The Dirtiest Poetry Joke In Human History

(No poets were harmed in the making of this joke.)

A guy walks into a literary agent's office and says, "I write poetry."

The literary agent says, "Sorry fella but I don't sign poets. Poetry doesn't sell as you know. And poets, well frankly, they're all drunk psychotics rambling nonsense no one really wants to read anyway."

And the guy says, "hey wait just a second. I think you'll quickly see we're very different."

The guy talking to the literary agent kicks the door wide open and in come a line of poets one after the other. But they don't look like typical poets exactly but more like priests. XJ Kennedy, Mark Jarman, Bill Baer, Donald Justice, and Howard Nemerov come streaming in. We are able to identify who they are only because each of them is wearing a tag saying "Hello My Name Is" with his name. And together they begin intoning Elizabethan sonnets in unison. Each of them is holding a lit candle walking slowly with head hanging low as if in solemn walking meditation. The atmosphere is undoubtedly heavy with importance.

As these poets of a new order intone their grand ancient and lofty poems, in come three exceedingly huge and dignified elderly gentlemen, all dressed in white robes, stark white one might say, with the exception of the "Hello my name is" tags needed to truly distinguish them. It's Kent Johnson, Ron Silliman, and Bill Knott, and together they're riding the corpse of mummified Queen Elizabeth like it's a cross between an aircar and a surfboard. The corpse of Queen Elizabeth is shining and painted in gold leaf and has a loudspeaker in the middle of the torso amplifying the equally gilded verse. We know the corpse is Queen Elizabeth because the corpse is wearing a "Hello My Name Is" tag. If the poets preceeding them seem important then in comparison these poets appear to be no less than kings of the highest worldly order. And so the three Elizabeth-men all join in the solemn incantation of the most noble and lofty verse ever written in all of human history, in the purset tones of God's own Iambic Pentameter. Everyone within earshot is overwhelmed with awe and left breathless. It is as if the whole universe is panting.

And so the literary agent says, "Wow you are all great, just marvelous! I gotta say, you know, this isn't like most poetry. This stuff, it could really really sell. And you're all so, well, you're all so well-behaved! I could call Oprah for God's sake. You know what I'm thinking? This is the making of a new anthology. I can see it now, college classrooms everywhere across America, every student with a copy. And their children and grandchildren, each with the latest edition, united with Oprah viewers everywhere. We'll make thousands!"

The agent then pauses for a second.

"What do you call yourselves?"

"The New Formalists."

And then suddenly Kasey Mohammad bursts in through the door, wearing a red robe and grand papal hat, carrying a blowtorch, also wearing a "Hello my name is" tag, and he shouts, "NO you assholes NOOOOOO! We're the fucking School of Quietude! Oi!"


revival song, or, how the song does not remain the same

- for david applegate

between the myth of the saber tooth tiger
and the book of Heavenly Highway Hymns

between the primal flight from danger
and the modern flock to hope

is a sheet thrown over a windshield
someone's neighbor steaming on a pavement

for the story has not changed
nor the singers not a bit

just the tunes and how we blow
the wind's still beating on us to go

those sirens say they sing no song
just the flash of teeth insisting we stay
I was just about to post a poem
about how the threat of death oddly begs us to persist
that glorious hope is as much a sham
as is the myth that we are formed from fleeing tigers
and then i read this post from you
saying what i was trying to say densely
you more eloquently

i agree it's naive this belief in limitlessness
(alan you did not invent this belief so this is not an attack on you)
desperation expressed in phenomenology
and it's now deeply embedded embedding deeper and deeper

another truth is far more fucked up
as fucked up as what i've witnessed, that we invite our suffering
that it may be an essence of our persistence
it isn't the ancient act of running from tigers keeping us around
giving way to the modern man no longer threated by tigers
moving from the avoidance of threat to the engagement of reward
that the most positive of us find the most rewards
but rather
the same thing has always been maintained
the engagement of threat
we might not have tigers but we damn sure do have car wrecks
and we don't praise the lord to the flashing lights and the sirens
and flashing teeth, whether the saber tooth, the mouth of the jagged
broken windshield, or even the flashing white teeth of a smile
we don't run
we are compelled to stay
we just keep chaning our tune as we go
the tune just helps us wash it down
the stench the stink the release