Seriously Funny: Poems about Love, Death, Religion, Art, Politics, Sex, and Everything Else

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Can serious poetry be funny? Chaucer and Shakespeare would say yes, and so do the authors of these 187 poems that address timeless concerns but that also include comic elements.

Beginning with the Beats and the New York School and continuing with both marquee-name poets and newcomers, Seriously Funny ranges from poems that are capsized by their own tomfoolery to those that glow with quiet wit to ones in which a laugh erupts in the midst of terrible darkness.

Most of the selections were made in the editors’ battered compact car, otherwise known as the Seriously Funny Mobile Unit. During the two years in which Barbara Hamby and David Kirby made their choices, they’d set out with a couple of boxes of books in the back seat, and whoever wasn’t driving read to the other. When they found that a poem made both of them think but laugh as well, they earmarked it.

Readers will find a true generosity in these poems, an eagerness to share ideas and emotions and also to entertain. The singer Ali Farka Touré said that honey is never good when it’s only in one mouth, and the editors of Seriously Funny hope its readers find much to share with others.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"From Frank O’Hara’s ‘Poem (Lana Turner Has Collapsed!)’ and John Ashbery’s ‘Daffy Duck in Hollywood’ to a host of younger poets now writing ‘seriously funny’ poems, this anthology argues eloquently that poetry is not just the equivalent of somber personal reflection, that indeed from Chaucer to the present, humor, irony, satire, and play are as integral to poetry as they are to narrative prose. Turning the pages of this generous anthology, you will smile and chuckle—and also weep!”—Marjorie Perloff, author of Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media

“I loved this book. From its mouth-watering table of contents to its last eccentric, splendid poem, Kirby and Hamby have put paid to the notion that serious poetry can’t have a sense of humor. When people ask me to recommend something good to read that’s both thought provoking and irresistibly entertaining, poetry anthologies don’t generally come to mind. This one will.”—Nancy Pearl, author of Book Lust

“During a time when so many of our poets seem afflicted by mere self-importance and an almost-Pavlovian tic of irony, this book celebrates the other kind of funny—the sort that is mordant, absurdist, and keen to both laud and critique the madness and fascinating lunacy of our culture. Hamby and Kirby have assembled a bracing set of poems which remind us anew how closely heartbreak, humor and wisdom literature are aligned. These poems spring from necessity, not from the desire for punch lines.”—David Wojahn, author of Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982–2004

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820330877
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2010
  • Pages: 440
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Hamby’s most recent book is All-Night Lingo Tango. Her other books include Delirium, which won both the Norma Farber First Book Award and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. David Kirby is the author of The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems, which was a National Book Award finalist. His other books include What Is a Book? and Ultra-Talk: Johnny Cash, The Mafia, Shakespeare, Drum Music, St. Teresa Of Avila, And 17 Other Colossal Topics Of Conversation.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: From the Seriously Funny Mobile Unit
Oh Lana Turner We Love You Get Up: TV, Movies, Music, Cars, Cartoons—Poetry and Popular Culture
Frank O’Hara “Poem (Lana Turner Has Collapsed!)” 3
Charles Bernstein “Of Time and the Line” 4
Lucille Clifton “note, passed to superman” 6
John Ashbery “Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape” 7
James Tate “The Motorcyclists” 9
Alan Shapiro “Country- Western Singer” 11
Freeman Rogers “I’d Rather Look for Keys” 13
Adrian Matejka “Understanding Al Green” 15
Lawrence Raab “My Life at the Movies” 17
Aimee Nezhukumatathil “What I Learned from the Incredible Hulk” 19
Charles Harper Webb “Jackass: The Viewer” 20
Bruce A. Jacobs “Jeep Cherokee” 23
Tony Hoagland “Two Trains” 27
Adrian Blevins “Billy Joel Gets Philosophical on Bravo” 29
Josh Bell “Vince Neil Meets Josh in a Chinese Restaurant in Malibu (after Ezra Pound)” 31
Lucia Perillo “Foley” 33
I Was Alone When It Hit Me: The Self Kenneth Koch “To My Twenties” 39
Kenneth Koch “To Jewishness, Paris, Ambition, Trees, My Heart, and Destiny” 41
Marilyn Chin “How I Got That Name” 43
Kevin Young “Ode to Pork” 46
Mark Halliday “Vim” 48
Bill Zavatsky “Bald” 50
Beth Ann Fennelly “I Need to Be More French. Or Japanese.” 53
Michael Ryan “Very Hot Day” 55
Robert Hass “Shame: An Aria” 57
Andrew Hudgins “Praying Drunk” 60
Jynne Dilling Martin “How You See Depends on Where You Go” 63
Gerald Stern “Grapefruit” 64
Ray A. Young Bear “A Season of Provocations and Other Ethnic Dreams” 66
Ron Koertge “Pronouncing My Name” 69
James Tate “Constant Defender” 70
Stephen Dobyns “How to Like It” 72
My Old Reptile: Close Encounters of the Sexual Kind John Berryman “Dream Song 4” 77
Charles Simic “The Devils” 78
Martha Silano “The Sausage Parade” 80
Gary Soto “Chit- Chat with the Junior League Women” 82
Denise Duhamel “Sex with a Famous Poet” 84
David Bottoms “Crawling Out at Parties” 86
Maxine Chernoff “Breasts” 87
Heather McHugh “So Thick?” 89
Stephen Dobyns “Roughhousing” 91
Richard Newman “While You Were Away . . .” 92
Mark Halliday “Disrespect at the Mall” 94
Thomas Lux “Sex in History” 96
Tim Seibles “Bonobo” 98
Nin Andrews “The Secret Life of Barbie and Mr. Potato Head” 101
Kim Addonizio “Bad Girl” 102
Stephen Dobyns “He Told Her He Loved Her” 104
Jason Bredle “Girls, Look Out for Todd Bernstein” 106
The Heart Is a Lonely Perineum: Love, Marriage, Divorce, and Hatred Gregory Corso “Marriage” 111
Denise Duhamel “Yes” 115
David Lehman “The Theory of the Leisure Classes” 117
Stephen Dunn “Seriousness” 119
Angelo Verga “My Wife’s Therapist” 120
vii Louise Glück “Midnight” 122
Louise Glück “Purple Bathing Suit” 123
George Bilgere “What I Want” 124
Catherine Bowman “Mr. X” 128
Harryette Mullen “Dim Lady” 130
Charles Simic “My Beloved” 131
William Logan “Song” 132
Kenneth Koch “You Were Wearing” 133
Geoffrey Brock “And Day Brought Back My Night” 134
Daniel Borzutsky “The Heart Is a Lonely Perineum” 135
Yusef Komunyakaa “For You, Sweetheart, I’ll Sell Plutonium Reactors” 137
Phyllis Moore “Why I Hate Martin Frobisher” 139
Mothers of America Let Your Kids Go to the Movies: Family Life and Strife
Frank O’Hara “Ave Maria” 143
Billy Collins “The Lanyard” 145
Tony Hoagland “Phone Call” 147
Campbell McGrath “Delphos, Ohio” 149
Campbell McGrath “Rice and Beans” 152
Jeffrey Harrison “Our Other Sister” 153
Lois- Ann Yamanaka “Boss of the Food” 155
Ginger Andrews “Prayer” 157
Gary Soto “The Wrestler’s Heart” 158
Lynne McMahon “We Take Our Children to Ireland” 161
Richard García “El Zapato” 163
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers “Don’t Know What Love Is” 165
Thomas Lux “Upon Seeing an Ultrasound Photo of an Unborn Child” 166
Thomas Lux “Autobiographical” 167
Mark Halliday “Muck- Clump” 169
James Kimbrell “Praise for the Ford LTD” 171
Let Us Be Friends a While and Understand Our Differences: Fiends and Neighbors
Frank O’Hara “Personal Poem” 175
James Tate “You Can Change Your Life through Psychic Power” 177
Steve Scafi di “To Whoever Set My Truck on Fire” 178
Caroline Knox “The Crybaby at the Library” 180
David Kirby “The Search for Baby Combover” 182
Andrew Hudgins “Heat Lightning in a Time of Drought” 188
R. S. Gwynn “A Short History of the New South” 191
Aimee Nezhukumatathil “High School Picture Re- take Day” 193
Albert Goldbarth “‘Duo Tried Killing Man with Bacon’” 194
B. H. Fairchild “Brazil” 196
Peter Meinke “Zinc Fingers” 198
Carl Dennis “Verona” 200
Dean Young “I Said Yes but I Meant No” 203
Mark Halliday “Not That Great of an Evening” 205
Julie Sheehan “Hate Poem” 208
Tony Hoagland “Hate Hotel” 210
Carl Dennis “Amnesty” 212
William Matthews “Little Blue Nude” 214
It Occurs to Me I Am America: Wrestling with a Huge Rococco National Identity
Allen Ginsberg “America” 221
Natalie Shapero “Naturalization Exam” 224
Gregory Djanikian “Immigrant Picnic” 226
Kevin McFadden “A French Statue” 228
Richard Blanco “América” 230
Martín Espada “Thanksgiving” 233
Barbara Hamby “Ode to American English” 235
James Allen Hall “A Fact Which Occurred in America” 237
Tony Hoagland “America” 239
Christopher Bursk “E Pluribus Unum” 241
Terrance Hayes “Harryette Mullen Lecture on the American Dream” 243
Martín Espada “The Year I Was Diagnosed with a Sacrilegious Heart” 244
Dean Young “Sex with Strangers” 246
Matthew Zapruder “Canada” 248
Billy Collins “Consolation” 250
From My Bowels to Your Inbox: Poetry Goes to Work Richard García “A Diver for the NYPD Talks to His Girlfriend” 255
Justin Courter “The Speech” 257
Enid Shomer “For the Women of the All- Female Bookkeeping Department at H. G. Smithy’s” 258
Richard Newman “Bless Their Hearts” 260
Erin Belieu “On Being Fired Again” 261
Jim Daniels “Outdoor Chef ” 262
Ron Koertge “Off- Track Betting” 264
Judith Ortiz Cofer “First Job: The Southern Sweets Sandwich Shop and Bakery” 266
Adrian Blevins “Failing the Republic” 269
David Huerta “Song of Money” (translated from the Spanish by Mark Schafer) 271
Charles Simic “St. Thomas Aquinas” 273
John Ashbery “The Instruction Manual” 275
We Who Love Precise Language: Poems about Writing and Literature Franz Wright “Publication Date” 281
John Berryman “Dream Song 354” 282
Dean Young “Selected Recent and New Errors” 283
Paul Violi “Appeal to the Grammarians” 285
Sharon Olds “The Prepositions” 286
Caroline Knox “Nancy Drew” 288
R. S. Gwynn “Shakespearean Sonnet” 289
Lawrence Raab “The Revised Versions” 290
Harryette Mullen “All She Wrote” 291
Maura Stanton “Revolt” 292
Stephen Dunn “Frivolity” 293
Justin Courter “Student Essay” 294
Billy Collins “Workshop” 295
Stephen Dunn “Decorum” 298
Jeffrey Harrison “Fork” 300
J. Allyn Rosser “Mother Lets Off a Little Steam” 303
David Kirby “Borges at the Northside Rotary” 305
Tony Hoagland “Lawrence” 309
Galway Kinnell “Oatmeal” 311
The Power of Weirdness: Talking Dogs, Chickens, Horses, Ducks, Bugs, and Other Entanglements Both Human and Un- Albert Goldbarth “Power of Weirdness” 315
Stephen Dobyns “Spiritual Chickens” 318
Richard García “Nobody Here but Us” 320
William Matthews “Homer’s Seeing- Eye Dog” 322
Stephen Dunn “Something Like Happiness” 324
David Graham “The Dogs in Dutch Paintings” 326
Bob Hicok “Fieldwork” 327
Bob Hicok “Sorting the Entanglements” 329
John Ashbery “Daffy Duck in Hollywood” 331
Barbara Hamby “Trigger Tries to Explain” 335
Robert Wrigley “Do You Love Me?” 337
Billy Collins “Dharma” 339
Jennifer L. Knox “Chicken Bucket” 340
James Tate “The List of Famous Hats” 343
Paul Guest “Notes for My Body Double” 344
Mockery Was Still the Unforgivable Sin: Religion and Other Metaphysical Meanderings
Aidan Rooney “Retro Creation” 349
James Tate “Goodtime Jesus” 351
Nin Andrews “The Book of Lies” 352
Michael Collier “My Crucifi xion” 353
Lucia Perillo “Fubar” 354
David Lehman “A Little History” 356
Carl Dennis “Prophet” 359
Richard Cecil “Communication” 361
Rodney Jones “A Blasphemy” 363
Barbara Hamby “Ode on Satan’s Power” 365
Wanda Coleman “Wanda Why Aren’t You Dead” 368
Dorothy Barresi “Group Therapy Lounge, Columbia, South Carolina” 370
Richard Howard “Our Spring Trip” 373
T. R. Hummer “The Antichrist in Arkansas” 377
Albert Goldbarth “‘A wooden eye. An 1884 silver dollar. A homemade explosive. A set of false teeth. And a 14- karat gold ashtray,’” 379
Kevin Young “Ode to Greens” 381
Everything Prophesied Will Erupt: The End of the World Susan Wood “Horoscope” 385
Steve Fellner “‘Russia is big and so is China’” 388
Christopher Bursk “Irreconcilable Differences” 389
Stephen Dunn “Replicas” 391
Dean Young “Upon Hearing of My Friend’s Marriage Breaking Up, I Envision Attack from Outer Space” 393
David Clewell “Wrong Number after Midnight” 395
Adrian Blevins “Unusual Summer Weather” 397
Kevin McFadden “Astute Chinese Aside” 398
David Clewell “A Pocket Guide to Trouble” 399
David Kirby “Elvis, Be My Psychopomp” 402
Jason Bredle “Apocalypse” 407
Credits 409
Index of Authors 423
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