When asked about humorous poetry, Stephen Dunn is who leaps into this brain. A long time favorite of mine, how can you not laugh at a poet who writes poems like John & Mary? With it’s trains going in opposite directions, gazelles, and the like, that is a great poem that makes a good point about poetry as a craft. It says that we cannot slop down just anything and expect it to be taken seriously just because it is in verse form. Perhaps especially because it is in verse form.
When poetry is funny for no reason, the effort is wasted. Humor in poetry should make a point. It should draw attention to a truth, injustice, or oddity. When poetry is arbitrarily funny, it is easy to write off. This is not to say that poetry that is light and airy is bad. Fluffy poems can be about heavy topics, and often are.
While I know that there are poets who abhore humor in poetry, everyone should remember that humorous poetry draws new people to the art form because it is less threatening than “serious” poetry. The reader is very aware that he or she is being entertained, and there fore will listen to new ideas more willingly.
Finally, it brings us back to our childhood – nursery rhymes, limericks, hand clap game songs, and good old Shel Silverstien. These are the very tools used by teachers to draw children to poetry. If we as an artistic community utilized these more often, we could draw the children in (think gingerbread house). Please note, though, that given the chance to write a humorous poem, I wussed out, because it is really gosh durn hard.