Poetry Lab: Week Two

Today, we’ll take a look at two more pieces from Pearl Dandy, “Loretta” and “A Poem for Children.” Both pieces are a bit absurd and comedic. When I began to write poetry for what eventually became Pearl Dandy, I had gone quite a while without penning any poetry. For I Am a Broken House, I had collected six years worth of poetry into a (hopefully) cohesive collection and, by the time I was done editing it, I was tired of poetry and ready to move on to some fiction projects.

The poetic muse, like any old friend, can drop by when you least expect it. For some time, an urge to write poetry tickled the back of my brain, but I ignored it. When I finally decided to use whatever spare time I could wrangle to try and re-engage the poet in my brain, what came out was the assorted nonsense of Pearl Dandy. Please don’t hear “nonsense” as a negative. I think we all need a bit of nonsense in our lives from time to time and, as you read through Pearl Dandy, you can see me working past silly me into macabre me on into frustrated me.

Both “Loretta” and “A Poem for Children” are a bit silly and juvenile, but “A Poem for Children” takes a dark turn that is, of course, meant to be as jarring as it is sad. It’s also a single piece that, on the page, appears to be three separate poems but they are meant as a single read, else you would not get the same effect.

“Loretta” is as short as it is silly.

 

If only you knew Anthony

you’d be in for a treat

for he dispenses nacho cheese

from his superfluous teat

 

First, is the question: “Why is the poem called ‘Loretta’ when it seems to be all about Anthony?” The answer: I don’t know, really. If I recall correctly (and, mind you, my memory is fairly lousy,) I named the poem before I wrote it. I do bizarre things like that from time to time. I’ve found having the title in advance can be either a boon or a curse and it’s always fun to find out which it will be.

Why does poor Anthony have a cheese dispensing nipple? Because this is exactly the sort of weird thing I would tell my kids. Yes, I’m THAT dad. At any rate, there is no great mystery about this piece. It is as simple and juvenile as it appears to be.

A Poem for Children begins with a similar juvenile—in this cases, potty humor—sensibility. A poem, a joke and then…a limerick that takes a turn.

 

A Poem for Children:

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Poop

 

A Joke for Children:

Knock-knock!

Who’s there?

Poop!

 

Perhaps it’s only my children (oh, what that must say about me,) but it seems that most little children find bathroom words funny. Want to get a laugh? Just say “butt” or “fart” or “booty” or “pee” and they’ll laugh and proceed to turn every other sentence (for a good 15 minutes or more) into something to do with those words. The poem and the joke, though, are just set up for the limerick.

 

A Limerick for Children:

There once was a woman named Sue

who always wound up in the loo

it isn’t a joke

she went for a poke

because she was a heroin junkie who’d have sold you her ovaries for just one more needle full of oblivion.

 

Here, of course, things take a darker turn. In spite of the potty humor, there is an innocence about the first two-thirds of the piece that disappears with the limerick.  The first two lines are a mislead, “loo” being present so that you prepare yourself for more of the same. Then, it’s all heroin and oblivion—a sharp turn from innocence into the shadows.

I wanted to destroy the rhythm of the limerick with that last bit, as surely as poor Sue must’ve been destroyed by her habit. Limericks have that sing-song quality (even when they are dirty) that makes us feel that, in some way, we know what’s coming next. By destroying the rhythm and leaving the reader with an influx of wordiness, I hoped to shatter the expectation and leave the reader not with a laugh but with an uncomfortable silence.

 

Next week, two more.

J. Patrick Lemarr

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