Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Whoa, Man

A common misconception of modern poetry is that is has to be serious, depressing, and dark. A good poem should make you cry, or feel really down, right? Wrong! Memorable poetry can be fun, light, and playful. Writers like e.e. cummings and James Tate have proven that. And so has Charlie, Mike Myers’ character in So I Married an Axe Murderer.

Charlie’s poetry is, admittedly, a send-up of the coffee house culture of the early 90’s. As soon as the humongous cappuccino engulfs the frame, you know that all seriousness has gone out the window. And his performance, complete with lit cigarette, votive candle, and jazz band accompaniment, mocks the x-generation’s worship of all that was Beat.

His writing isn’t exactly innovative or artistic either. Charlie over-uses alliteration the way an ad exec would, “Harriet, Harriet, hard-hearted harbinger of haggis.” He also employs one of Shakespeare’s most lamentable poetic tactics, namely, if a word doesn’t fit the meter, change its stresses. Bemused becomes “bemuséd,” therefore, and Harriet becomes “Hárriét.” These techniques, taken out of context, are enough to make a seasoned poet shudder.

But listen to the poet that reads before Charlie. He takes himself way too seriously, and his poem suffers. Charlie’s poetry, however, is engaging particularly because he knows it’s ridiculous. That endearing self-deprecation is what has drawn millions into the fold of David Sedaris’ sardonic voice. In my opinion, modern poetry needs a voice like Charlie, a poet who isn’t afraid to have some fun.

No comments: