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There is an uneasiness about comedic poetry, that it is neither poetry nor comedy; that their aims are too different to be bred together, a bastardization of pigs and petunias, but nothing could be further from the truth. Poetry, like comedy, makes the world strange again; it breaks through the quotidian whitewashing, making us alive to smack talking worms and the fun of saying the word “banana”. Poetry, like comedy, is about misdirection; the getting you to look one way, then surprising you from behind.
Few poets understand the serious business of sacred hilarity better than Aaron Belz. There is a wryness running through the entire book, from the title to the authorial photo (its preening stoicism in knowingly bathetic grandiosity). The first poem is titled “Direction” but in its pseudo-mathematical tri-irregularity it confounds any rational solution. It begins:
You expect me to tell you about the interior of the room
in which I’m typing this, and connect that to my feelings,
but I’d rather tell you about the interior of your room
and use that as a symbol for something less abstract.
But this is nixed in the very next line with: “Actually, here’s a better idea.” and ends with the speaker as a dime store manager and the reader as a movie director.
This comedic misdirection makes for a lot of missed jokes if you’re looking for a certain type of poetry. Perhaps the worse fate is the one who must endure the dreariness of explaining the jokes to others. But do not mistake me, dear reader, this is no pony of one trick. If you cannot find what you are looking for in “Lovely, Raspberry” then you aren’t looking hard enough. There is romance (La Vie) and lost romance (Alberto VO5); you could get lost in the philosophy of “Reinventing the Wheel” and the Ars Poetica of “Asking Al Gore About the Muse”. If you are a collector of lines, you will find plenty with which to line your pockets.
“Lovely, Raspberry” is full of math word problems and unfinished jokes. It is the challenge of otherness and the thinking man’s silliness. Few books will expand your ability to see the world and chuckle anew.