Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Duke Altum's Poem of the Week #7

Poetry doesn't always have to be serious, although there ought to be hint of seriousness, of issues pertaining to life and death, underlying even its lighter efforts (as there is in any real comedy). Grabbing a seat on this train of thought, then, I decided to stir things up a bit here and post a humorous poem. And who better to grace us with a humorous poem than Billy Collins, America's Poet Laureate from 2001-2003, who is widely read and loved for his whimsical and insightful verses?

Collins is sometimes spurned and shunned by the academics and the gurus because of his laid-back, tongue-in-cheek style, but in my own reading of his work, I've found there is a lot more substance than necessarily meets the eye at first glance. I chose this particular poem because it's indicative of the way he can be: funny, almost goofy; and yet, if you listen carefully to what the poem says between the actual printed words, there is certainly wisdom and truth to be found. Collins writes honestly and with a light touch about the everyday and the mundane, and this is what sometimes gets him into trouble with the critics.

Perhaps it's because he cuts a little too close to the bone sometimes?

At any rate, this one is purely for your enjoyment... I think we can all find something to relate to here!


Child Development

As sure as prehistoric fish grew legs
and sauntered off the beaches into forests
working up some irregular verbs for their
first conversation, so three-year-old children
enter the phase of name-calling.

Every day a new one arrives and is added
to the repertoire. You Dumb Goopyhead,
You Big Sewerface, You Poop-on-the-Floor
(a kind of Navaho ring to that one)
they yell from knee level, their little mugs
flushed with challenge.
Nothing Samuel Johnson would bother tossing out
in a pub, but then the toddlers are not trying
to devastate some fatuous Enlightenment hack.

They are just tormenting their fellow squirts
or going after the attention of the giants
way up there with their cocktails and bad breath
talking baritone nonsense to other giants,
waiting to call them names after thanking
them for the lovely party and hearing the door close.

The mature save their hothead invective
for things: an errant hammer, tire chains,
or receding trains missed by seconds,
though they know in their adult hearts,
even as they threaten to banish Timmy to bed
for his appalling behavior,
that their bosses are Big Fatty Stupids,
their wives are Dopey Dopeheads
and that they themselves are Mr. Sillypants.

1 comment:

Mutt Ploughman said...

Hey Duke, I enjoyed this one. Good point to put forth, that poetry need not always be serious. Nor this blog, for that matter, although if anyone reads it, they know for certain it ain't that serious. I don't know much about Billy Collins but from what I have seen he seems to be making a big contribution to American poetry. I've heard him interviewed about anthologies he's edited, and his efforts to try to bring poetry into people's lives. Obviously it has had an effect on yours. I thought this poem had plenty of truth in it, who among us has not thought that about their boss in their life, in more or less the same words. I like the fact that you took a quick hairpin curve with this one. Keep 'em guessin' Duke!!! And keep those poems coming......still waiting for you to post one of your own, I might have to 'highjack' this series one week, steal one of yours, and shove it on here!!! Ha ha ha!!!