Duhamel on Humor in Poetry

“The more sacred the slain cow, the tastier the feast.”

-Denise Duhamel

Denise Duhamel gave a laugh-out-loud funny talk on an oft-undervalued aspect of poetry: humor. She showed how classic stand-up tricks, like following the main punch-line with “tags,” mangled cliches and malapropisms, and, above all, a tone in satire that admits complicity–a kind of poking fun at the speaking self alongside all humanity–can serve to open up a funny poem to more than just laughs. How fitting that she deliver this talk on the heels of the news of George Carlin’s death, in the ha-ha-ouch age of Stephen Colbert. She spoke to the subversive nature of humor as a means to talk back to power through the side of one’s mouth, to work on levels too fast and facile to register in the minds of self-righteous oppressors–a kind of political Capoeira, an expansive, complicated, lethal dance with the truth.