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Humor for the Poetic Mind
When people see the words "funny" and "poem" together, it calls to mind greeting cards and dirty limericks. It is possible, however, to create quality poetry that is also humorous. The biggest worry when trying to incorporate humor is being cliche. I suggest if you can't write anything but cliches, that you use them in a different manner that is typical. Cliches are useful because they instantly call forth an image in your reader's mind. Don't be afraid to make them work for you.
At the same time, originality is VERY crucial in any poem, more so even than in fiction writing because you have so much to pack into a short space. See my hub on Enabling Erato for more about that.
The best place to start when creating witty poetry is your own experiences. This is also your best hope for originality so it works out rather well. The first thing is to decide the direction your work is going to take. (Not its eventual destination as this will just stunt the creation process.)
Rhyme is one of the best tools a poet can use to generate jocularity. (Say that five times fast and tell me it isn't funny.) Be careful your use of rhyme isn't too predictable unless you need that to stay within the form of the poem. Slant rhyme is consonance on the final consonants of the words involved and is incredibly useful. For example, Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite poets, wrote:Hope is the thing with feathersThat perches in the soul,And sings the tune without the words,And never stops at all Don't be tied down to the idea of "funny" either. Humor doesn't necessarily prevent a poem from being meaningful as you'll see here in Margaret Atwood's "Siren Song."
This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:
the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see the beached skulls
the song nobody knows
because anyone who has heard it
is dead, and the others can't remember.
Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?
I don't enjoy it here
squatting on this island
looking picturesque and mythical
with these two faethery maniacs,
I don't enjoy singing
this trio, fatal and valuable.
I will tell the secret to you,
to you, only to you.
Come closer. This song
is a cry for help: Help me!
Only you, only you can,
you are unique
at last. Alas
it is a boring song
but it works every time.
I've personally never been adept at being witty in my own scribbling, but I still periodically make the attempt. Things like:
Sold Down The River
with all due respect to hollow men, those booger-eaters
that drive away from gas pumps, slip
countless candy bars into purses and pockets,
never take the tab, and on the fourth
set off all those illegal rockets.
betrayal is not the sole property of action
This poem is obviously not even close to finished, but I wanted to give you a rough draft of some of my own work for an example. I find that humor in poems usually comes in the vehicle of one of five different varieties:
- Sly or Sarcastic
- Obvious or Knee-Slapping
- Subtle (obvious without being obvious)
- Witticisms (clever remarks that coincide with the circumstances)
Whatever your brand of funny, poetry's emotiveness can convey it to your readers. Remember, humor is universal and is unmatched in popularity.
Thoughts On Organized Religion
Yesterday, two young men in black and white
Knocked on my door, earnest and polite.
They offered (kindly) to save my soul
Excitedly, then, I replied
Just what was the value of a soul?
How do I spend mine?
Lease it out? Stocks to trade?
Do you have a soul-card?
What’s your interest rate?
I heard about a guy who sold his on e-bay.
“No way!” said they, and left in such a lurch,
That Sunday, curious, I took myself to church.
Pastor’s preachy preamble proclaimed
Vanity’s curse, and, seeing the congregation
An intense retinue of rolling rogation,
I had to concur.
“Amen!” yelled a sister in glasses (It’s the thing to do)
While nodding her blue-haired head up in the third pew.
The woman to the left of me can’t stay sitting down.
(Always leaping up, it’s as if she’s seated on a tack.)
And I think you’d agree if God were here he’d be as
Asleep as the fat guy in the back.
The usher shook it so hard in my face, I dug out
Fifty cents and dropped it in the plate
The offering went around one more time
(or maybe just a few)
So I collected on my investment
(that’s what good business people do)
And Glory be! Hallelujah! Religion Rocks! Hooray!
I’d recommend it to anyone!
I made forty bucks today!