Friday, February 1, 2008

Poetry Friday: Teaching the Ape to Write Poems

This poem always makes me laugh. I actually re-read it quite often, because the last two lines are delicious when you whisper them diabolically.

(The poem is by James Tate from his collection, Viper Jazz)

Teaching the Ape to Write Poems

They didn't have much trouble
teaching the ape to write poems:
Read the rest here.

And if you want to read something else that's insightful and amusing, here's an essay by Dana Gioia, who judged the Poetry National Book Award in 1995, the year James Tate won it. He discusses why it took America so long to embrace surrealism, which is the hallmark of Tate's style.

"My own guess for the main reason that American poetry–and painting and sculpture–did not initially pounce on surrealism was that Hollywood got there first. And not just Hollywood–it's worse than that–it was the animated cartoon. [...] To this day the greatest moment of North American surrealism is probably Dumbo's drunken nightmare choreographed to the demonic oom-pah-pah of "Pink Elephants on Parade" from Walt Disney's 1941 movie. When the surrealist style was so quickly assimilated into mass-media comedy, what avant-garde poet could consider it sufficiently chic?"

The rest of that essay is equally entertaining! One reason, I think, is because it was first broadcast on BBC radio. Maybe all those who publish literary criticism or reviews should be required to record their ponderous essays for the radio---and then be forced to listen to themselves. Hmmm....

They didn't have much trouble
teaching the Critic to review poetry....

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Karen Edmisten.


  1. I'm not sure if the ape should be insulted or amused!

  2. As long as they nailed down the paper, that would work for me. Can't resist a whisper...

  3. Someone should write a whole book, or at least a novella, about that Dr. Bluespire.

    This is fitting for me to read after seeing "Lost" return last night and starting Season Two of "Battlestar Galactica," what with all their talk of Kobol and gods.

    Jules, 7-Imp

  4. I have this sudden desire to scratch my sides and eat bananas.

  5. Sara,

    Maybe if I had had a teacher who told me I looked like a goddess sitting at my desk, I might have felt more inspired to write poetry when I was young--instead, I spent my time monkeying around!

    I do enjoy poets who have a sense of humor.

  6. Poor ape, is all I can ever think. All that rigidness and misdirection.

    Somehow, I think this one pairs well with Billy Collins's "Introduction to Poetry". One's about the writing, the other about the reading. Both involve being tied to a chair with a rope.

  7. Jules -- YOU write the book about Bluspire!! Yeah! Why not????

  8. I am laughing. Very fun poem.

  9. You're right. The whisper at the end makes the poem.

    Kelly, that's a good one combining this poem with Billy Collin's poem.

  10. Love the poem! There are days when I need someone to strap me into a chair. :)


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