How to Write Funny?

I keep thinking about risk-taking in my poetry.  At Kundiman, after watching Regie Cabico and other poets read their work, I wanted to make people laugh, too.   I noticed that although Regie has me crying with laughter, his work is also incredibly tender and often leads to a sense of seriousness towards the end of the poem. I think that this is the best kind of funny poem; where the listener/audience experiences a complex range of emotions.  Check out this old Def Jam Poetry performance of his here.

To make someone laugh is an intimate action, even vulnerable (I think I heard someone say that once, but I forget who). I admire stand-up comedians in that way.  It’s all about timing, vulnerability and RISK (if they’re good comedians).  I think that as an artist in general it’s important to have a variety of work, in content, style, form and tone.  At readings, it’s nice to pull out a lighter poem in the midst of my darker work on the aswang.  Lately, I’ve been attempting to write funny poems riffing the mythological themes I’m sort of obssessed with.  Tons and tons of writers explore the myth of Persephone, and I started writing my own, which was a lot of fun.  I’ve also recently picked up an anthology of poems called SERIOUSLY FUNNY, edited by Barbara Hamby and David Kirby.  I like this poem by Charles Simic a lot, so far:

My Beloved

In the fine print of her face
Her eyes are two loopholes
No, let me start again.
Her eyes are flies in milk,
Her eyes are baby Draculas.

To hell with her eyes.
Let me tell you about her mouth.
Her mouth’s the red cottage
Where the wolf ate grandma.

Ah, forget about her mouth,
Let me talk of her breasts.
I get a peek at them now and then
And even that ‘s more than enough
To make me lose my head,
So I better tell you about her legs.

When she crosses them on the sofa
It’s like the jailer unwrapping a parcel
And in that parcel is a Christmas cake

And in that cake a sweet little file

That gasps her name as it files my chains.



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