[Foundation president John] Barr noted that ‘Billy Collins has brought laughter back to a melancholy art.He shows us that good poetry need not always be somber poetry.'" What sad situation are we in that we need to be told this?This year, according to a press release from the Poetry Foundation, "Billy Collins received the Mark Twain Poetry Award of ,000, recognizing a poet's contribution to humor in American poetry.The Award is given in the belief that humorous poetry can also be seriously good poetry, and in the hope that American poetry will in time produce its own Mark Twain.But there's a kind of humor that is bigger than a giggle, bigger than a laugh. But they're serious and multidimensional in a way that earnestness often just can't be, and to discount them is to be blind to the possibility of serious art that's funny. might well be both the answer and a restatement of [Theodor] Adorno's often quoted and difficult contention that to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric." But what did the philosopher and critic Adorno mean by this fatuous statement? Good art makes us think; it has more questions than answers. But earnestness almost never does this--that's not its job. Oppression cannot work alongside irony because it believes in its own righteousness and a monolithic concept of truth that must be asserted to the oppressed with a straight face.There's a kind of humor that is as serious as the most earnest exhortation to support the troops. Carolyn Forché, someone who has never been accused of being a funny poet, has said "irony, paradox, surrealism . Irony and satire are the tools by which the oppressed get to make fun of the oppressors without the oppressors getting it.Obviously I agree that "good poetry need not always be somber poetry." But I question this way of going about it.
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