Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Sunday, 12 August 2001

"The Funny Side: 101 Humorous Poems" by Wendy Cope (ed) (Faber and Faber, 1998)

Amongst them are re-told jokes - e.g. 'A Joke Versified' (Thomas Moore). It's unclear to me that these are ever successful - who wants to hear old jokes again? Poets can't employ the delivery techniques of stand-up comics. Instead they (like Benny Hill) can make use of formal poetry's pattern of expectation and release, but it hardly seems worth the effort. Free forms don't seem to offer much for the joke-reteller either. Where free form scores better is when comedy arises from within poetry - the work of ee cummings (not included here), for example.

I liked Cope, Chesterton, WS Gilbert, Carroll, Bensley, and Kit Wright - all known as humorous poets. I liked Fenton's and Duhig's contributions too. Ewart and Hannah (both with a reputation for being witty) didn't impress.

Overall the pieces aren't funny enough - too many lame jokes that would be met with embarrassed silence at dinner parties. Too many poems come from Selected/Collected volumes of well known poets - I suspect most funny poetry comes from less famous poets, or even non-poets.

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