Seven at the Golden Ager’s Shovel

July 12, 2006

This month’s edition of Poetry magazine is the humor issue. Much of the contents are a demonstration that, even for pretty good poets, funny isn’t easy.

John Updike’s dry, wry, appreciative account of a colonoscopy is as neatly observed as you’d expect. X. J. Kennedy, a serious poet who does make funny seem easy, serves up a slick collection of “Famous Poems Abbreviated”. For instance:

Of man’s first disobedience, and its fruit
Scripture has told. No need to follow suit.

Rebecca Hoogs penned my favorite, Another Plot Cliche, which I will refrain from quoting in full only to stay within bounds of fair use. Instead of grasping for the laugh track, it exhibits a clear eyed, rueful humor.

Another Plot Cliché
by Rebecca Hoogs

My dear, you are the high-speed car chase, and I,
I am the sheet of glass being carefully carried
across the Street by two employees of Acme Moving
who have not parked on the right side
because the plot demands that they make
the perilous journey across traffic,
and so they are cursing as rehearsed
as they angle me into the street…

I know i’m done for; there’s only one street
on this set and you’ve got a stubborn streak a mile long.
I can smell the smoke already.
No matter, I’d rather shatter
than be looked through all day. So come careening. I know
you’ve other clichés to hammer home: women with groceries
to send spilling, canals to leap as the bridge is rising.
And me? I’m so through. I’ve got a thousand places to be.

Finally, this is the one piece that had me laughing out loud. (You may find its revered model here.)

We Old Dudes
by Joan Murray

We old dudes. We
White shoes. We

Golf ball. We
Eat mall. We

Soak teeth. We
Palm Beach; We

Vote red. We
Soon dead.


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