In this anthology, Wendy Cope has selected 101 of her own favourite poems, from Lewis Carroll and W.S. Gilbert to Gavin Ewart, Kit Wright and Sophie Hannah.
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In her introduction to The Funny Side: 101 Humorous Poems, editor Wendy Cope laments the invention of the term "light verse", arguing instead that the best funny poems deliver spice and substance both. In this diverse assemblage of witty yet weighty poems, she more than proves her point. As painlessly as a dentist pulls a tooth while turning up the gas, normally cheerless subjects--alcoholism, suicide, mortality, love gone wrong--leave us chortling with delight. In Connie Bensley's "Mr and Mrs R and the Christmas List", for instance, the tiresome chore of sending Christmas cards is the perfect vehicle for expressing anger over an affair gone sour:
Ah, that heart-stopping momentAlong with the relatively solemn, Copes includes the best of the purely whimsical. In the especially keen-witted "Three Riddled Riddles" by Martyn Wiley and Ian McMillan, the tiresomely ubiquitous riddle poem is transformed into something infinitely more interesting:
by the kitchen sink, when he took off
his spectacles and fiercely kissed me.
But all that lasted less than a week
And what I recall more vividly
is Mr R's good advice:
Always plunge your lemons in hot water
before you squeeze them.
One more year perhaps.
I taste like a grapefruit.Parodies like John Witworth's ("They f-ck you up, do publishers..."), jocular jabs (a news item proclaiming the remains of Rameses II were "met"at Orly airport leaves Edwin Morgan no choice but to pen an imaginary conversation between Mme and mummy), and the inclusion of humorist immortals Dorothy Parker and Ogden Nash all add up to a devilishly clever collection. As Simon Rae instructs in "Ode on a Goal":
I swim like a chair.
I hang on the trees
and people tap my face,
rake my soil
and tell me jokes.
Who am I?
Answer: I've really no idea.
Savor simply the sublime control-- Martha Silano
Like angels performing rock 'n' roll
On the dance-floor of a pinhead. Extol
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