Funny Poems

What are you laughing at, Jellylorum?

“Funny” isn’t often the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of poetry. Rather, most consider poetry to be dry and academic. Poetry, however, encompasses more than just sonnets, odes, and epics that are enjoyed only by scholars. Funny poems abound in the canon of poetry.

Some of the funniest poems are poems that you may not even recognize as poetry – limericks! Named for the Irish town where they originated, limericks are short, funny poems, but don’t dismiss them as just a jumble of humorous words: like the Japanese haiku, limericks are defined by their syllabic structure. A limericks is comprised of five anapaestic lines; the first, second, and fifth lines are made up of seven to ten syllables which rhyme, while the third and fourth lines have five to seven syllables, and rhyme with each other.

While limericks proliferate the world round, one author made a career out of writing these witty little poems. Edward Lear, whose limericks were first published in the mid nineteenth century, is considered the grandfather of limericks, and his lines are still famous today. It’s altogether possible that you are familiar with some of Lear’s limericks without even realizing it. One that’s popular concerns a certain man of Kilkenny:

Lear’s limericks are popular with adults and children alike, perhaps because his lines often echo the structure and tone of well-known nursery rhymes.

Like Lear, another poet known for injecting humor into his lines, Shel Silverstein, is also a favorite of both adults and children, and his poetry often has much in common with nursery rhymes and fairy tales. One of the best-loved authors of the twentieth century, Silverstein’s books of poetry and prose, including The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends are enduring classics which feature poetry that is both moving and funny. However, Silverstein’s lines are also known to many who have never picked up one of his books – Silverstein’s poems have often been set to music, and the results are songs such as Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” and Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show’s “Cover of the Rolling Stone.”

Whether writing for adults or children, Silverstein’s poetry features humor of the darker sort; like many of the nursery rhymes and fairy tales one hears as a child, Silverstein’s poetry sometimes takes its humor from frightening, tragic, or just plain bad situations. Consider the abandoned boy named Sue, the drug-addled rockers who seek fortune and fame, or the narrator of this poem, “It’s Dark in Here:”

Funny, yes, but a little frightening as well.

While Edward Lear and Shel Silverstein both made their reputations as poets with a sense of humor, even those poets known for their works of lofty and serious natures have been known to write poetry aimed for the funny bone. John Donne, Shakespeare, and even T.S. Eliot, best known for the dark epic “The Waste Land,” have all written funny poems. While Eliot’s reputation may have been banked on his more introspective and thoughtful works, he never wrote anything as delightful or humorous as his instructions for giving your feline the perfect title, “The Naming of Cats.” This excerpt is the perfect example of Eliot’s witty and whimsical side:

While funny poems may not earn the respect of more academic works, they nevertheless occupy their own niche in the world of poetry, one that brings laughter with every line.

Comments2

  • shaniqua

    i lovvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvve poetry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • jaggerburton

    thats confusing yes but very humerous!!!!!!



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