No doubt many of you have been bored by my selection of poetry each month. Well, do I have some good news for you! The Academy of American Poets has announced a new category of poetry: jokes. Jokes are undoubtedly one of the finest categories of poetry in this universe; they make people cry more often than any of Byron’s greatest masterpieces, they elicit more dramatic eye-rolling than Shakespeare’s most elegant sonnets, and they are far, far better for provoking mass riots than E. E. Cummings’ highest quality free verse. Indeed, it makes me wonder what took them so long to declare jokes poetry.
A panda walks into a restaurant, sits down and orders a sandwich. After he finishes eating the sandwich, the panda pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter, and then stands up to go. “Hey!” shouts the manager. “Where are you going? You just shot my waiter and you didn’t pay for your sandwich!”
The panda yells back at the manager, “Hey man, I am a PANDA! Look it up!”
The manager opens his dictionary and sees the following definition for panda: “A tree-dwelling marsupial of Asian origin, characterised by distinct black and white colouring. Eats shoots and leaves.”
This poem notably features a distinctive narrative style, enhanced by the inclusion of several lines of informal, bantering dialogue, as well as everyone’s favorite stuffed animal: pandas. Even more exceptionally, the work is written entirely in present tense, intensifying the immediacy of the events. Rather than grappling with abstract themes, the author has chosen to work with them allegorically, through a concrete and realistic scene. After all, I’m sure all of you see pandas visiting restaurants routinely. Nevertheless, the main idea that inspired the author is still evident: the theme of wantonly violent animals, an inversion of the trope of wanton violence against animals. It’s no regular “Call PETA” story that inspires outrage; nay, this poem is a completely different creature. Reading this prose poem, you can almost visualize the panda eating, shooting, and leaving, thanks to the nonexistent imagery and figurative language.
by Michael Vee*
A man was driving down the road when a policeman stopped him. The officer looked in the back of the man’s truck and said, “Why are these penguins in your truck?”
The man replied, “These are my penguins. They belong to me.”
“You need to take them to the zoo,” the policeman said.
The next day, the officer saw the same guy driving down the road. He pulled him over again. He saw the penguins were still in the truck, but they were wearing sunglasses this time. “I thought I told you to take these penguins to the zoo!” the officer said.
“I did,” the man replied. “And today I’m taking them to the beach.”
Similarly to the last poem, this one features black-and-white animals. Such animals, which include zebras, cows, and Oreo cookies, often feature in literature, thanks to their easily recognizable color scheme. Their black and white coloration, like the yin-and-yang symbol, depicts the battle between procrastination and productivity that defines this world. Despite the seemingly flippant tone of this poem, it actually gets at one of the great, universal conflicts every person experiences at least once in their life. I still remember every detail of the day I first encountered this poem; it’s a wonderful lens through which to view life and completely changed my outlook. Why visit penguins at the zoo when you can bring them home as pets? Why stay home with your penguins when you can take them to the zoo and the beach? The hopeful message of “carpe diem” or “seize the day” conveyed in this poem truly brings meaning to my existence.
Don’t Step On Purple Mushrooms
by Matthew Dee*
“If you step on a purple mushroom, you’ll be forced to marry the ugliest person in the world,” warned the old gnome, so the man continued carefully through the woods. He didn’t step on any purple mushrooms.
Suddenly a beautiful woman walked up and said: “We have to marry.”
“Why?” asked the man, smiling.
“I just stepped on one of those pesky purple mushrooms!” she replied.
This poem, unlike the prior two, explores the complexity of interpersonal relationships. One moment, you think you’re perfectly fine; the next, you’re embroiled in drama. It happens as quickly as a beautiful woman steps on a purple mushroom. This cutting reality is further emphasized by the sharp alliteration of the phrase “pesky purple mushrooms.” Like many other social narratives, the poem features a pastoral, fantastical setting, perfect for meditating on the difficulty of navigating interactions with other humans, and juxtaposing turbulent times with a peaceful setting only intensifies the theme of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” For although the author has described the woman as beautiful, how can she be truly beautiful if she has stepped on a purple mushroom? This apparent paradox perfectly mirrors the contradictory nature of socialization. Not all is as it seems; beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder. The first time I read this poem, I was moved to tears by its pulchritude; another reader who frequently encounters dangerous purple mushrooms may find it more mundane.
From pandas to penguins to purple mushrooms, these poems feature varied and fascinating images. They are merely a small taste of the dark realm of jokes; if you are interested, I would suggest looking up “Nate the Snake,” one of my favorite poems that was far too long to include in this column. These poems show just how far poetry can stretch; like a squirt of minty toothpaste, it balances delicately on the bristles of the toothbrush that is the reader’s brain. Yes, that simile was not intended to make any sense.
*Found here: https://jokes.boyslife.org/jokes/long-jokes/