These are my own thoughts on writing humorous poetry, humbly set before the readers at AuthorsDen. They are not offered as indisputable facts, they are simply a few things I have learned through writing humorous poems over the years, also observations from reading classical humorous poetry. They may come in handy for anyone who is wanting to write humorous verse for the first time.
I have found that writing humorous poetry is something which develops over a long period of time, from the foolish things that one considers funny as a child, to the more subtle, dry and satirical amusements of adulthood. Our sense of humour grows up with us, however it is quite important to maintain a little spark of childhood when writing humorous poetry, so that we can find a sense of the ludicrous or whimsical - not merely use our humour for attack or satire (OK, I admit I have written a satirical sonnet attacking boy bands - but it attacks all of them, not one in particular).
Humour in poetry can be "fluffy and friendly", yet still be very amusing, if the action of the narrative is built up in a punchy, gripping way, in the same way it races along in films.
A good example of gentle satirical poetry is "The Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll. He makes an affectionate parody of Scottish poetry, perhaps Robbie Burns in particular, by throwing in some spectacular made-up, Scottish-sounding words into the poem. The result is a dramatic, wild and whimsical story in verse; a great piece for comedy actors to choose for a recital at an audition.
is a very good thing to use in humorous poetry, despite the fact that rhyme is not so popular in modern poetry; it will add punch to your punchline and keep the pace going. If you are going to impose metered rhyme on your poem - stick to it. You can make up an unusual new rhyming pattern if you wish, but be consistent. If you deviate from the rules of beats per line, etc., it will distract the readers from the fun of your humorous ballad. The only exception to this rule is when a poet deliberately uses a departure from the pattern, in order to make a point about the art of writing a poem, as e.e. cummings did on one occasion.
happens in the oddest of ways, with humorous poetry. Strange anagrams, snippets of overheard conversation, the antics of family pets or children, odd goings on next door, the list is endless. If you take a small notebook and pen wherever you go, you will be able to jot down titles or phrases which can later turn into a full poem.
Computer-generated anagrams can be better inspirations than you might think. For example, here is an anagram, made on a web-based anagram wizard, of someone's name:
"A DWARVES DIED"
It is not grammatically correct, but each part is a word. You could take this bizarre phrase and begin to form a poem from the concept of it, perhaps the start of a sonnet:
A dwarf has died and left to me his house,
His smallholding in Littlehampton town,
His miniatures of gin and Famous Grouse,
Green boots and diamanté-studded gown.
Some of you might like to dream up the remaining ten lines of this sonnet. If so, why not leave them on my AuthorsDen message board with your name and email, and I will put them in a future issue of Poetry Life & Times, with poet names and the copyright symbol underneath each one.
is OK within reason and the law. Be subtle with suggestive humour, choose your words carefully. The biggest laughs can be obtained with what is implied rather than spelled out. If you are subtle and clever, your readers will feel clever too, when they see the naughty side of it. If you use a four-letter word for impact you might still get a laugh, but you may be limiting yourself as to the number of e-zine or book editors who would accept the poem. It's that old rule in poetry:
"Show, don't tell"
which comes up in poetry newsgroups time and again. Many readers of poetry are poets themselves. If you are subtle they will find your humorous work far more amusing.
Any poetry books by Spike Milligan*, Edward Lear, Pam Ayres, Jake Thackary (song lyrics), e.e. cummings, William McGonegall.
If any of you have further recommendations of great humorous poets, why not let me know, on my message board.
*Note: Spike Milligan has also written some very sad poems, but most of his books will contain a good selection of humorous work, such as the little ditty that starts off "In the Ning Nang Nong"