Daljit Nagra - 4 April 2011
Why is comic verse seen as light verse? Can comic verse be heavier than 'serious verse'? Should comic verse have a strong rhythm and rhyme? Can comic verse foreground strong ideas that allow comedy to issue forth or must comic poems simply state a simple idea so we all get the joke? Should there be a joke? Have you written comic verse and how comic was it?
I'm troubled, as you can tell by my introduction, about comic verse. Comic verse gets bad press because rigid notions of comedy foreground throwaway poems.
Surely the best comedy is when the poem surprises us into laughter rather than setting up the expectation of laughter. The former leads to a complex self-evaluation whilst the latter leads to our judgement about whether the poet delivered the gag.
What sorts of poems have you read that made you laugh unexpectedly because they communicated a deep truth in yourself about something that may actually be serious?
Some of my favourite funny poems by two contemporary poets are Jo Shapcott's Mad Cow poems, her English Woman poem, and Paul Muldoon's goofing around with political, historical and cultural information. Both of these poets write serious poems but I think it may be the shock in the stories or the linguistic play that unsettles and surprises.
I'd be glad to hear of your ideas about how comedy can be found in unusual places. Or I'd love to hear your thoughts about what you think comedy is or should be in verse.