Saturday, September 25, 2010

Seriously Funny Poetry, Seriously

Funny isn't often the first word people think of when they hear poetry. If they do, they are typically thinking of children's poetry and cute rhyming verses. Poetry has the unfortunate stereotype that it is all about sadness, death, love, and sometimes nature. This is anything, but true, and it's proven in a recently published anthology titled Seriously Funny: Poems About Love, Death, Religion, Art, Politics, Sex and Everything Else.

I was drawn to this anthology because it is edited by two Florida State University professors (David Kirby and Barbara Hamby). I got my MFA from FSU and took three courses with David Kirby and he served on my thesis committee. I love Kirby's poetry, and since leaving FSU, I have seen the positive influence he has had on my work.

I don't often read anthologies cover to cover and in order, but this one I did. It is over 400 pages and includes a wide range of poets (famous and emerging, dead and alive). The idea here is that these poems are funny, but also serious in some way. They use humor in wonderful and surprising ways. The editors write in the introduction, "we're not looking for funny poems; we're looking for seriously funny poems, ones that evoke poetry's timeless concerns but include a comic element as well." They found plenty and many are by my favorite poets.

I've always been interested in using humor in my work, and anyone who has read much of my poetry hopefully has seen that. Humor works very well when paired with the serious or life concerns that much of poetry is about.

The anthology is nicely put together because it is divided into various sections by theme. For example, the first section is on one of my favorite topics: "Poetry and Pop Culture." This section also begins with Frank O'Hara's "Poem (Lana Turner Has Collapsed)." Other sections are about sex, friendship, religion, America, and almost any topic out there, which makes the anthology quite diverse and fun to read.

When I was at FSU, I taught a pop culture poetry course for freshmen and this book would have been perfect for it. As I was reading, I was wishing I could teach that class now and share these poems with new fresh minds, but I can't, so I'm writing this post in hopes that my readers will go buy this anthology. If you aren't overly familiar with contemporary poetry, this is a great book to get and to read cover to cover. It will give you a sense of what is happening in poetry today. Some of the poems are from the 1950s and 60s, but most are more recent and by living poets. Some of my favorites include Charles Harper Webb, Tony Hoagland, Josh Bell, Denise Duhamel, Nin Andrews, Dean Young, Bob Hicok, Paul Guest, Steve Fellner, Jason Bredle, and of course David Kirby and Barbara Hamby who both have fine poems included.

Many anthologies are disappointing or only have a few worthy poems, but this one is fantastic and well worth the money and the time. It will have you laughing, but also thinking.

-Stephen (Seriously)


  1. When I was still working at Valencia Winter Park, Tony Hoagland came and gave a reading. I really enjoyed his poetry a lot. I even got a signed copy of his book.

  2. Once again you put a gun to my head and force me to spend my hard-earned money on ANOTHER book.

    I'm the opposite on anthologies, though. I love being introduced to a plethora of new poets. It's rare that I read a solo-book of poetry from cover to cover (sigh. I know. Bad Bryan) but I tend to devour anthologies from the front page to the last.

    Also, did you know you texted me a couple of nights ago long after I'd gone to bed? Something about being drunk and impregnating a drag queen?

  3. Bryan,

    It's a great anthology and you will like it, so it is worth your hard earned money. Tell your man I am sorry for starving him.

    I do recall texting you and you not responding, haha.