The not-so-serious side of poetry

A month or two ago, I attended a writing conference where I had the absolute pleasure of sitting in on a session with the poet Kathleen Rooney, who presented about humor in poetry.

I ate. It. Up.

Poetry can get a bad rap. It can be so dour and heartrending. I mean, that’s part of its beauty–and it’s a beauty I lean into on the regular–but, honestly? I don’t like to take myself that seriously all the time. Or even often. I’m a relatively absurd person, which isn’t exactly illustrated by much of the poetry I write.

It’s not surprising, I suppose, that one of the more playful poems I’ve ever written was inspired by that same poet. I follow Kathleen on Twitter, and she recently announced her delight in discovering the various names for a collection of hummingbirds.

In case that image doesn’t show, Kathleen learned that a flock of hummingbirds can be called a bouquet, a glittering, a hover, a shimmer, or a tune.

All together now: SWOON. This brought to mind something I learned earlier this year, when I looked up the name for a group of flamingos … Y’all, it’s a flamboyance. Have you ever heard anything more perfect? I’ll answer for you: YOU HAVE NOT.

Anyway, I kept thinking about bouquets of hummingbirds and flamboyances of flamingos, so I looked up some other related vocab and wrote a little poem. (A prompt for any writers reading: Write a poem or essay based on a tweet that strikes you.)

There are two other parts of this poem I didn’t include here. I may break them out into separate poems to make a related triad, which I love scattering throughout poetry manuscripts. Either way, here’s the first third of a longer poem or the first poem in a trio, tbd.


Is called a: flamboyance
And hummingbirds make a: bouquet
Some bunnies suit up in a: fluffle
And locusts, of course, are a: plague

The jellyfish: smack
While otters can: romp
When narwhals collect, it’s a: blessing
Sloths cluster in: snuggles
But hippos make: thunder
When goldfish assemble, it’s: troubling

For cobras, it’s: quiver
Giraffes make a: tower
But jaguars, they lurk in a: shadow
And maybe my favorite, who flushes because she’s totally fucking ruined the rhythm here, but there’s seriously no way to singsong a group of poor elephants, my god, the: embarrassment

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