2 jul. 2005

No, the lame "humor" issue of Poetry has nothing to do with poetry, or with the motto from Kenneth Koch I have on my blog. I have to second what Jordan says about this.

"The very existence of poetry should make us laugh." This is not laughing at the foibles of poets who use "workshop" as a verb. What is at stake is, rather, the joyous laughter that something so strange and wonderful should even exist at all. That is to say, we can imagine poetry not existing: that would be more plausible. Poetry is like something that doesn't have to exist, but, miraculously, does. We laugh in awe and amazement at this existence. It doesn't serve any ostensible purpose but we cannot do without it. We literally can't know what it's for, what it's all about. Maybe its purpose is to induce in us this very sentiment of awe. Kenneth Koch is known as a "humorous" poet but at his best his humor is of this very wise type. His observation is a very profound and serious one. "The Art of Poetry" is a great poem; very wise even in its seemingly spurious advice. (When he says that most people in a position to be judging poetry know nothing about it, that is very true; I'll get the exact quotation tomorrow I have to go to bed now.)

It may be fun to do humor ABOUT poetry and poets. I too laugh bitterly that people calling themselves poets would have so little sensitivity toward language that they would use "workshop" as a verb, meaning "to submit a poem to a group of people who know nothing about poetry in the hope that they will improve it.". See, that's funny, Ha Ha. But this is not the profound humor OF poetry. It's about as funny as jokes about dentists would be at the dentist convention. This is what Poetry will never understand.

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