Humor and poetry have always been unlikely bedfellows. Poetry is often associated with high seriousness and lofty emotions, while humor is associated with levity and irreverence. Yet, some of the most memorable and beloved poems are poems that are funny — those that manage to combine these seemingly disparate elements. In this article, we will explore the world of short, funny poems and examine the ways in which humor can be used to great effect in the poetic form.
BY ROALD DAHL
In England once there lived a big
And wonderfully clever pig.
To everybody it was plain
That Piggy had a massive brain.
He worked out sums inside his head,
There was no book he hadn’t read.
He knew what made an airplane fly,
He knew how engines worked and why.
He knew all this, but in the end
One question drove him round the bend:
He simply couldn’t puzzle out
What LIFE was really all about.
Roald Dahl’s humorous poem is a delightful meditation on the absurdity of life. The poem’s titular pig is portrayed as a genius who can solve complex mathematical equations and understand the inner workings of machines, but is ultimately stumped by the ultimate question: what is the meaning of life? The poem’s witty tone and clever rhymes make it a joy to read.
“Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out”
Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout
Would not take the garbage out!
She’d wash the dishes and scrub the pans
Cook the yams and spice the hams,
And though her parents would scream and shout,
She simply would not take the garbage out.
Shel Silverstein’s poem is a hilarious and relatable portrayal of a young girl who refuses to do her chores. The poem’s sing-song rhythm and playful language make it a favorite among children and adults alike.
“The Dentist and the Crocodile”
BY ROALD DAHL
The crocodile, with cunning smile, sat in the dentist’s chair.
He said, “Right here and everywhere my teeth require repair.”
The dentist’s face was turning white. He quivered, quaked, and shook.
He muttered, “I suppose I’m going to have to take a look.”
Roald Dahl’s poem is a witty and macabre take on a visit to the dentist. The poem’s imagery is both humorous and unsettling, as the crocodile demands that his teeth be fixed and the dentist is forced to confront his fear of the reptile.
BY LEWIS CARROLL
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Lewis Carroll’s famous nonsense poem is a prime example of the power of humor in poetry. The poem’s playful language and invented words make it both entertaining and thought-provoking. While the poem’s meaning may be elusive, its whimsical tone and clever wordplay ensure that it remains a beloved classic.
“The Purple Cow”
BY GELETT BURGESS
I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one!
Gelett Burgess’ famous poem is a humorous take on the idea of conformity. The poem’s speaker expresses a desire to be unique and different, while also acknowledging the social pressure to conform. The poem’s simple rhymes and playful language make it a favorite among children and adults alike.
BY OGDEN NASH
Ogden Nash’s poem “Fleas” is a short parody on the idea of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The poem’s short length and simple language make it easy to memorize and recite, while its playful tone makes it a favorite among children and adults alike.
“Antigonish [I met a man who wasn’t there]”
BY HUGHES MEARNS
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away…
When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door… (slam!)
Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away…
Hughes Mearns’ “Antigonish” is a whimsical and humorous poem that plays with the idea of a ghostly presence. The poem’s repetitive structure, coupled with its lighthearted tone, make it a fun read and a great choice for recitation.
“This Is Just To Say”
BY WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
William Carlos Williams’ famous poem is a prime example of the power of humor in poetry. The poem’s speaker confesses to having eaten someone else’s plums, but does so in a way that is both playful and apologetic. The poem’s brevity and humor make it both memorable and relatable, as many of us have likely committed a similar “sin” at some point in our lives.