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Poetry and the Human Condition: Humor.
Laughter is the best medicine they say.
Poetry has addressed all facets of the human condition.
Good poetry still finds its way into print these days. But seldom does great poetry become published any more.
There is a multitude of reasons for this, most of them are obvious.-, and I'll let you figure them out. One big reason is that there is little or no reward, apart from personal satisfaction, for the poet, or 'pote, as they are fondly called.
This was not always the case: poets of the 18th and 19th Century could sell their great works or publish them in the journals and papers of the day. Some became great friends to the high and mighty; others - like Byron and Browning - became almost worshipped for their pungent satire. Even more - like seedy Keats or the poor, doomed Shelley - for their unbeatable, searing lyricism and the list goes on.
Other great poets, like Shakespeare himself, undisputed master of the great sonnets, back in the 16th Century, combined all the elements of the human condition: philosophy, sex, drama, love, war, pain and loss, until his marvellous prose and poetry became writ in stone, as much changing the way humans think, as in merely entertaining them.
Some of the best poetry for me looks at the human condition with its humorous hat well in place. It lampoons sacred cows; makes us see the ridiculous side to what all too many Homo sapiens frown over. It does that huge favor to many just making it through another, wearying, boring day in a life which offers no escape and little surcease. Like finding a nugget on the pavement, they find a few words of verse which set them back on their heels, tears streaming down their face, and a huge belly-laugh catching them unawares.
The poet, perhaps writing many years ago: from his garret, or even a prison cell, his own short hairs erect and groin tingling, as he is caught by the truth and humor of the scene he describes, has indeed left us an image worth just as much as that gold nugget.
I am afraid I lack the power and literary sense to produce great humorous poetry like a few I could name. But here are a few light verses from "Charged Particles " which I hope you enjoy and crack a smile at the very least, as at least one of these embarrassing incidents will have happened to all.
As you scan the first piece, think to yourself, hey, this could easily be true.
The Gas that Saved the World!
They were gathered in the war-room,
Faces tense and grim.
He had his hand above a button;
All the others stared at him.
Then a voice came through the speaker:
"They've launched, they've launched," it cried,
That only gives us five short minutes,
Before we're incinerated; fried!
"That's it, dear friends, Amuricans,
Let's give the swine what for."
His hand descended to the button,
Stopped by a squishy roar!
"I beg your pardon," gushed the VP,
"It must have been those beans!"
The look the president gave him,
He'll remember in his dreams.
Just then another scream was heard:
"Hold it, hold your fire!"
It's not the Chinese ICBM's.
The damn computer's crossed a wire!"
So though they kept it from the public,
(The CIA had played their part).
There was this explosive moment,
The world was rescued by a fart!
Many of us have suffered that agonizing moment when we can’t hold back the smelly or noisy effluent of our digestive systems...like when we were in church!?
With a dinosaur-like roar,
From my lungs the sneeze tore.
Up my throat and down my nose:
In the church the faithful froze.
Thank de Lawd I’m on my knees;
The Devil take that bloody sneeze!
Although I prayed and called His name,
With a blast another came!
How I fought that evil itch,
Until my nose began to twitch.
Strained and hoped; held my breath;
Cried and prayed for early death!
Just when I thought, deep inside,
I’d felt that awful itch subside.
There came a roar that broke my heart:
The devil won, he made me fart!
Well, that’s the atishoo and the fart covered. Another, perhaps lesser offence (unless you are real close Uggghhh!) is addressed in verse.
Life can be a Gas
So impatient to be free,
The burp had scant regard for me.
Though I sternly bid him “Nay!”
He left my stomach anyway.
Left my belly; up the spout:
The burp burst forth with joyful shout!
The whole distinguished company
Turned around to stare at me.
“Pardon” I smiled, with outward calm,
(But firm resolve to do him harm!)
Which I did directly, when -
I hiccoughed him in again!
So poems can be “funny” and understood immediately like those above. They can also combine clever (I hope) construction and produce an image in the reader’s mind so he/she thinks, “Hey, that’s right, it’s just like that!”
Getting close to a London Urinal.
Geometric curve reads
“Here to serve.”
Made to last of
You’ve got class!
Finally and with no offence intended to our Asian immigrants in the UK - rather, a compliment, comes a poem which laughs ruefully as “Third World” nations start to do what we do and want what we want. I am sure North Americans can apply the focus of the UK’s protagonists somewhere south? Some words US readers might not know are starred and explained.
The Indian Invasion!
Just to show it’s not a joke;
There’s life left in the great white hope,
Come and take a little ride -
After all, a white man’s pride?
There was a time, not long ago,
When Anglos wrote the books, you know.
An Indian chappie’s clam to fame,
Was flogging carpets down the ‘Lane *
Or duelling with his snicker-snee *
To become the prince of duty-free.
Not to write like Browning; Poe.
That’s reserved for us, you know.
Or so we though; the white man’s curse,
May yet be found in Parsee verse! *
Is this what Clive had battled for? *
As he languished down in Raipur? *
Did he conquer all in such a hurry,
To teach swart scribes who smell of curry?
We’ve accepted cricket; Vindaloo *
But writers? Just like me and you!?
Lane... Petticoat Lane Market London
Parsee... Zorostrian tribe India
Clive...Clive of India who secured India for the British crown.
Raipur... Capital Chhattisgarth state India
Vindaloo... Curry dish Goa area India