Doulas Florian (who’s now blogging!), or Billy Collins that they’re not poets because they’re too funny?
I don’t understand why every other form (song, short story, movie, etc.) can have any mood–funny, dramatic, dark–and the form itself is not called into question. People accept that a song can be any mood. So can a short story or a novel. But with poetry, many people feel if it’s not serious, it’s not poetry.
I’m the first to admit that my absolute favorite poems are ones that make me catch my breath and see something in a totally new way. They make me ask questions or visualize things and tend to be more descriptive or narrative. BUT, funny poems are great, too. Puns, wordplay, made-up words…when poets use these skillfully, the result is poetry–that happens to be funny!
What do you think? Is poetry by definition serious?