Courtesy Waywiser Press and Carnegie Mellon

Two Poets Demonstrate Very Different Approaches to Funny Poems

Cody Walker picks at our political present while Jason Whitmarsh picks at the everyday.

Funny poems are tough to pull off. I’m not talking here about poems with humor in them; almost every good poem has at least one funny thing smuggled inside it. No, I mean poems with punch lines, poems written to make readers laugh out loud. Those are very hard to get right; too often, funny poems veer into dad-joke territory. They try too hard, they screech too loud, and they flop gracelessly. Along the same lines, political poems are almost impossible to get right. Politicians wallow in clichés and current events, waterlogged as they are in the banality of the familiar, and tend to resist the spark of poetry.

So Cody Walker’s latest chapbook, a small collection of humorous political poems titled The Trumpiad, is an especially difficult sell. An incompetent president is a treacherous muse; Calvin Trillin published scads of comic poems about George W. Bush, and they were almost all vapid, obvious, and unfunny. But Walker does the impossible with The Trumpiad; he makes a book of funny political poems that’s worth reading.

The reason The Trumpiad works so well is its inventiveness. Walker fires out a spray of poems, in many different styles: anywhere from one to 50-something lines, both rhymed and unrhymed. (Yes, he rhymed “Trump” with “hump.” And “penis pump.” But really, how could you not?) It’s less a manifesto and more a constraint-based exercise, a kind of poetic version of 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould starring a narcissistic empty suit held up on a flimsy wire framework of lies.

Read the rest of this review in Seattle Weekly’s print edition or here at seattlereviewofbook.com. Paul Constant is co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read daily books coverage at seattlereviewofbooks.com.

More in Arts & Culture

A view of Seattle Opera’s new home from Mercer Street. Photo by Sean Airhart
Seattle Opera’s New Heart of Glass

From its glittering face to the innovative performance possibilities within, the Opera Center was built for allure.

Minus the Bear is Ready to Hibernate

After 17 years of influential innovation, the Seattle rock band prepares to say goodbye.

Spider-Folks from various dimensions come together in ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.’ Image courtesy Columbia Pictures/Sony
‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ Gets Caught in Its Own Web

The animated comic book gets stuck up on its multiverse fan service.

This could be the last time, so why not give the gift of a ticket to the The Rollings Stones’ May concert? Photo by Raph_PH/Wikimedia Commons
Seattle Arts Gift Guide 2018

Get that last-minute shopping done with these books, albums, tickets, and more.

Brandi Carlile Notches Six Grammy Nominations

Fellow Seattleites Alice in Chains, the late Chris Cornell, and the Seattle Symphony also are up for awards.

Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone battle for the queen’s attention in <em>The Favourite</em>. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima/Twentieth Century Fox
Black Comedy with a Regal Veneer

Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz bring catty rivalry to the queen’s court in ‘The Favourite.’

Yalitza Aparicio (left) makes her feature debut as Cleo, the central character in <em>Roma</em>. Photo by Carlos Somonte
‘Roma’ Makes an Epic Film Out of an Intimate Story

Alfonso Cuarón’s memories and vision guide the Spanish-language Oscar front-runner about a young housekeeper in 1970s Mexico.

Most Read